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Note: The numbers in the right column indicate the weighting scheme. Adapted from Archbald, D., and Newmann, F. M. Beyond Standardized Tests: Assessing Authentic Academic Achievement in Secondary School. Reston, Va.: National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1988, p. 11. For more information on NASSP products and services to promote excellence in middle level and high school leadership, visit www.principals.org.


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Note: The numbers in the right column indicate the weighting scheme. Adapted from Archbald,
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T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R 565


After examining this matrix, students and families know what the teacher is looking for and what the standards for good work are. And they will know even better if a sample of a well-done essay is provided with notes pointing out how and where each quality is manifested. There are many print and internet resources available today for collecting sample rubrics to assess a wide range of products, performances, content, and skill areas. As is true of all available resources, we have to be judicious, informed consumers and select the best or fine-tune those that don’t quite measure up. In other words, we need to look for exemplars of good rubrics. So what would we look for in selecting a rubric or what would we strive for in designing our own? Here are some guidelines we have found to be useful.

The best instructional rubrics accomplish the following:

p Address all relevant content and performance objectives.

p Address different skills as separate criteria and assess them indepen- dently of one another.

p Include gradations of quality (novice to expert) within each criterion.

p Describe each gradation in specific detail, thus making obvious what differentiates one level from another.

p Fit on one piece of paper.

p Are easy to understand and use by both teacher and student.

p Are accompanied by examples of student work that exemplify the lev- els described in the rubric.

p Are always a work in progress.

Rubrics can be used as formative or summative assessment tools. When used as formative tools, rubrics enable students to self-assess and receive feedback on which level of proficiency is demonstrated in their work within each criterion in the moment. The feedback and the quality indicators can be used by students to determine where to invest their effort in improving the work and achieving higher levels of quality or proficiency. A rubric used in this way becomes a feedback mechanism that provides guidance about how to incrementally im- prove performance. Used as summative tools, rubrics clearly define the target for students and provide them with specific feedback on why they achieved a



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Adapted from Penny Knox, Oak Creek Elementary School, Irvine, California.

Exhibit 21.5 Rubric for a Cross-Curricular Sixth Grade Exhibition


Student will communicate accumulated knowledge through creative and analytical writing.

EXHIBITION Using class notes, individual research, literature, and information from audio-visual presentations, students will write a letter to their family describing a trip to an assigned culture by including information on the fol- lowing aspects of this culture:

• Art, architecture, literature • Government • Inventions and technology • Social, economic, and political systems • The daily lives of the common people • Religion and ethical beliefs • Importance of geography in the development of this culture • Why this culture fell or declined


• Correct grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation must be used. • Letter will be written in class. • Final copy of the letter will be typed on school computer word processing program. • Student will use appropriate note-taking skills and be able to organize ideas in proper outline format. • Student is able to research notes to communicate knowledge creatively, establishing tone, point of

view, and setting.

Model: Student letter is attached.



T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R 567


particular score or grade on a piece of work. If they should do that type of work again, the feedback on the rubric can serve as a resource for goal setting on the next piece of work.

Exhibit 21.5 is an example, developed by Penny Knox at Oak Creek Elementary School in Irvine, California, of a cross-curricular sixth grade exhibition and the rubric that accompanies the project. In this case, the teacher and students use the rubric for both formative and summative assessment purposes. The project gets scored four times on each criterion. Three times are labeled “Practice Date” (formative assessment) and the final (summative) assessment is simply called “Exhibition.” This reflects a design in which students produce the final product (write the letter) three times and get detailed feedback each time on the qual- ity of their work. The teacher can use the data to determine where reteaching needs to occur for some or all of the students. And the students can use the feedback to focus their effort on improving specific skills or in developing more background knowledge prior to the final exhibition. In this school, the chil- dren take the product home for one of the practice trials and work with their families to apply the scoring rubric to the child’s product. This is a particularly effective way to inform and involve families in the education of their children.


The complement to a good rubric is a set of samples of actual student work that exemplify the different cells of the rubric, accompanied by explanations of why each sample exemplifies the level of quality claimed for it. Exhibit 21.6 is a rubric found on www.Exemplars.com, a website that publishes collections of benchmark mathematical tasks, designed by K–12 teachers, with actual stu- dent work produced for each task. A benchmark task is one that calls for stu- dents to display a variety of competencies thought to be important. Such tasks aren’t given every day but are saved for assessing student progress at certain key junctures. The rubric is used to score student products as Novice, Apprentice, Practitioner, and Expert. An accompanying narrative explains how and why the samples exemplify one of the four levels of the rubric.

Video: Creating Criteria for Successful Exemplars



T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R568


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