Teachers Use Paid Readers to Grade Student Essays

  Several Washington School Districts have hired paid readers to help read and grade student essays. Some English teachers spend very little time reading their students papers which raises questions about their role in guiding and inspiring their students’ work. It has allowed the Bellevue School District to increase the writing requirements in the literature class from two essays to seven three-to-five page essays a semester. Bellevue now has a senior English class that relies almost entirely on paid readers to review and grade all but a fraction of the papers. Teachers see very little of their students’ written work and leave the editing and grading to others.Carol Jago, co-director of the California Reading and Literature Project says the use of paid readers is not new but it does raise questions about the teacher/student relationship. “What’s lost is how teachers get to know their students through their writing. And students no longer know the audience their writing for.” The Theme Reader program in Northshore School District has relied on outside paid readers for at least 15 years and more school used paid readers before budget restraints eliminated the use of professional readers.The use of readers, typically college students or retired teachers, is not cheap. Northshore School District spent $80,000 last year for readers and Bellevue School District plans to expand their reader program down to the sixth grade. The program will cost the district $235,000 for the 2006-2007 school year.Not all teachers favor the use of readers and believe an important connection is lost when they don’t read their students’ work. Reading and commenting on essays themselves allows teachers to follow gifted writers and flag problems and adjust their teaching.Stephen Miller, president of the Bellevue Education Association, is not convinced this is the answer, “All English teachers would agree that students can become better writers by writing more. But is writing many essays more important than personal feedback from your teacher?”Which brings us back to the hard question—what exactly do we hire teachers to do if schools are hiring others to read and grade their students’ work?