Legislation that would allocate $1 million toward the purchase of supplemental grading software that would allow teachers to give accelerated feedback on student assignments was passed out of the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation Wednesday afternoon.
HB 69 – English Language Arts Instructional Tool would provide software that can grade students on technical components of English and writing. Also measured would be the students’ comprehension level and reading ability.
“I was an English teacher for many years in high school and the biggest frustration for an English teacher or any teacher at any level who teaches language arts and teaches writing is that it’s very hard to give kids immediate feedback,” said the bill’s sponsor, Representative Carol Spackman Moss (Democrat – Salt Lake City).
Moss also cited the increased class sizes as having made the problem even worse over the years. “A teacher trying very hard might get a set of essays back to students in maybe two weeks if they were lucky, and I think there’s got to be a better way.”
This is the second year Moss has proposed such legislation. Last year, HB 417 passed but was ultimately not funded.
Senator Howard Stephenson (Republican – Draper), the bill’s Senate sponsor, cautioned that funds would be limited. “With $1 million, we won’t have enough to provide every English teacher with the software. And that’s a good thing because it isn’t an entitlement. It is something they have to step and say ‘I want that for my classroom.'”
Representative Brad Last (Republican – Hurricane), chairman of the House Education Committee, said that additional funding could be allocated if students show a marked improvement. “There’s little doubt in my mind that if we see there’s great success with this kind of software in those grades, that we as a Legislature would be compelled to find additional funding,” Last noted.
If successful, the funds would be available to 4th through 12th grade teachers. Interested parties would apply through the Utah State Board of Education. A specific software vendor was not named in the bill – that would be at the discretion of both the State School Board and school districts.
“I’m honored and thrilled to be able to work with Representative Moss on this legislation, and I hope this year we can get it funded so we can start this process more fully of giving students the immediate feedback they need instead of the autopsy report of marks on a sheet three days after the student has been given that feedback,” said Stephenson.