The Student News Site of Saratoga High School

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

English essay rubrics need editing

When a student is given an assignment, he or she should have a general idea of what level of work will result in what grade from the teacher. Ideally, teachers make it clear what they’re looking for in excellent work.

However, when it comes to comprehensively graded English essays, this understanding sometimes diminishes greatly. The reason is that most holistically graded essays are graded on a scale from 1-6, with the qualities of each individual score being too unclear.

Most English essay rubrics have four to six categories that teachers look at while grading. These categories, depending on the type of essay, generally include structure, use of evidence, analysis of evidence, grammar and spelling and various other aspects. On a standard rubric, each category has scores from 1-6 along with requirements for each core. This is where another problem lies.

Very often, the varying score requirements contain far too much overlap, leading to ambiguity that confuses students. For a category like analysis, the written definition of a 5 as opposed to a 6 may be exactly the same—except the word “great” is used instead of “excellent.” But where lies the border between “great” and “excellent”?

Teachers sometimes expand on their rubrics by discussing the rubrics orally to their classes, but students can benefit much more if the work expected from them is clearly outlined on a piece of paper that they can refer to.

With categories that take more quantitative measurements, these rubrics work slightly better. There is a problem with these categories, too, however. For example, usually a 6 in spelling or grammar may require no spelling or grammar errors at all in the piece. Therefore, if there are even one or two mechanical errors, which there almost always are in any essay, does the student lose the possibility of receiving a 6 on the whole essay?

This brings up the biggest question of all: Does a student need to receive a 6 in every category to receive a 6 for the entire essay? What distribution of scores across every category can still earn a student a 5 or 6? Simply put, the definition of each score on English rubrics is quite unclear and needs more elaboration.

It should be made clear that rubrics do make a well-appreciated effort to take the subjectivity out of grading writing. The jobs of English teachers are not easy.  Even so, there is still room for improvement. English teachers could, for example, try to give more examples of essays that would receive certain scores. If students know what a 6-essay looks like, they will have a better idea of where they need to improve.

It is unfair for teachers to assign one overall score from 1-6 when each category’s individual requirements are sometimes not properly defined and the difference between overall scores is often negligible given the wording on the rubric.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Saratoga Falcon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *