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What's a Rubric?


Q. During our parent-teacher conference, our child's teacher mentioned a "rubric." It seemed to be something important that had to do with grades. What is it?


A "rubric" is simply a scoring framework that provides rule of thumb to a teacher for assigning a grade to student work.


It's like a simplified spreadsheet that educators use to score subskills in a learning assignment to come up with an overall grade. Think of a rubric as being like a protocol, checklist or classification system to help the teacher measure how well the student fulfilled each of the learning standards that was intended to be taught as part of that assignment.


Here's a checklist-style rubric intended to guide scoring of a third-grade letter-writing assignment. In this example, the teacher would come up with one of three assessments, Excellent, Satisfactory, or Needs Improvement:


The teachers of yesteryear made these judgments in their heads to determine a grade. But today's learning assignments are quite often done in groups, or are more elaborate projects that have many parts, such as presentations, skits or models combined with a short research paper. To keep the grading manageable, and to make sure the assignments were matched well to the learning standards they are supposed to be teaching, teachers developed rubrics.


In the later grades, rubrics most often result in a numerical score which translates to a particular grade. This is because education today is "data-driven," and educators believe they can best produce objective data for grading by following the rubric


The term comes from the world of religion, in which important Biblical passages, such as when Jesus is speaking, are printed in red so that they stand out. The idea is to help teachers zero in on the learning standards that are the most crucial to their subject areas, so that they will design assignments that will deliver the knowledge and skill contained in that standard to the student.


Teachers compute a grade based on a specific rating scale. It may assign a numerical value, or score, to the student's work. Or the teacher can simply check whether or not an aspect of the assignment was completed or not.


Basically, a rubric helps the teacher measure a student's mastery of the subskills of a given learning assignment.


If you put your name on your math paper, you get 5 points. If you didn't, you get 0.


If you showed your work in an algebra problem, you get 5 points; if you didn't, and you were supposed to, you might get zero.


Or if your science experiment went 'way beyond the minimum requirements for complexity, you get 5 points, and if you just did what you were told, you get, say, 2 points.


A rubric is intended to help the teacher avoid subjectivity and consider all the aspects of an assignment in coming up with a score for it.



Homework: For a look at all kinds of rubrics submitted by teachers from coast to coast, see


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 07 2008



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