Your teachers' bleary-eyed nights of reading stacks of essays on "How I spent my summer vacation" might soon be over, thanks to an essay-grading software program.

Relying on a technology called "latent semantic analysis," the software program allows a computer to grade student essays. It soon might be available to schools, but many educators question whether evaluating essays, in which students must synthesize their knowledge of a specific topic, is an appropriate use of today's technology.

The software, called Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA), uses mathematical analysis to measure the quality...

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