A Fresh Look at Rubrics and Norming

Why Rubrics?

Rubrics play an important role in the assessment process. They provide a framework that helps both students (and teachers!) gauge and understand the level of student performance across different evaluation criteria or rubric components.

The level descriptions for each rubric component give meaning to the score and offer a common vocabulary for understanding the key expectations of the assignment. Further, rubrics guide future instruction (for teachers) and revision (for students).

Rubric .   noun     | ru·bric | \ ˈrü-brik , -ˌbrik \ An evaluation tool that describes the criteria for performance at various levels using demonstrative verbs.

Rubric. noun | ru·bric | \ ˈrü-brik , -ˌbrik \
An evaluation tool that describes the criteria for performance at various levels using demonstrative verbs.

Rubric Types

The two main types of rubrics are holistic and analytic. There are pros and cons to both:

Evaluating Your Rubric

At the start of the new school year or before beginning a new assignment, it's important to evaluate your rubric. Is it well-designed? Does it clearly communicate your learning expectations? Does is adequately measure content skills? Process skills? Are there any grey areas of possible points of confusion?

A strong rubric...

  • Focuses on skill acquisition, not task completion

  • Creates a common, consistent language to ensure comprehension and facilitate conferencing (student-teacher, parent-teacher, PLCs, etc.)

  • Serves as a formative evaluation resource allowing teachers to plan lessons and tailor instruction around greatest areas of student need

Be sure to avoid...

  • Language that is written in the negative

  • Limiting student creativity with a pre-imposed formulaic structure / “checklist” rubric

  • Overly vague, incomplete, or inconsistent language or "grey areas" in the rubric

  • “Off-rubric” scores, such as adding +/- or half points with no accompanying explanation - this introduces ambiguity and confusion into the score

grey areas.png

Watch out for "grey areas" in the rubric. For example, what does “sufficient evidence” mean? Is it a certain number of quotes?  The quality of the quotes? This is an example of a grey area that needs to be defined - both for you and your students.

Norming and Calibration

Rubrics alone do not ensure consistent scoring of student work and thus it's important for teachers to norm. Norming is when teachers align their scoring to ensure that:

  • Every member of the team applies the rubric consistently across students.

  • Teachers score consistently with one another.

Teacher Tip: Norming can happen at the department or grade level, but it can also happen dynamically with your students. Even if you don’t have a norming session with other teachers for every assignment, you will always want to norm with your students so they are set up for success. Read and discuss each rubric component as a class and encourage students to ask questions or score their own work or the work of a peer.

7 Steps to Successful Norming

  1. Schedule a set meeting time and place.

  2. Distribute and review the prompt, rubric, and student work samples.

  3. Individually score sample student work using the rubric.

  4. Present scores individually and identify common discrepancies as a group.

  5. Discuss the grey areas that led to discrepancies in scoring.

  6. As a group, come to a consensus on how to apply the rubric to student work to ensure consistency.

  7. If available, compare your scoring to an expert’s scoring to calibrate.

Finally, be conscious of your own biases!

  • Read the prompt. Do you have a strong opinion on the task?

  • Take breaks. Grading fatigue is real and can hurt your accuracy and consistency.

  • Accept that some papers will be more challenging to read than others.

  • Whenever possible, grade anonymously. Even if you don’t know the students personally, gender and ethnicity can affect how you grade.


Want to learn more? Email hello@thegraidenetwork.com to inquire about our teacher PD and extended learning offerings.

Stamping Out Summer Learning Loss

Stamping Out Summer Learning Loss

Research spanning 100 years shows that all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities over the summer. More concerning, however, is the effect of summer learning loss on the achievement gap. So how do we keep the "learning faucet" turned on for all students to combat summer learning loss and narrow the achievement gap? 

Tips for Future Teachers: Choosing Your First School


You just graduated from your Ed school program with lots of ideas about curriculum, classroom management, lesson planning, differentiation, etc. but now you have to find a school...what should you look for? How can you distinguish between the different schools and their philosophies, especially if you are in a huge hiring hall with lots of other applicants?

As a current professor of a course designed to prepare future school building leaders but also a former high school math teacher, I can tell you that the number one most important thing to look for in a school is the level of support from the administration (principal, assistant principals, mentors, etc.) As a brand new teacher, you will need lots of support especially in your freshman year! Teaching is no longer a profession where you close your door and teach your students with little input from anyone else. Rather, it is a collaborative profession where you have the ability to continually grow and learn from your colleagues and your supervisors. You don't want to select a school that has a struggling administration or a weak (or nonexistent) school philosophy. In conjunction with a great teaching staff, the school leaders shape the mission of the school and provide the support and resources to carry out that mission.

Even the best-prepared first year teacher will struggle at a school that has weak leadership. You should spend your first year teaching learning how to craft lesson plans, do backward-planning to meet instructional goals and getting to know your students so that you can figure out the best way to teach them. You should not be spending your time constantly worrying about classroom management because of an uninvolved or unsupportive administration - obviously many aspects of classroom management are the responsibility of the teacher, but you should have a strong support system (deans, mentors, principal) that will help you navigate disciplinary issues and give you the support you need to put strong routines in place that will alleviate many classroom management issues. Similarly, you should not spend your entire first year reinventing the "curriculum" wheel. It is important that you plan your lessons thoroughly and learn the ins and outs of your course(s) but is it NOT necessary that you create every activity or assessment from scratch. Your administrators should partner you with more veteran teachers that will give you resources and share their broader content knowledge. When you interview at a school ask the administration if there is any type of "buddy" system where you will have the opportunity to collaborate with more experienced staff members. Also ask if there is time in the school day specifically devoted to professional collaboration among teachers. This should ideally be part of your scheduled day and not time that you have to find on your own in order to collaborate.

Any administrator will have a prospective teacher come in for an interview and probably a "demo" lesson before hiring. Although I know this will be a stressful experience for a first year teacher, try to pay close attention to the atmosphere of the building that you are visiting. Do students seem overall to be happy with the environment and their teachers? Even though this sounds simple it's actually so important - are students and teachers smiling? Are teachers kind to students in the hallways and in their classrooms and does genuine learning seem to be taking place? Your first impressions of a school are very important and you should trust your instincts. The type of school and administration that you encounter in your first year of teaching can be crucial to your future teaching career and the development of your skills, so be sure to make an informed decision using all of the available information at your disposal. Good Luck!

Danielle Longyear taught high school math (9th-12th grade algebra, geometry, trig and AP Stat) in a low-income, public high school in Brooklyn, New York as a New York City Teaching Fellow. She got her masters in Mathematics Education from Brooklyn College after doing her undergraduate degree at Georgetown University. She also completed her school administration degree from Baruch College in NYC and is currently teaching a School Building Leader course at Hunter College as an adjunct professor in their School of Education.