American high school students are terrible writers, and one education reform group thinks it has an answer: robots, Reuters reports. Or, more accurately, robo-readers – computers programmed to scan student essays and spit out a grade. The theory is that teachers would assign more writing if they didn’t have to read it. And the more writing students do, the better at it they’ll become – even if the primary audience for their prose is a string of algorithms. That sounds logical to Mark Shermis, dean of the College of Education at the University of Akron. He’s helping to supervise a contest, set up by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, that promises $100,000 in prize money to programmers who write the best automated grading software.
“If you’re a high school teacher and you give a writing assignment, you’re walking home with 150 essays,” Shermis said. “You’re going to need some help.”