Princeton, N.J., Oct. 11, 2006 ETS and Phoenix Union High School District announced today that beginning this year, an online essay scoring service has the first opportunity to review students’ English essays. Phoenix Union High School District purchased about 25,000 subscriptions–one for each student–to ETS’s Criterion Online Writing Evaluation. The Criterion service is an instructional tool that uses automated scoring technologies to evaluate student essays online. Through the Criterion service, students work independently to write and submit essays on an assigned topic. Within seconds, the service generates a score and an in-depth analysis of errors and suggestions for improvement on multiple basic elements of writing — grammar, usage, mechanics, style, and organization & development. Students can review the comments, visit a Writer’s Handbook for more information, and revise their work. Teachers can view student essays and Criterion feedback, and can add their own comments directly into an essay using pop-up notes or through an online message board. “The use of the Criterion service represents a big commitment on the part of the Phoenix Union High School District,” said Mary Jo Hilpert, Language Arts Content Specialist with the district. “Teachers in all content areas can use the service to support the good writing skills necessary for effective communication. Over 25,000 district students have access to the Criterion online service, both in the classroom and at home, to help them achieve the writing skills necessary for success,” PUHSD is implementing an instructional technology program this year. As part of that program, wireless laptops are brought into English classes on mobile lab carts for student use. The district wanted an instructional tool to complement the program, and selected the Criterion service from a number of tools through an RFP process last Spring. Since then, each of the district’s 15 schools has formed technology training teams made up of teachers and specialists in instruction, technology, English, special education and English as a Second Language. These teams became familiar with the Criterion service during a training session with ETS trainers in July, and in turn trained additional teachers who will use the service this year. “The Criterion service is an instructional tool that has the dual benefit of enhancing a teacher’s efforts to teach good writing and motivating students to improve on their own,” says Gregg Driben, Associate Vice President of ETS’s Elementary and Secondary Education Division. “Students can practice writing anywhere that the Internet is available and receive feedback instantly, when the essay is still fresh in their minds. Students today are familiar with this kind of interaction with technology, and they see this tool almost like a game. They are playing against the program to see whether they can improve their writing skills and earn a higher score.” “The Criterion service also reduces the amount of time that teachers need to spend reviewing each essay, and allows them to focus more on the content and effectiveness of the essay and not get caught up in the mechanics.”
The Criterion service is customizable based on the preferences of each teacher. Teachers can create and assign their own writing tasks, or select a writing prompt from a library of more than 200 topics. Teachers set the parameters for each assignment by selecting from a number of customizable options, such as whether the essay will have a time limit, and whether students can revise and resubmit their essays. The Criterion service helps teachers review each essay more quickly and keeps a record of student essays and feedback so that teachers can spot trends, progress and weaknesses in students’ writing abilities. The graphic reports help teachers pinpoint needs so that they can target their instruction accordingly. PUHSD students are now among more than a half million elementary, middle, high school and college students across the United States and around the world who have used the Criterion service. For the past three years, Tempe Union High School District 9th and 10th graders have used the service to submit benchmark essays.
The Criterion service, part of ETS’s System 5″ suite of products and services, has received three awards in the past year: the Software & Information Industry Associations’ Codie Award for Best Instructional Solution for English Language Acquisition; Technology & Learning magazine’s Award of Excellence; and the CompuEd Gazette’s EDDIE Award. For more information about the Criterion service, visit www.ets.org/criterion. For more information about ETS’s System 5 suite of K-12 products and services, visit www.ets.org/system5. About Phoenix Union High School District The Phoenix Union High School District is a 220-square-mile urban high school district comprised of ten comprehensive high schools and five alternative or small schools. The district serves more than 25,000 students. Of those students, 90 percent are minorities, with Hispanics representing 75 percent of the minority population. About 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Despite these challenges, the four-year graduation rate at PUHSD has improved to 75 percent, and its recent academic successes are significantly narrowing the achievement gap. About ETS ETS is a nonprofit institution with the mission to advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments, research and related services for all people worldwide. In serving individuals, educational institutions and government agencies around the world, ETS customizes solutions to meet the need for teacher professional development products and services, classroom and end-of-course assessments, and research-based teaching and learning tools. Founded in 1947, ETS today develops, administers and scores more than 24 million tests annually, in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide. Additional information is available at www.ets.org. ###