During the pilot, which began in February and ends in early June, classes use AcademicMerit’s products, called Literary Companion (LC) and Assessments21 (A21)—a suite of online tools targeting English/Language Arts in grades 7-12.
LC aims to help students deepen their understanding of literature and non-fiction, vocabulary, and reading and writing skills by offering interactive, technology-based supplements to the curriculum. Classes use LC for an entire literature unit, and the program also can be used outside of class for homework.
Assessments21 generates classroom-based formative and summative assessment data that help teachers inform instruction. It is this assessment process that truly makes the program unique, company reps said.
“In the CCSS era, we teachers essentially have to know the anchor standards for both reading and writing (and their grade-specific benchmarks)—and then make sure we are improving student performance on them,” Morse said. “Well, the only way to know whether students are improving is to be able to measure their performance on an ongoing basis against those anchor standards. That’s a challenge.”
The revolutionary part of the pilot comes from the double-blind scoring and A21 assessments.
Both students and teachers are asked to create an account through AcademicMerit, with a login name and password. When the first essay is assigned, students submit the essay through their accounts.
The student essay is then graded by scorers who are part of AcademicMerit and who do not know specific student information. A first scorer grades the essay based on the CCSS specifications of thinking, content, organization, style, and mechanics. Each category has a six-point scale, and a four or better is a passing grade.
Then the essay goes to a second scorer, who doesn’t know student information or the first score given to the essay. The essay is then delivered to the teacher. Each score for each specification includes a detailed explanation as to why the score was given.
After this first round of assessments, teachers are required to go through the online score-calibration system, or AcademicMerit’s beta PD program. Here, the teacher is asked to grade an essay provided by AcademicMerit based on the accompanying rubric. The teacher’s scores must generally align with other authorized scorers’ assessments of the essay.
Once the teacher’s scoring of an essay matches those of AcademicMerit’s authorized scorers, the teacher then becomes an authorized scorer for AcademicMerit.
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