FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

For your convenience, our Frequently Asked Questions page is divided into four parts:

Click below on any section or topic that you want to view.

Using Holt Online Essay Scoring in the Classroom

About Rubrics and Scoring

About the Technology Behind Holt Online Essay Scoring

Purchasing Holt Online Essay Scoring

 

Using Holt Online Essay Scoring in the Classroom

How many writing prompts are available?
Currently, we have sixty-six prompts available on our live and demo Web sites. We post additional prompts regularly.
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What types of writing are represented in the writing prompts?
Writing prompts are available in ten modes: expository/informative, persuasive, how-to, descriptive, writing about literature, writing about nonfiction, and narrative (both high school and middle school), plus biographical narrative, definition, and cause and effect (high school only). Visit our writing prompts page to view a list of all available prompts.
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How are the writing prompts developed?
Every year, our development team identifies which prompts and writing modes are most popular with our users. At the same time, we review current state writing assessments for newly released writing prompts and changes in scoring rubrics. Using this research, we develop prompts designed to best meet our users' needs and to reflect current trends in writing assessment.
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Can I develop my own prompt using Holt Online Essay Scoring?
No. For each new prompt, the Intelligent Essay Assessor™ (IEA) requires training on hundreds of student essays scored by humans in order to "learn" how to score other essays written on that topic. Only writing prompts that have been reviewed by a writing assessment expert and have gone through a rigorous training process are posted to our site.
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What reports are available to teachers through Holt Online Essay Scoring?
Through Holt Online Learning's Web-based Learning Management Center, teachers can organize students' essays and scores by class and by student. Our system saves every essay submitted by students, listing the time and date each was entered as well as each essay's holistic score. Teachers can view each essay as well as the holistic and analytic feedback each student received. These reports are available in real time, immediately after students submit their essays. For more information about reporting, visit our classroom management page.
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How long does it take to score an essay?
Most essays are scored within a few seconds. During that time, the essay is sent to Knowledge Analysis Technologies in Boulder, Colorado, where the company's Intelligent Essay Assessor reviews and assigns a score to the essay. Keep in mind that when your school's Internet connection is slow or busy, scores may take longer to appear on the screen as the page refreshes.
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What types of feedback do students receive?
Students receive several types of feedback on their essays, including a holistic score and an analytic assessment in each of five different writing traits: content and development; focus and organization; effective sentences; word choice; and grammar, usage, and mechanics. Holt Online Essay Scoring also provides level-specific writing activities to help students revise their writing, interactive model essays for each writing prompt, and special advisories to alert teachers and students to highly unusual writing styles. To learn more about each, visit our student feedback page.
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Can students submit the same essay more than once?
Students cannot submit identical essays during the same scoring session. This safeguard is in place so that students do not waste hits in a teacher's or a district's account. Students can, however, submit as many revisions of their essays as they desire. Revised essays are considered brand-new submissions and are evaluated by our system without regard to previous scores.
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Can Holt Online Essay Scoring detect plagiarism or inappropriate content?
No. Holt Online Essay Scoring can only evaluate the essay itself and cannot compare essays with other students' writing in the class or with other content. Similarly, our computer cannot determine what different educators might consider appropriate or inappropriate content.
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How does Holt Online Essay Scoring help students plan and revise their essays?
Holt Online Essay Scoring has several types of prewriting activities and tips for revision. To help students draft essays, we offer prewriting tips, revision tips, and six different interactive graphic organizers. After submitting an essay, a student also has access to writing activities specifically designed for writers at his or her performance level. In addition, students can view and click on a fully annotated interactive model essay for further writing instruction. All of these features are in addition to the holistic and analytic feedback displayed for each essay. To sample these features, visit our demo site.
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What is a graphic organizer?
Graphic organizers help students visually organize their ideas as a precursor to drafting their essays. Holt Online Essay Scoring offers six different types of graphic organizers: the freeform Web diagram, the cluster diagram, the spider map, the fishbone planner, the all-purpose planner, and the persuasive planner. Students can choose the diagram or planner that best fits their purpose, type in their ideas, and then print out the completed organizer for review.
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What is an interactive model essay?
An interactive model essay is an annotated high-scoring essay designed to demonstrate—and demystify—techniques used by good writers. Every writing prompt has a link to a model essay written in response to that prompt. The models offer clickable headings that highlight thesis statements, conclusions, topic sentences, and other key parts of the essay. Each heading expands into an instructive annotation that discusses the writer's technique and suggests how students might apply the technique to their own writing. In this way, the model essay not only demonstrates good writing but also shows students how to put effective writing approaches into action. Visit a sample interactive model essay posted on our demo site (Note: Users must have Macromedia Shockwave and Flash Players in order to view the model essay).
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Do my students have to type their essays directly into Holt Online Essay Scoring?
No. Many students choose to compose their essays in a word-processing program and then copy and paste them into the Holt Online Essay Scoring interface. If students are importing their work from an e-mail program or across Mac and PC platforms, they should be sure that any special characters in the essay (such as em dashes, smart quotes, and ampersands) have been successfully translated before submitting the essay for scoring.
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Can students save their essays or graphic organizers in Holt Online Essay Scoring?
Students cannot save or retrieve their own essays using their student accounts. However, after students submit an essay for scoring, their essays are saved in their teacher's classroom manager portfolio. A teacher then may access and view the full text of each student's essay. Content entered into graphic organizers cannot be saved. After students have typed in their ideas, they must print out their organizers for review.
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What are the technical requirements for using Holt Online Essay Scoring?

Browser
To get the greatest benefit from Holt Online Essay Scoring, HRW recommends that you use a current version of one of the two most common Web browsers: either Netscape Navigator 6.2 or above, or Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or above. You can download a current version of these browsers by clicking on the links below.

Macromedia Shockwave and Flash Players
The model essays on this site require that you use a current version of Macromedia's Shockwave and Flash Players: Shockwave 8 or above and Flash Player 6 or above. To download these free players, click on the link below.


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How do I reach Technical Support?
Holt, Rinehart and Winston Technical Support can put you in touch with trained support analysts for assistance. Call, send an e-mail, or visit the HRW Technical Support Web site.

Telephone: 800-323-9239
Monday through Friday
7:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., CST
E-mail: tschrw@hrwtechsupport.com
Web site: www.hrwtechsupport.com
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About Rubrics and Scoring

Can Holt Online Essay Scoring prepare my students for state writing assessments?
Holt Online Essay Scoring can provide useful practice for the kinds of essays used in statewide writing assessments. Teachers and students should note, however, that the conditions will not be the same as those that states mandate for writing assessment. The score a student receives on our site should be taken only as an evaluation of one practice essay—not as a predictor of performance on any writing test.
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What scoring rubrics are used?
Holt has developed a holistic rubric for each essay mode (expository, persuasive, and so on) posted on our site—and a standard rubric for analytic scoring. Our rubrics draw on careful research into scoring standards employed in statewide writing assessments all over the country. The goal is to assess student writing in ways that parallel standardized writing assessments. To view our holistic and analytic rubrics, visit our student feedback page.
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What is the difference between holistic and analytic scoring?
Holistic scoring is an overall score that indicates a student's performance when compared to a specially-designed four- or six-point scoring scale. The criteria used for holistic scoring are topic and purpose; organization; development; content/ideas; and word choice, grammar, usage, and mechanics. Each of these criteria is weighted equally to help determine an overall score.

An analytic score is a more specific measure of five writing traits: content and development; focus and organization; effective sentences; word choice; and grammar, usage, and mechanics. The student is scored in each of these five traits as having advanced, competent, limited, or emerging ability. Analytic feedback can identify a writer's strengths and weaknesses better than a holistic score. For example, if a student's ideas are weak but his or her use of vocabulary is strong, he or she might score "limited" in content and development but "advanced" in word choice.
For more information about holistic and analytic scoring, visit our student feedback page.
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Are holistic and analytic scores correlated?
Each analytic trait is scored independently of the holistic score and of other analytic traits. Therefore, a student's holistic score and analytic feedback may vary from one another, sometimes significantly. A perceived discrepancy between the holistic and analytic feedback may actually be a useful distinction between a student's overall performance and a student's performance using particular writing skills. Therefore, although there is usually some kind of relationship between the holistic and analytic feedback, variation between them is also expected because each is assessed separately.
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Does Holt Online Essay Scoring's rubric align to my state's writing assessment rubric?
Because our holistic and analytic scoring rubrics were developed to reflect writing assessment standards shared by several states across the country, your state's writing assessment rubric may vary somewhat in language and emphasis from the Holt Online Essay Scoring rubrics. However, most states' rubrics correlate in part or in whole to ours. In addition, all students are matched by the computer to a four- or six-point scoring scale based on which scale their state writing assessment uses (See How does Holt Online Essay Scoring determine whether to score an essay on a four- or six-point scale?).
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How does Holt Online Essay Scoring determine whether to score an essay on a four- or six-point scale?
Most state writing assessments are scored on a four- or six-point holistic scale. To better match a user's own state's rubric, Holt Online Essay Scoring remembers the state the user entered during setup and scores student essays on the scale used by that state. So, for example, a California user will be scored on a four-point holistic scale while a Florida user will be scored on a six-point holistic scale. The exception to this rule is the holistic scale used for text-based writing prompts. Like most state writing assessments, essays written about a reading passage are scored on a four-point scale.
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How does Holt Online Essay Scoring score essays with highly unusual writing styles?
An essay with a highly unique writing style or unusual construction may receive an advisory message along with a score. In addition, essays over 1,200 words will receive an advisory about length. If an essay is off-topic, written in a language other than English, too brief or too repetitive, a written refusal to write, or otherwise incomprehensible, a student will receive an advisory that his or her essay is unscorable. These advisory messages ask the student to discuss the essay and all feedback with his or her teacher to ensure an appropriate evaluation of the writing.
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Does the length of an essay affect its score?
An essay under 100 words or over 1,200 words will receive an advisory from our system. For essays falling within those boundaries, length is not a criterion for essay scoring. However, longer responses have more opportunity to demonstrate development of ideas, elaboration, careful word choice, and so on. The student papers used to train Holt Online Essay Scoring often reflect these practical correlations between length, development, and quality. In this way, length can indirectly influence the way an essay is scored because many of the better training papers are well developed and therefore longer.
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What if I disagree with a score given by the computer?
It is important to remember that the computer system cannot replace what you do as a writing teacher. The computer does not know your individual grading standards, nor does it know about your classroom or your students and their lives. Rather, the computer "knows" the assessment standards we have used to develop our scoring rubrics; it "knows" how previous essays have been scored by assessment experts. Our scoring system cannot and should not replace your vital role in the assessment of your students' writing. It serves, rather, as a supplement to what you do, giving students another opportunity to practice important writing skills and another form of feedback about their writing.
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About the Technology Behind Holt Online Essay Scoring

How are essays submitted to Holt Online Essay Scoring evaluated?
Essays submitted to Holt Online Essay Scoring are evaluated by the Intelligent Essay Assessor™ (IEA), a software application developed by Knowledge Analysis Technologies (KAT). Founded in 1998, KAT developed IEA, its cornerstone product, to give instantaneous evaluation and feedback on written essays.
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What is the Intelligent Essay Assessor?
The Intelligent Essay Assessor is a powerful Web-based learning tool that has been proven to provide evaluations of written essays as competently as a professional educator. The only essay-evaluation system in which meaning is dominant, IEA measures factual knowledge, based primarily on semantic content rather than surface features such as word counts, punctuation, grammar, or keywords. IEA also extensively checks of the validity of its scoring system.
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How does IEA work?
IEA uses Latent Semantic Analysis, a patented technology based on over ten years of corporate and university research and development. Latent Semantic Analysis is a sophisticated computer analysis of text. It assesses the total content of an essay as well as the correlation between the essay's content and that of training essays previously scored by expert human readers.
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How is the computer trained to score student essays?
Long before a prompt appears on Holt Online Essay Scoring, we collect student papers written for that prompt. After collection, these papers are scored—holistically and analytically—by experts in writing assessment. Then, the training papers are forwarded to Knowledge Analysis Technologies, where the papers and their scores are used to train the computer to score new student essays on the prompt. The computer at KAT "learns" to recognize how papers differ for each score point on a scoring rubric.
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How does the human scoring work?
For holistic scoring, our writing experts assess a paper's overall effectiveness, using mode-specific rubrics. For analytic scoring, they examine a paper for five important traits: content and development; focus and organization; effective sentences; word choice; and grammar, usage, and mechanics. Each essay is scored by two readers for the holistic score and again by two readers for each of the five analytic traits. If the two readers diverge on any score, a third reader scores the paper to settle the discrepancy.
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How does the computer recognize a good essay?
The Intelligent Essay Assessor measures the relationship between each word in an essay and every other word in the essay. Further, it compares the interrelationship of words in a particular essay with the interrelationship of words in the training essays. When a student submits an essay for scoring, the system immediately measures the content and structure of the essay itself; then, it compares the essay to the training essays—looking for similarities—and assigns a holistic score by placing the essay in a category with the most similar training essays. Analytic scoring occurs in much the same way. For each trait, the system assesses the student essay, compares it to the training essays, and then categorizes the trait in question as advanced, competent, limited, or emerging.
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How does IEA scoring compare to the way teachers grade writing?
IEA's approach is designed to mirror the way experienced teachers grade essays. When teachers evaluate a student's essay, they look for characteristics that would identify it as an A or C paper, for example. Their expectations are likely based on their previous experience as a grader and on criteria for the assignment in question. In other words, teachers search for a match between the essay itself and the criteria for a particular grade or score. The Intelligent Essay Assessor is trained to mimic this process.
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Purchasing Holt Online Essay Scoring

How much does Holt Online Essay Scoring cost?
Holt Online Essay Scoring is sold for $1.00 per hit in batches of fifty hits.
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How can I purchase Holt Online Essay Scoring?
You can purchase Holt Online Essay Scoring online, by mail, or by phone.
For more information about online purchases, click on your grade.

Or visit HRW's Online Store.

To order by mail, download our order form in PDF and follow the instructions on the form.

To order by phone, please call 800-225-5425.

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