Assessing Student Understanding – A Generic Rubric

Standards-Based Grading (SBG) is a trend in education that is slowly moving through the country. There are several arguments for and against SBG…but that isn’t the point of this article. Students should be assessed based on their performance around a specific academic or behavior standard. States, districts, schools, and teachers decide what evidence is needed to show sufficient mastery of a topic in class based on many factors. Schools oftentimes use a 4-point rubric to measure student’s progress towards mastery, I’m suggesting a slightly different rubric system, that I have found communicates understanding and growth to students more precisely. Also, I think it is more clear for parents familiar with a percentage grading system. And, it works well with many theories around standards-based grading.

The Alternative

During my student teaching, my mentor teacher and I invented this rubric to assess student understanding. The generic rubric below was created to accurately assess each concept that appeared on assessments. We used the key phrase “evidence of understanding” to measure what was on the page. Scores below as 6 were rarely awarded, so there was little need to differentiate between every single integer.

I think this generalized rubric is superior to a 4 point scale. There is no need to convert the rubric score to percentage scores. It communicates mastery clearly for both students and families, and it differentiates levels of understanding.

Alternative – Round 2

Later, I became more accustomed to SBG and decided to modify the rubric I was using to be more equitable based on my school’s grading policies. Students who made no attempt or did not make sufficient progress were being disproportionately penalized for not attempting the work…so I adjusted my rubric.

You may question my decision to eliminate “0” through “3”…some say “If they did zero work, they get a zero in the grade book.” Unfortunately, that is not how most students think, even on a percentage scale, 4 is still failing! This is important because of the mindset of students. When students receive a failing grade, they self-assign blame and students reduce the behaviors that promote learning. So, if a student fails a single standard, they do not have an overwhelming amount of work to improve. I don’t want their perception of their grades to prevent them from learning.

My Current Thinking

Finally, in my current system of grading, we award students grades between 0.5 and 4 incrementing by 0.5 (see below). I rewrote a standard to adjust my assessment of the standards taught to reflect this new scale.

Please feel free to use these rubrics in your classroom or adjust them as needed. Comment below if you have questions or ideas about these rubrics to measure student understanding.

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