I’ve been thinking a lot about writing rubrics lately. All year, we’ve been continuing to incorporate the CCSS into our writing instruction and part of this work has been creating new rubrics. My school purchased the Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project last spring, and we’ve made some minor changes to the rubrics in those units for grades K-5. However, the middle school rubrics have been a bit more of a challenge. Connecticut is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and they have published rubrics that we’ve used as a guide to create documents that work for us. We found the Smarter Balanced documents cumbersome, so we’ve used the language from Smarter Balanced with the Units of Study format to draft rubrics for grades 6-8.
There has been some disagreement among the teachers, however, about how many categories were needed on the rubric. Ultimately, we felt that everything on the SBAC rubric should be included on ours, but there is concern that the document has become unwieldy.
The challenge is to create a document that includes the standards being taught and assessed, but isn’t so lengthy that teachers don’t use it as a formative assessment tool to determine what our students are learning. As Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan, authors of Assessment in Perspective, have pointed out on their blog, “Assessment, formal and informal, is the window into knowing our students.” Using the information gathered through these assessments to guide instruction is essential if our students are going to grow as writers.
One option is to use the whole rubric for pre- and post-assessments. Then, once learning needs are identified, relevant sections of the rubric can be used as an interim assessment tool to monitor the students’ progress toward their learning goals. Some teachers have found that this works for them; others are not yet convinced.
I know many of you have grappled with this same issue. I’d love to hear if anyone has any other solutions.