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January 17th, 2009, 09:38 PM   #1
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A Total N00Bs Inquiry: The Mathmatics for ESSAY Assessment

A Total N00Bs Inquiry: The Mathematics for ESSAY Assessment
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Hello. I am horrible with math. I use it all the time. I study it often. I even find it fun. But I am bad.
I am also a programmer, but since I program for the online user and not the desktop software user
I hardly ever write anything mathematically complex.

That being said I want to solve a problem, a serious problem.

Unlike Computers and Moore's Law, educational assessment strategies have not gotten more efficient over time. As technology allows
students to learn faster and process more material in a variety of ways, assessment strategies have not changed. Some people will argue that
you can assess someone in a variety of ways...and this is correct.

However, students in High School (I work at an International School in Dubai) must eventually face standardized testing which has prescribed assessments that
cannot be altered by anyone. In fact the non-standardized assessments given in courses that eventually connect to a standard assessment, use the same assessment format(s) in the classroom to help train the students how to deal with their upcoming challenge.

Grading Time for teachers of English or Other Languages can currently not be significantly reduced with technology. In modern diploma programs the final exams are not be given with multiple choice type questions, so written work must be read.

I have been speaking with English Teacher who teach at the highest level in my environment and they are averaging 20 minutes per essay - so 100 students can take upto 5 days to grade. 5 days for a single assessment. And since the number of assessments required is at least 4 per semester ..that is 20 days just for grading. Each teacher is alloted about 7 days a month only!

So to the problem....and using Math......

I myself have to grade computer science exams. And once a year I have to grade 70-100 page portfolios. The grading is done with a prescribed grading guide --Rubric -- that explains each section of the portfolio and how to grade it. In section 1 if you get all the points included you receive a 4. In section 2 a 3...and so on. All the sections are worth 4-3 points.

So after grading only 2 sections, I decided to experiment with simple Math. I found that if section 1 = 2 or less, then the students always came out with a C-D average. Always. If it was a 4 - they always ended with an A. And a 3 a B.

The reason is because section 1 connects directly to sections 3 and 4, so if you mess up it creates a domino effect.

This work is written in Essay form though, so I have to read and comment every section. Computer Science only has 7-10 new students per year so it is no big deal. BUT English has 125 students every year! However their final work is only 10-15 pages. But still alot I think.....

Anyway since all of these exam marking schemes come with a set of guidelines and scores, I figured that one way to make it more efficient is to be able to stop grading whenever the student hit a certain point value, early in the essay.

My theory is that -- mathematically there is no significant change in scores after certain grade barriers are passed. These test only total 40 points with section not ever being worth more than 7 points. Basically a 50% is scored the same as 30% it is just an F.

So my questions to the members of this forum:

1. How can I approach proving this?
2. What should I study to make sure I am looking at the math correctly?
3. What initial variables can you think of I could use to build program to help me solve this?
4. Is there a precedent to this problem alive in another industry but not in Education?


I hope this long post was not too annoying. Reducing teacher work-load outside of class means improving education and morale. I think it is significant.

Tony D.
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