Grading Myth 3: Weighing Rubrics


The most common mistake in grading is to add up points earned on a rubric and divide by the total.  To grade with rubrics, scores should be weighted.

First, assess and score the rubric as objectively as possible, even if scores appear low.  Read the rubric descriptors and match what the student did and the descriptions as closely as possible.

Later  weigh grades to align with the instruction and curricular goals.  Grades reflect how well children are progressing toward the goals of a course. “Thus, ‘A’ …is the best one can reasonably expect for the unit and level of students in question…” explains John Biggs (1999  66).  Consider how much time children had to complete a product or performance, what the goals of the course are, the amount of exposure to L2, etc.  A Newcomer should not be scored the same way as a student who has been in US schools for years. 

There are two ways of thinking about doing the same thing:

  1. Adapting the rubric.  Modify the rubric for different ability levels. I used the SOLO taxonomy to develop my curriculum documents and rubrics so they align along a continuum, so my rubrics are already adapted and leveled.  I may mark “not applicable” or delete items or even entire rows or columns that don’t apply but this takes a quick stroke of a pen.
  2. Weighing the scores.  This is identical to 1, but you write out very simple math, which reassures some parents and students.  Here are simple step-by-step directions for (one approach to) converting rubric scores to grades.


When in doubt, just grade as compassionately as you can understanding that grades are a sometimes frustrating simplification of what children are acquiring.


Biggs, J. (1999). “What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning’, Higher Education Research & Development, 18 (1999): 1, 57 -75.

Popham, J. (1997). Scoring Rubrics: Maximizing the Value of Your Time. Educational Leadership, 55(2), 72-75.


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s