The BABEL Generator and E-Rater: 21st Century Writing Constructs and Automated Essay Scoring (AES)
- Author(s): Perelman, Les
- et al.
Automated essay scoring (AES) machines use numerical proxies to approximate writing constructs. The BABEL Generator was developed to demonstrate that students could insert appropriate proxies into any paper, no matter how incoherent the prose, and receive a high score from any one of several AES engines. Cahill, Chodorow, and Flor (2018), researchers at Educational Testing Service (ETS), reported on an Advisory for the e-rater AES machine that can identify and flag essays generated by the BABEL Generator. This effort, however, solves a problem that does not exist. Since the BABEL Generator was developed as a research tool, no student could use the BABEL Generator to create an essay in a testing situation. However, testing preparation companies are aware of e-rater's flaws and incorporate the strategies designed to help students exploit these flaws. This test prep does not necessarily make the students stronger writers just better test takers. The new version of e-rater still appears to reward lexically complex, but nonsensical essays demonstrating that current implementations of AES technology continue to be unsuitable for scoring summative, high stakes writing examinations.
Keywords: Automated essay scoring (AES), BABEL generator, writing constructs, writing assessments, fairness