How Does My Access Grade Essays

About MY Access!® and Vantage Learning

Your child has been selected to participate in an award-winning computer-based online writing-improvement program called MY Access!® from Vantage Learning. MY Access! is specially designed to improve the writing skills of students in grades 5-12 by giving them instant assistance, helpful hints and immediate feedback as they write an essay. In MY Access!, students can use a variety of pre-writing tools, including planning tools, grammar and spell checkers, essay checklists, scoring rubrics and a special "Writer's Guide" that contains interactive activities, printable worksheets and suggested responses.

MY Access! requires access to a computer with an Internet connection. Typically, your child will use MY Access! during school (either in class or in a computer lab) under the supervision of a school official or administrator. Through MY Access!, teachers can assign their students writing prompts (topics) that measure specific writing skills and are tied to school, state and national standards. In addition to helping students plan their thoughts and make corrections as they write, MY Access! immediately grades how well students are doing and challenges them to improve their writing in real time.

As a caregiver, you can share in the excitement and even challenge yourself! With MY Access!, you can view your child's writing, monitor progress and review the support materials your child uses. Just visit Vantage Learning's MY Access! website (www.gomyaccess.com) and log in using your child's username and password. All of the personal information needed to enroll your child (first and last name, passwords, scores and assignments) will be kept private, secure and protected.

The best way to become familiar with MY Access! is to log in and try out its features! By familiarizing yourself with the program, you can help your child improve his or her skills and succeed on district, state and national tests. Please also support your child's development by encouraging writing at home and setting aside time each week to review assignments.

Information Collection and Use

Vantage Learning neither owns nor ultimately exercises direct control over any student information provided by a school. The information provided is used simply and exclusively to ensure that your child gains access to and is able to use MY Access! successfully. All student information provided to Vantage remains absolutely confidential at all times. Vantage does not use, transmit or disseminate any student information for any other purpose then to effectuate and fulfill its responsibilities and obligations to your child's school, school district or other educational institution or program ("school"). Vantage neither requests, culls or collects any additional information about any student that is not directly provided by a child's school or included within a school's request of Vantage (as part of a program) to analyze resultant student data, make comparisons or special arrangements for testing, or generate score reports. For example, a school may additionally provide Vantage Learning with a particular student's English fluency level in order to gain insight into how less fluent English-speaking students performed on a particular assignment by running a specific report on such students. (E-mail addresses and names (optional) are collected from users requesting technical assistance via http://www.myaccess.com/myaccess/techSupportFeedbackForm.jsp. This information is only collected to process the technical-support request.)

At times, Vantage uses or compiles raw non-specific student data only for research studies and quality control purposes. If information is compiled or collected for such purposes, students are not personally identifiable- their identities are completely anonymous and never subject to release or publication.

Your child's school bears exclusive responsibility for and is deemed to exercise ultimate policy and decision-making authority over any and all aspects or associated undertakings of its use and application of the MY Access! program. This encompasses use that is not specifically delegated and assigned in writing to Vantage, including but not limited to: writing-prompt suitability and review; content and presentation; policies, decisions, measurements or judgments made by the school or others with respect to the ability or suitability of student participants in connection with the use of MY Access!; representation of test score results; and reporting, use, management and validity of assessments, minimum passing scores, scoring results, methods, or the like.

The Help Section

In the event that you have a technical issue while on our site and require technical assistance, we will collect personally identifiable information such as your name, e-mail, phone number and location in order to process your service request. This information is not shared with any third parties for their promotional purposes and is solely used to fulfill your request.

Registration

Vantage Learning works in tandem with your child's school, school district or other educational institution or program ("school") to provide MY Access!. Generally, your child's school provides very limited details about your child-such as the name of your child and his or her teacher, student identification number, gender and grade level. This information is used solely for the purpose of loading your child's information into Vantage's secure internal database in order to set up a username and password for the use of MY Access!. In addition, an authorized teacher or school official may also directly enter a particular child's information into MY Access! in order to assign that particular student a username and password for authorized MY Access! use.

Parental Consent

MY Access! is accessible to students under the age of 18 only when such students are designated to be authorized users by the school through a written verifiable Parental (Caregiver) Consent form for each student. Each school using MY Access! must provide Vantage with an official written acknowledgement that the school has provided and, in turn, received each student's Parental Consent form, which verifies that student's parental authority to access and use MY Access!. A sample parent/caregiver letter you might expect to receive from your child's school is shown below. Vantage Learning will not provide access to the MY Access! program without a school's written acknowledgement that it has obtained permission to do so.

Changes to Student Information

You may ask to make changes to student information or request that your child's username and password be deactivated if you no longer desire your child to use the MY Access! program. Kindly e-mail our Customer Support at support@gomyaccess.com, contact Customer Support by telephoning 1-800-322-0848 or make your request in writing addressed to Customer Support, Vantage Learning, 800 Township Line Rd. Suite 300 Yardley, PA 19067.

We will retain your information for as long as your account is active or as needed to provide you services. We will retain and use your information as necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes and enforce our agreements.

Cookies

A cookie is a piece of data stored on a user's computer and tied to information about the user. Usage of a cookie is in no way linked to any personally identifiable information while using MY Access!. MY Access! uses session ID cookies to speed and enhance a student's navigation within MY Access!. Once a user closes the browser, the cookie automatically terminates.

Log Files

Like most standard Internet website servers, Vantage Learning uses log files that identify a user's Internet protocol (IP) address, browser type, Internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, platform type, date/time stamp, and number of clicks to analyze trends, administer the site, track user movement in the aggregate, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. None of this information is ever linked to personally identifiable student information.

Sharing

Vantage Learning never sells, shares, rents or distributes information provided by schools to anyone other than a designated or authorized school official, administrator or authority legally entitled to review such information. Under certain circumstances, Vantage Learning may be directed to disclose personally identifiable information when required by law based upon a good-faith belief that such action is necessary to comply with an appropriate law enforcement investigation, current judicial proceeding, court order or legal process served on the MY Access! website.

Links

Our Site includes links to other websites whose privacy practices may differ from those of Vantage Learning. If you submit personal information to any of those sites, your information is governed by their privacy policies. We encourage you to carefully read the privacy policy of any website you visit.

Vantage Learning never links its MY Access! website to any other site not preauthorized and determined to be beneficial for student development by a student's school.

Security

MY Access! takes every precaution to protect user information. Information is protected both online and offline. Any information provided to Vantage Learning is restricted to Vantage Learning's offices and employees. Only employees who need the information to perform a specific job (customer service, help desk, and technical personnel) are granted access to personally identifiable information. Furthermore, all employees are kept up-to-date on our security and privacy practices. From time to time, as new policies are added or existing policies are modified, employees will be notified and/or reminded about the importance Vantage Learning places on privacy and how they can ensure that information is protected. In addition, all computer Internet servers on which Vantage Learning stores information are kept in a secure environment, behind locked databases.

Site and Service Updates

Vantage Learning sends site and service announcement updates to its users by e-mail. However, these communications are not promotional in nature. If you do not wish to receive these updates, you may click on the unsubscribe link located on the bottom of the e-mail. If you have additional questions, please e-mail support@gomyaccess.com or call 1-800-322-0848. On occasion, Vantage Learning invites users to voluntarily submit further written works and/or receive feedback on their written work from the MY Access! website. Vantage Learning communicates with users to provide requested services regarding their account via e-mail or phone.

Changes to this Privacy Policy

This Privacy Policy may change from time to time. If it does, modifications will be indicated on the MY Access! home page and on Vantage Learning's home page to ensure that users are aware of any such changes. If at any point Vantage Learning modifies its policies for using personally identifiable information as detailed and outlined at the time a particular user first gained access to use MY Access!, Vantage Learning will notify that user prior to the change becoming effective by sending an explanatory e-mail, provided the user has not opted out of all communication with the site or deleted/deactivated their user account.

Special Note to Parents

You have the right to request that your child discontinue use of MY Access! or that your child's record or information not be maintained in any retrievable form. Requests to delete any and all of your child's information should be made through proper school authorities only.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this Privacy Policy, contact Vantage Learning:

800 Township Line Rd. Suite 300
Yardley, PA 19067
1-800-322-0848
support@gomyaccess.com

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A computer program that teaches, evaluates and grades writing?  An online writing curricula that teaches and guides students through the writing process, pre-writing and revisions?  A hands-off approach to writing that works?  My Access! makes these claims.

My Access! is an online writing program that gives your child step-by-step directions and takes them through the process of writing an informative, persuasive or narrative essay.  The program has exercises and activities that the student can complete in order to earn points.  Points are also earned for essay submissions and revisions.  My Access! encourages parents to set point goals and give rewards when the students meet those goals.

My Access! allows  parents to add their own assignments for their children in order to make the program compatible with any writing curriculum or program.

The student section has 30 different writing topics available for each of the three different age levels, 8-10, 11-14 and 15-18.  The student selects a topic that they wish to write about and are then able to go through activities that aim to teach them the basics about that genre or they may choose to go directly to writing the paper.

The activities introduce and explain introductory, closing and supporting paragraphs, topic sentences, the “hook” and more.  The children examine essays that are below proficient as well as some that are proficient in order to help them understand the difference in proficient and below proficient writing.

I found the screen for typing in the outline to be fairly useful.  It gives you a section to write your introduction, each of three body paragraphs and a conclusion.  The student is able to easily navigate between each of the sections by using a sidebar menu.  Each section has a brief synopsis that describes the goal of that section of the outline.

As the student begins to compose their essay, they have several tools available to them.  Above the composition area is listed goals, explaining again what each section of the essay should accomplish.  There is also a section where children can receive feedback and suggestions on what they have written so far.

When the student submits his essay, My Access! evaluates it and gives it a score on a scale of proficiency, below proficient, proficient or above proficient and gives suggestions to improve the essay through revision.

When students and teachers are satisfied with the final essay, My Access! has a feature that allows the essay to  be published in a newspaper format and sent to email addresses of friends and relatives as a fun way to share your child’s writing progress.

What we thought:

I was excited about the possibility of using our current writing program with My Access! and having some help with the evaluation and revision process.  Although I was able to add the topic that I wished to assign the My Access! program seemed unable to adjust to the fact that the assignment was supposed to be a one paragraph description.  Several of the revision suggestions seemed to be related to a much longer paper.  For example one correction was, “Use more transitional words and statements like, ‘then’, ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘next’.” Perhaps it is just my ignorance of writing, but I saw no need to use these or any other transitional words or phrases in a descriptive paragraph.

After I was unable to coordinate My Access! with our current writing program we decided to simply use it without adjustment.  Our kids had a difficult time finding topics that were interesting to them.  Assignments such as “write a persuasive paper about celebrity role models” do not appeal and many other topics were difficult for our children to have enough information to write the required length essay.  For example, our eleven year old does not have enough information about her hobby (running cross country) to write an in depth five paragraph descriptive essay about it.

The directions in My Access! are basic and not specific to the level or skill of the writer.  When an essay is submitted the corrections are also quite general.  For example, “Write your sentences correctly. Check for run-on sentences. Separate run-on sentences into two separate sentences.” and “Use proper punctuation marks.”  These corrections, but with no indication of where in the essay there might be a run-on sentence or improper use of punctuation.  The program gives children an example from another paper of what they should be working toward, but it was difficult for our children to translate the salient points of someone else’s paper into what they should change or improve on their own.

After watching our children wade through more of the activities and exercises, putting below proficient student essays into the proper order (Am I missing something here?  Aren’t the three supporting body paragraphs fairly interchangeable?  I could not reliably guess the correct order.) and reading the theory behind how their paper would be graded.  I decided that I would not require them to work with the program any longer and did the rest of the work and exploration for the review myself.

A comment on the point/reward system.  The children are awarded points for each essay they submit and for each revision – no matter how much effort they put (or don’t put as the case may be) into that essay or revision.  I wrote  three paragraphs of two sentences each for what was supposed to be a five paragraph essay and received all 55 points for submitting an essay.  When it came time for the revision, I added one unrelated sentence and was awarded the full 55 points for submitting a revision.  If your kids are smart, and I’m sure that they are, they will be able to rack up a huge amount of points without doing any real work.  The point system in My Access! has little to no relation to writing improvement or effort.

At several points in the program, there is no option to save the work and come back to it later.  Our eleven year old had been working on her outline for over 30 minutes and was becoming frustrated,  I thought it would be good to take a break.  There was no option for that.  She could submit her outline (which she wasn’t ready to do) or lose her current work.  We ran into this over and over with the My Access! Program.

I asked a friend of mine, Heather, whose daughter has a passion for writing, if they would be wiling to submit an essay and share feedback.   Her daughter received the highest scores in all areas for a well-written and thoughtful story. (You may read the essay she submitted here.) Heather’s feed back was that she didn’t feel that the program is able to effectively teach or instruct the children to help them improve their writing.  She was also bothered by the fact that it doesn’t point out specific errors in the story or show exactly why it took off points. My Access! ranks spelling and grammar lowest on the rubric, so a child can receive excellent marks even with several obvious spelling and grammar errors.

I think that a family who has advanced writers may enjoy My Access! as a way to have work graded and critiqued in a general way without dictating the changes that must be made.  They may also enjoy some of the publishing features.

You may purchase a years subscription to My Access for up to three children for $99.95.

You may read more of my curriculum reviews on my review page.

This post is included in the Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.

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