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Scoring Success

Revolutionizing Assessment: Unleash the Power of Rubric Tools for Effective Evaluation

Through my years of teaching AP, and even through being an AP Reader, I am stumped by the subjectivity and ambiguity in the evaluation systems provided by College Board. But, this is the nature of an English teacher, isn't it? Trying to grade objectively in a subjective world of language and construction is perhaps the English teacher's largest nemesis.

In 2019, when College Board shifted from holistic grading rubrics to analytic, I was excited to have some concrete evaluative tools for evaluation; however, I quickly realized the subjectivity was still very much part of the process.

Take for example the thesis point, which states that a zero is earned for restating the prompt. There were many instances during our calibration stage during the AP reading where I questioned a writer earning a point for the thesis, when the writer clearly just restated the prompt. The responses I received back from my table leader were vague. One year, my table reader even agreed with me that the essay should not have earned the thesis point. I am not criticizing the college board or the AP system, I am simply recognizing the difficulty in assessing writing.

It has been through my experiences that I have developed a grading system that works in my classroom, and provides my students with concrete guidelines. My intention is to provide some type of concrete criteria for which my students can strive. After all, it is a bit ironic that as English teachers we crave concrete details in student writing, and yet our rubric for AP is so ambiguous.

Here is how I teach the writing process:

Step 1: Brainstorm prompt

Students write an essay. Let's take, for example the 2023 AP Argument essay.

Step 2: Consider nuance and rebuttal

Being that I structure my entire year around Plato's Allegory of the Cave, I encourage students to take a position on a spectrum - agree on one side, disagree on other, and their position must come from a place of both sides. My students are encouraged to begin their ideas with "sometimes" and "often" so that they aren't stating an untruth, which ultimately leads to fallacy.

Here is an example of a class brainstorm:

Step 3: Evaluate an essay as a class

Then, as a class, we work through a student essay, using the rubrics I developed with concrete details.

Step 4: Write the essay

At the start of the year, we write the essay after completing all of these steps, but by mid-year, the students write the essay and then follow through with the other steps. The whole-class walk through and peer editing assistance helps students tremendously in their own writing.

Step 5: Evaluate

I mix this up. Sometimes I have students self-evaluate and then peer evaluate. Sometimes I have students self-evaluate and they can earn a perfect score based on how well they assess themselves using the rubric. I actually find that kids are most critical of their own work, which also shows me they are thinking about their writing.

Ultimately all the scaffolding helps them learn the rubric, learn effective writing, and become better writers.

Rubrics: For all of the AP rubrics [synthesis, rhetorical analysis, argument], please visit:



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a passionate high school English and Digital Media teacher whose lifelong purpose is to ignite creativity and critical thought in young minds. With an unwavering commitment to nurturing imagination and fostering intellectual curiosity, I thrive on embracing each student's unique voice and I hope to inspire other teachers with my own journey.

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