Why We Don't Support Half Points

 

A Rubric Refresher

Rubrics provide a framework for helping students gauge the state of their writing (“level”) across different elements (“components”). The level descriptions for each component give meaning to the score and provide teachers and students with a common vocabulary for understanding the key expectations of the assignment.

Key characteristics of rubrics:

  1. Provides common language that serves as basis for teaching and responding to student work
  2. Provides students a consistent guide that focuses their skill and knowledge development over time 
  3. Describe student performance in terms that allow for varied paths to success 

Why No Half Points?

At first blush, half points make tremendous sense. Rubrics, however detailed, are simplified. In reality, “writing scores fall along a potentially infinite continuum of score points” (Smith & Swain, 2017, Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers). Half points are one step closer to representing reality. 

Rubrics bucket that continuum into a limited number of available actual scores. As Jorge Luis Borges concisely noted in his story "On Exactitude in Science", a life-sized map is useless to anyone trying to get around. As Graiders navigate your students’ essays, they will notice minute differences among even closely adjacent papers on the continuum. But they must ultimately assign scores. 

At The Graide Network, we have two key reasons for not allowing Graiders the freedom to assign scores in between levels. 

  1. Independent scorers. Clear and specific rubrics are foundational for consistency between and among Graiders. Graiders rely on the rubric descriptors to make decisions about where a paper lies for any given component. If the number of options suddenly expands to include half-point scores but offers no description of what a half point represents, Graiders are left with heightened ambiguity in their decision making (more options but no more information) and student and teachers are left guessing as to the meaning of the half point delta. 
  2. Technology. Our technology translates your rubric into a clickable scoring tool for Graiders. If a level does not exist on your rubric, it cannot become a level in the system for the Graider to select! 
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A Workaround

Rubrics are living tools that can be adapted to the intricacies of your instruction. If your assignment requires a finer distinction between scores than the existing rubric levels permit, simply adapt your rubric. You can create a more detailed rubric with more levels as long as you provide descriptions of what each additional level means.