A proposed bill that would fund a program to help provide supplemental grading software that will allow teachers to give accelerated feedback on school assignments was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.
HB 69 – English Language Arts Instructional Tool, which is sponsored by Representative Carol Spackman Moss (Democrat – Salt Lake City), has already been given a favorable recommendation from the House Education Committee and now heads to the Senate floor.
Under the bill, software will be provided that can give feedback to teachers on technical components of English and writing. Students’ comprehension level and reading ability would be measured as well.
Moss, a retired English teacher, said that one of the main issues educators face today is trying to provide feedback on assignments to students in a timely manner. With class sizes increasing, this becomes more difficult to achieve as time goes on.
“As a teacher of many years, the most frustrating thing for me, and I know any teacher who teaches writing instruction, is the length of time it takes to get students’ papers back to them,” Moss told the committee.
“The worst thing for me to ever hear when I was handing back a set of essays was someone saying ‘I don’t even remember when we wrote this.’ It’s the dilemma of all writing teachers to get feedback to students in a timely way, and classes are larger than ever. It becomes really problematic.”
Those who are interested in the software would have to apply for a grant through the Utah State Board of Education. Moss didn’t name a specific software vendor in the bill. She is leaving that up to the State School Board.
Sydnee Dickson, deputy superintendent of the Utah State Office of Education, appreciates that particular portion of the bill. “I do appreciate that there are opportunities out there for multiple providers to enter into this technology portion of the bill and that we might be looking at writing in a different way so that we’re not only getting better writing out of students, but immediate feedback.”
Moss believes that HB 69 will help address the issue of improving student feedback from and also help them improve their writing skills. “Employer surveys have shown that two of the qualities that are most important to them in hiring are a person’s ability to write and communicate. This is where we’re falling down on the job. This is where we see a lack, and I don’t say it’s a teacher’s fault or anyone in particular. But this is where we’re failing students,” said Moss.
“They can’t succeed in any field, much less STEM fields, unless they can do these things well: think critically, write well, and be able to communicate their ideas.”