As students across the US return to school, many are adapting to virtual learning amid the ongoing pandemic.
But critics claim Edgenuity, an online learning program adopted by tens of thousands of schools, is flawed.
Edgenuity grades assignments and quizzes using artificial intelligence and one middle-schooler was able to outsmart the system.
By adding a jumble of relevant keywords to their answers, such as 'word salad,' the student figured out they could trick Edgenuity's scoring algorithm and earn perfect scores on short-answer tests - his grade went from a 50 to 100.
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Lazare used the word salad technique for this question about Constantinople. 'Algorithms can't judge what learning history means,' said his mom, Dana Simmons. 'Learning history is not about submitting the correct word'
Dana Simmons, a history professor at the University of California Riverside, says she knew an AI was grading her son, Lazare, when it spit back his score almost instantly.
'Algorithms can't judge what learning history means,' Simmons told WBUR. 'Learning history is not about submitting the correct word!'
On Monday, Simmons tweeted that Lazare was in tears over his failing grade.
'I see this hurt unfold in my child, caused by an automatic grading algorithm that values only rote repetition.'
Dana Simmons, a history professor at the University of California Riverside, says she knew an AI was grading her son's test when it spit back his score almost instantly. She showed him how to game the algorithm by including a 'word salad' of relevant keywords at the end of his answer.
So she showed him how to game the algorithm: 'Write long answers, include lots of proper names, read the 'right' answers and replicate them.'
'The questions are things like... 'What was the advantage of Constantinople's location for the power of the Byzantine empire,' Simmons told The Verge.
'So you go through, okay, what are the possible keywords that are associated with this? Wealth, caravan, ship, India, China, Middle East -He just threw all of those words in.'
Following that formula, Lazare's score on the next test shot up 30 points to an 80.
'What is he learning here?' Simmons asked on Twitter.
Simmons shared the formula her son uses to breeze through Edgenuity's short-answer tests 'without learning a thing'
By Tuesday, Simmons announced Lazare had fully cracked the code.
'Two full sentences, followed by a word salad of all possibly applicable keywords,' she tweeted. '100% on every assignment.'sonos sonos One (Gen 2) -