My Sweet Teacher Essay Scorer

The sound of assessing student essays a second time can seem quite daunting.  The key to making this resubmission process a success is to enforce that students highlight all changes and/or use track changes.  Having a highlighted/tracked copy of the essay will help you assess the effort of revision.  The way I do this is I place the two essays (the original and the newly revised copy) side-by-side, and I begin to compare them.  I also look at the original rubric and where I deducted points.  If I see the student lost points for the thesis statement, I expect to see a newly revised thesis statement, and it should be highlighted.  If the student lost points for quality of textual evidence in a given paragraph, I expect to see new quotations selected for that paragraph, and they should be highlighted.  I'm also checking that the updates to the essay are better than the original version-- they may not still be "perfect," but I expect to see improvement.

If a student has put in the effort to make quality improvements to the essay, then I will grant the student half the points back.  If the student has only done about half of the needed revisions and changes, then I will give partial points back.  If a student has only edited the essay for a few grammar mistakes and not addressed all aspects of the rubric where points were lost, then I might only give the student one or two points back on the score.  This part of the grading process is entirely subjective, but you should have a general idea of the effort they put into the essay by looking over the changes.

After I have reassessed the essay a second time, I write the new score on the original rubric, circle it, and that is the grade that goes into the gradebook.  One of the reasons why I like this system is that it holds students accountable for revisions, and we all know that there are some high school students that turn in a first draft of an essay as the final draft.  This process holds those students accountable for revisiting the essay in order to practice the targeted writing skills being assessed. But it's also a fair system in that it anchors the grades relative to the work produced, meaning that a student who initially scored a failing grade won't be able to make the same final grade as a student who initially scored an A-- but both students have the chance to raise their scores and raise their overall averages for the class.

PARCC practice tests (AP Photo/Ty Wright)

Jennifer White is a parent and former elementary school teacher who taught Grades 1-4 over the course of 15 years. She lives in Basking Ridge, N.J., and has four children — ages 8, 10, 12 and 14 — who go to school in the Bernards Township School District.  White has a permanent New Jersey teaching license; a masters degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, in reading, specializing in learning disabilities; and an M.Ed in educational leadership from Bank Street College.

In recent months, White has become an activist against the Common Core PARCC test, which students in New Jersey and a number of other states are taking this spring. In an e-mail, she wrote:

“Throughout my years of teaching, I administered standardized tests. I believe tests can be important tools for assessing student performance. I am not anti-testing but I am anti PARCC.”

White co-created a Facebook group for parents to help them educate each other about the PARCC exam and  discuss the future of public education in their township. Hundreds of parents have joined the forum, expressing concern about student stress and anxiety surrounding the PARCC test and extensive test prep, lost instructional time, the use of student test scores on PARCC to evaluate teachers, and the loss of local control over their public schools.

White wanted to find out about the company that created the PARCC exam — Pearson, the world’s largest education company. She decided to apply for a position as a professional scorer for the 2015 PARCC Spring Operational Grade 4 English Language Arts test. This post is her report on her hiring experience. Following that is a comment I requested from Pearson, and then the letter she received from Pearson offering her the job.

By Jennifer White

Congratulations to me. I have been offered a position as a professional scorer by Pearson for the 2015 PARCC spring Operational Grade 4 English Language Arts exams.

Pearson PLC, the company that has its hands in our children’s education, is a multinational for-profit education and publishing company, headquartered in London, and traded on the London and New York Stock Exchanges. Pearson Education, part of Pearson PLC, is the largest educational assessment provider in the United States, according to its website. New Jersey awarded NCS Pearson, a subsidiary of Pearson Education, a multi-year $108 million contract to create and administer the Common Core test PARCC (though there are different pricing options that could mean the state pays less).

You might wonder how I came upon this wonderful opportunity. I was curious about who would be scoring the exams said to be able to tell if my children are college- and career-ready, so I filled in an on-line application for a Pearson’s scorer’s job. (If you too are interested in a position, Pearson advertises on Craigslist and Facebook, as I learned when these were two of the options listed on my application as to how I heard about the job opening.)

Pearson’s offer of employment came to me even though I never actually spoke to anybody at the company. The offer is conditional upon verification of my college degree, completed project training and signature on a confidentiality waiver. The company, valued at well over $10 billion, did not verify my information before its offer of employment, and seems interested only in verifying my college degree.

If I accept, I will be able to earn $10.10 an hour for training. When actually grading tests, I would be required to work a minimum 20 hours a week and would earn $12 an hour with the possibility of additional earned incentives for consistent productivity. Therefore, if I were to be very speedy at scoring your children’s tests (which could impact their school placement, future education, and their teachers’ jobs), I would have the potential to earn additional money.

In full disclosure, I am qualified for the job. I have multiple advanced degrees in education and 15 years of elementary school teaching experience. But truthfully, that doesn’t really matter. Since it seems that Pearson is only interested in verifying my college degree,  I very well could have invented my résumé.

I had to answer a number of multiple-choice questions that seemed to have nothing to do with my experience as a teacher or whether I was truly qualified to score an important assessment. I was asked, for example, if I had taken English and math classes in college — but I was not asked what grades I received in those classes. I am still pondering the question “Can you read music?” trying to understand the correlation between scoring a test essay and my knowledge of musical notes.

I also had to answer a number of irrelevant short answer questions such as, “Have you ever disagreed with someone in a leadership position and how did you handle this?” as well as, “What was the last position you held and why did you leave it?” I am not really sure how answering these questions demonstrate my ability to score a fourth-grade test.

I did answer the questions honestly, but it seems like Pearson has no way of knowing this. No phone call was made by Pearson to ask me additional questions or to schedule an interview. I was not asked for references. There was, apparently, no background check, and, in fact, it would be very hard for Pearson to verify any information I provided as I was not asked to submit my Social Security number. Lastly, I was not asked to demonstrate my abilities by scoring essays for Pearson as part of the application process.

Now I can be gainfully employed as soon as I send verification of my college degree.

This is the hiring process for something that is claimed to be so important to our children’s  academic success? All it takes is a college degree to score these important exams?

I would have to sign a confidentiality statement to get the job — even though Pearson has refused to sign  the Student Privacy Pledge, which other student data trustees such as Apple, Google and 116 other companies, have signed, promising to safeguard student data. So I must turn down this incredible job opportunity because there is no way that I can sign any agreement to keep Pearson’s confidences.

Note: The Answer Sheet asked a Pearson spokesperson about the process the company uses to hire test scorers, and specifically asked whether it verifies specific information provided by applicants. This was the response received in an e-mail sent by Stacy Skelly, director of media relations:

Qualified scorers are only hired after a rigorous hiring process. For more information on the process and qualifications, please see this link from PARCC:[]

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