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A living, breathing teacher is the best tool to assess a written essay.

However, DA found a few tools that can do almost the same job, pointing out narrative, organization and purpose of an essay. We used an authentic essay that a fifth-grade girl in Connecticut wrote about her very big mastiff dog named Bam Bam.

And two tools, PEG Writing and ETS’ E-Rater, were able to assess the same essay separately.

Here is the original essay:

BamBam by Tess A.

Once upon a time their was a little dog. His name was BamBam.

Birmingham Public Schools use ETS’ Criterion as a learning and teaching tool. Students get immediate feedback on grammar and mechanics, as well as links to exemplary writing with detailed techniques to improve.

Some vendors have developed tech tools that will solve the challenges of teaching and assessing student writing effectively. We asked several experts to share their thoughts about writing assessment concerns and how administrators can address those issues. Here’s what they had to say:

First and second graders from Roosevelt Elementary School examine where the mouth of the Elwha River empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which connects to the Pacific Ocean.
National Parks Service Ranger Dean Butterworth, also outreach and education specialist, on right in green, teaches Roosevelt Elementary School students how to properly collect soil samples.
To meet state and next-generation science standards on river geology, eighth graders from Stevens Middle School collect and measure sediment samples at the river.

Students in Port Angeles School District in Washington get a taste of the real world of science from their local river. For the past 10 years, they have been working like true scientists collecting and analyzing data gathered from the Elwha River in nearby Olympic National Park near the Pacific coast.

Tom Wohlleber, assistant superintendent for business services for Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, leads a safety session with administrators and teachers.

A “culture of safety”—at all levels of a district—is the first and most critical step in dealing with occupational injury. It also guides the prevention of, response to and mitigation of hazards in the workplace, including staff behavior.

A fourth grade teacher at Cornelius Elementary School in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is evaluated by video.

As states try to bring new rigor and accountability to their teacher evaluation systems, digital video is emerging as one tool for standardizing and enhancing the sometimes perfunctory ritual of classroom observation.

Yonkers Superintendent Michael Yazurlo was born in the city. He also was a teacher and principal in the district. (Photo: Robert F. Rodriguez)

No nonsense, persistent and protective, native son and superintendent Michael Yazurlo strives to move Yonkers, N.Y. schools from a segregated past to brighter future, and transform the culture of one of New York state's “Big 5” largest urban districts.

A middle school student from Springfield Township district takes a STEM and a tech course to learn about robotics, programming and animation.
A student from St. Vrain Valley School District works on a project, as the district builds a computer science framework.
High school students from The School District of Springfield Township in Pennsylvania must take Introduction to Computer Science as a half credit to graduate. Students learn parts of a computer and its functions, networking basics and computational thinking.

We interact with computing devices every day—so should we have a better understanding of the science behind them? An increasing number of districts are saying yes—this year, 25 states require computer science courses for high school graduation, compared to only 11 states in 2013.

At Metro Nashville Public Schools, students learn about criminal justice, science, media and music. Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School students perform all roles of a live broadcast on TV, from cameraman to reporter.
A Stratford STEM Magnet High School senior processes a mock crime scene with skills obtained through his criminal justice class in the Academy of National Safety and Security Technologies in Nashville schools.
A Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School student prepares for a live broadcast from the school’s radio station.
A Stratford STEM Magnet High School Stratford student examines various chemicals used in her classes in the Academy of Science and Engineering.

Magnet schools have made a big comeback in America’s education system, offering curricula that span the spectrum—from medicine to the arts to language immersion. The revitalized programs provide plenty of hands-on experience, while the academic themes are infused into traditional classes such as math and English.

Gloria Marshall Elementary School in Spring ISD in Texas has visible AC fixtures throughout the building. (Luis Ayala/US Green Building Council)

When a classroom is sweltering, nobody is productive. More and more teaching days are being lost to hot, humid weather even though there is a way to mitigate the problem: air conditioning. But the challenge is justifying the cost of installation and maintenance at a time when competition for budget money is fierce.

A snake is the centerpiece of a lesson at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston. It’s a program of Expeditionary Learning, a non-profit that partners with district public schools and charters providing innovative curriculum and teacher-created resources.
Students at the World of Inquiry School #58 in Rochester, New York, work on a science experiment as teacher Chris Widmaier oversees the project. The education program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provides grants to fund this kind of deeper learning in schools nationwide. The program aims to increase economic opportunity and civic engagement in a changing world.
At the Richland School District in South Carolina, elementary students build and use engineer skills for different projects.
Envision Academy students at Oakland USD show off their art projects. This is another program made possible with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

When four South Carolina districts joined forces in 2013 to compete for a federal Race to the Top grant, their shared educational vision was clear: Teach students to be creative innovators and independent learners. The challenge was finding a model to encompass all the sweeping changes they wanted to implement.