Teachers are embracing AI-powered tools to grade assignments, Jennifer reports today.

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1 big thing: ChatGPT is grading your kids' papers

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

A new tool called Writable, which uses ChatGPT to help grade student writing assignments, is being offered widely to teachers in grades 3-12, Jennifer reports.

Why it matters: Teachers have quietly used ChatGPT to grade papers since it first came out β€” but now schools are sanctioning and encouraging its use.

Driving the news: Writable, which is billed as a time-saving tool for teachers, was purchased last summer by education giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, whose materials are used in 90% of K-12 schools.

  • Teachers use it to run students' essays through ChatGPT, then evaluate the AI-generated feedback and return it to the students.
  • "We have a lot of teachers who are using the program and are very excited about it," Jack Lynch, CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, tells Axios.

πŸ“ How it works: A teacher gives the class a writing assignment β€” say, "What I did over my summer vacation" β€” and the students send in their work electronically.

  • The teacher submits the essays to Writable, which in turn runs them through ChatGPT.
  • ChatGPT offers comments and observations to the teacher, who is supposed to review and tweak them, then return the feedback to the students.
  • Writable "tokenizes" students' information so that no personally identifying details are submitted to the AI program.

What they're saying: Writable is based on an AI concept called "human in the loop," Lynch says.

  • "In this case, it's a teacher that's in the loop before any of the content or feedback goes back to the student."

The big picture: Teachers are already using ChatGPT and other generative AI programs to craft lesson plans, syllabuses and curriculums β€” not to mention grading papers and checking students' work for AI-enabled plagiarism and other forms of cheating.

  • But now formal AI grading tools are coming down the pike to enshrine and codify this practice β€” for better or worse.
  • Alternatives to Writable include Crowdmark, EssayGrader and Gradescope β€” and ChatGPT directly β€” to name just a few.

Yes, but: AI grading tools can enable shortcut-taking by teachers, depriving students of more meaningful feedback.

  • Diligent teachers will probably use ChatGPT's suggestions as a starting point, but others may pass them along verbatim to students.

Friction point: As schools struggle to craft their AI policies, there's debate over where to draw the lines. Is it academically honest to use ChatGPT to grade papers? Does it shortchange students?

  • Education technology companies say that automated tools like Writable are meant to give teachers more free time and flexibility.
  • If AI does the heavy lifting on grading, time-strapped teachers will have more time to devise creative lessons and get to know their students, the argument goes.
  • The goal is "to empower teachers, to give them time back to reallocate to higher-impact teaching and learning activities," Lynch says.

Threat level: Some parents are up in arms about AI-generated comments on report cards β€” but they're not unanimously opposed to AI-assisted grading.

  • When asked if "K-12 schools should be able to use AI to evaluate students' academic performance," 45% of parents said "yes," according to a poll released in October by the National Coalition for Public School Options, a group that supports voucher programs.

Our thought bubble: Teachers and students alike will be using ChatGPT and its ilk going forward β€” so the focus should be on setting guardrails rather than tsk-tsking.

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2. Muscle cars go electric

The electric 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona. Photo courtesy of Stellantis

With the upcoming launch of the all-electric Dodge Charger Daytona, Stellantis is targeting a skeptical and perhaps even downright hostile audience: muscle car fans, Joann writes.

Why it matters: Electric vehicles (EVs) have already hit the mainstream β€” even some pickups run on battery power now. Muscle cars represent the last bastion of the gasoline era.

Driving the news: The new electric Charger made its debut yesterday in an online video channeling the rebellious spirit of brothers John and Horace Dodge.

  • Dismissing other "compliance" EVs built to satisfy government regulators, Stellantis said the next-generation Charger is still the world's quickest and most powerful muscle car.
  • It will also be the loudest, thanks to a patent-pending "Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust system" β€” a speaker box that replicates the deafening burble of Dodge's Hellcat V8 engine (no typical EV whine here).

By the numbers: The electric 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona Scat Pack delivers 670 horsepower, goes 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds and runs the quarter-mile in an estimated 11.5 seconds.

  • Performance features include standard all-wheel-drive, along with a PowerShot feature that delivers a jolt of 40 extra horsepower, and selectable Drag, Track, Drift and Donut modes.
  • There's even a "drive experience recorder" that lets you show your friends how crazy you are.

Reality check: Lots of other carmakers have built performance EVs that are fast and fun to drive.

  • And just last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a bold, believe-it-when-we-see-it claim that the next-generation Roadster will go 0-60 mph in under 1 second β€” which would be insane.

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3. Oscar Mayer wieners go plant-based

Oscar Mayer's new plant-based hot dogs and sausages. Photos courtesy of Kraft Heinz

Oscar Mayer is introducing its first plant-based products: hot dogs and sausages in bratwurst and Italian flavors, made from ingredients like bamboo fiber, mushroom and pea protein, Jennifer reports.

Why it matters: The splashy announcement shows there's still momentum in the plant-based meat sector, for which many obituaries have been written.

Driving the news: Oscar Mayer NotHotDogs and NotSausages will hit grocery stores in the second quarter of this year.

  • They're from the Kraft Heinz Not Company, a 2-year-old joint venture between the familiar weenie maker and TheNotCompany (NotCo), producer of NotChicken Patties and NotMilk.
  • The goal was to make the vegan dogs look, taste and cook as much like the real thing as possible.

What they're saying: "What the consumer is expecting is a product replica, a product that looks and performs like the animal-based item," Kraft Heinz NotCo CEO Lucho Lopez-May tells Axios.

Where it stands: Previous products from the collab include Kraft NotMac&Cheese (in classic and white cheddar), Kraft NotCheese Slices (in American, cheddar and provolone) and NotMayo.

What's next: Expect NotHotDogs and NotSausage to appear in about 2,000 stores nationwide after release, for prices just a bit higher than the meaty originals.

  • Will we be eating them in ballparks one day? "Yes," says Lopez-May.

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4. Chicago's Loop dreams

S. State Street in Chicago. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

The city of Chicago wants to invest in bringing businesses back to the downtown Loop area amid record vacancies, Axios Chicago's Justin Kaufmann reports.

Why it matters: The Loop has long been an economic engine for the city β€” but like many downtowns, it has struggled to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving the news: Mayor Brandon Johnson's office recently announced several efforts to rejuvenate the Loop, including an economic task force and a plan to repurpose some area buildings.

Flashback: The Loop's State Street thrived as a retail center for nearly a century through the 1960s, but hollowed out by the '70s as shoppers and retailers flocked to suburban malls.

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Big thanks to What's Next copy editor Amy Stern.

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