Are core tests written for robo-readers?

Sacramento teacher Alice Mercer questions the Common Core tests her students will be taking.  A sample essay prompt by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium gives students a list of arguments to use.

The new standards are supposed to promote higher-order thinking. So why not let students think up their own arguments? Evaluating students’ writing is time-consuming and expensive — unless it can be automated, Mercer points out. Listing the arguments seems designed for the convenience of a robo-reader.

Robo-readers have limitations, she observes. It’s hard for computers to score open-ended questions.

Basically, the programs can judge grammar and usage errors (although I suspect it will lead to a very stilted form of writing that only a computer could love), but it’s not in the position to judge the facts and assertions, or content in an essay.  The only way to do that is to limit students to what “facts” they are using by giving them a list.

Computer grading could explain Common Core’s hostility to background knowledge, Mercer adds.

Computer-scored tests train children to think like the computer,  writes Anthony Cody in Ed Week. “If we are sacrificing intelligence, creativity and critical thinking for the sake of the efficiency and standardization provided by a computer, this seems a very poor trade.”

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  1. Gosh, why would anyone not see the obviously higher standards embodied by the Common Core? I mean, read the wonderful prose written in its support! And the high level of analytical thought demanded of students! /sarc.

    I wonder what the Lexile level of the essay prompt would be? It’s shocking. On a serious note, I am appalled by the poor writing in the prompt. Why is the sentence structure so simple? Will all the classroom materials be so dumbed-down? In what universe would this pablum raise the intellectual level of the classroom?

    When the Common Core enthusiasts praise “non-fiction,” and “analytical thought,” are they thinking of mind-numbing essays debating the use of cell phones in class? I have to say that analysing any standard middle school text will be more educational than trying to write such dumbed-down essays.

    Do you get marked down if you come up with your own arguments?