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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

AI Takes Over Exam Grading in Texas

📸 ModelProp / Midjourney

In a groundbreaking move, Texas is turning to artificial intelligence (AI) for grading state-mandated exams, as reported by Jess Weatherbed.


However, don't call it AI, as the creators prefer the term 'automated scoring engine'.


This week, students in Texas are serving as the first test subjects for the new AI-powered scoring system, which is set to replace most human graders in the region. According to the Texas Tribune, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is implementing an 'automated scoring engine' that uses natural language processing, the same technology that powers chatbots like OpenAI's ChatGPT.


The TEA expects this system to save between $15–20 million annually by reducing the need for temporary human scorers. The agency plans to hire fewer than 2,000 graders this year, a significant drop from the 6,000 required in 2023.


 

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The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams, which test students from third to eighth grades on their understanding of the core curriculum, were redesigned last year to include more open-ended questions. Jose Rios, the TEA's director of student assessment, stated that the agency wanted to retain as many open-ended responses as possible, despite the lengthy scoring process.


The new scoring system was trained using 3,000 exam responses that had already undergone two rounds of human grading. To ensure accuracy, a quarter of all computer-graded results will be rescored by humans. Any answers that confuse the AI system, such as the use of slang or non-English responses, will also be human-graded.


Despite the TEA's optimism about the cost-saving potential of AI, some educators have expressed concerns. Lewisville Independent School District superintendent Lori Rapp reported a significant increase in zero scores for constructed responses when the automated grading system was trialled in December 2023.


While AI essay-scoring engines have been used in at least 21 states, according to a 2019 report from Motherboard, the TEA is keen to differentiate its scoring engine from typical AI. The agency emphasises that its system is a closed one, not using progressive learning algorithms to adapt or teach itself.


Despite the attempt to draw a line between the two, there's no denying the controversy surrounding the use of AI in education, especially as students grapple with the perceived double standards of AI use.



 

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