Cranky Complaints-Lady Buys BOOKS! (or tries to)

Everything you never wanted to know about rubrics

image Let’s start by saying I hate rubrics.  I have always hated them, since I first saw one and puzzled through what it was and what it meant. 

But they have become standard here, for no good reason, and crop up almost daily when ds gets his assignments back (he does his high school credit courses online from home through a virtual public high school).

Here’s how it works:  instead of a mark, the teacher returns a grid with all the POSSIBLE marks, and then tells you what yours is.  Well, not exactly marks.  All the possibilities for how good you could have been in a given area.  Here’s how it goes in any given category:

  • Level 1:  Not good
  • Level 2:  Some good
  • Level 3:  Pretty good
  • Level 4:  Way good

image The wording varies according to what the thing actually was that the kid was supposed to be doing… but not very much, because teachers get sick of creating these grids for every single assignment, so I suspect they mostly cut and paste from one to the other.

And my question is WHY?  What’s wrong with percentages, which let you “see” all the possibilities at once, in a very standard way:  is it 60% or 98%?

But no.  A rubric for a history assignment will say something like this:

COMMUNICATION:  Communication of information and ideas

  • Level 1:  does not communicate information and ideas clearly
  • Level 2:  communicates information and ideas with limited clarity
  • Level 3:  communicates information and ideas with some clarity
  • Level 4:  communicates information and ideas with considerable clarity

And then, ideally, the teacher simply chooses one of the four boxes.  But in the particular assignment that triggered this rant, today, the teacher seems to have chosen e) None of the above, and wrote instead under the rubric for this category:

  • communicates information and ideas with a high degree of clarity

It’s nice to know that this kid knows how to communicate (I already knew that).  But is “HIGH DEGREE” better than “some”?  Is it better than “considerable”?  Where does it fit in the rubric scheme?  It doesn’t.

One more example from this particular assignment:

THINKING:  Describe the significance to Canadian history

  • Level 1:  does not use processing skills -no evaluation/ conclusions
  • Level 2:  uses  processing skills to evaluate and draw conclusions with limited effectiveness
  • Level 3:  uses processing skills to evaluate and draw conclusions with some effectiveness
  • Level 4:  uses processing skills to evaluate and draw conclusions with considerable effectiveness

Again, the teacher has placed him in a category of his own (I already knew THAT) by responding with another e) None of the above:

  • uses processing skills to evaluate and draw conclusions with exemplary effectiveness

Why do they even inflict these things on us?  Why not say 95% or 97% or 43% and be done with it?  Do they think we can’t figure out a more conventional mark?

It is perhaps helpful to see assignment grades broken down into categories like Communication or Thinking.  Perhaps.  But to then break down those categories into levels numbered 1-4 is arbitrary and weird. 

And then there’s the phrase “limited effectiveness,” which pops up in the Level 1 category alarmingly frequently:  “writes in role with limited effectiveness.”

How’s that for limited helpfulness?  How about just saying “ineffective,” “poor” or, if you don’t want to hurt their feelings, “needs improvement?”

image Here’s a much simpler “rubric”, the way we did things when I was their age (and now I’m sounding real old!):

  • A:  Does this thing pretty darn well.
  • B:  Gettin’ it done.
  • C:  Shlepping along.
  • D:  Uh-oh… watch out!
  • F:  Oops!  This one stands for FLUNK.  Can’t do this one for beans.

Gosh, you’re right – that does look too complicated for the typical mommy to understand… especially given that since switching to the new system, she’s been stuck “interpreting assignment grades with limited effectiveness.”