How to Create a Standards-Based Rubric

Rubrics are and have always been the standard classroom tool teachers use when evaluating student work.

Traditionally, when a teacher assigns a specific project, paper or assignment, students expect to be given a rubric telling them exactly how the teacher wants the product to be completed. With this “checklist” rubric, the student is able to complete the product, step-by-step, to the teacher’s standards.

This has the effect of over-determining the end goal by generating a checklist of outcomes and adjectives that describe the product, not the students’ use of learning targets to produce the product. Therefore, the student’s mastery of the curriculum or learning standard is not clearly being assessed by the rubric. And because all they have to do is follow the checklist, the student is not using critical thinking to complete the assignment.

If students are going to be spending time on a product, teachers need to be absolutely sure students are mastering standards. A standards-based rubric helps teachers do just that. In the article, “What Have Rubrics Got To Do With It?”, April Zawlocki explains how “standards-based rubrics outline the standards that must be met in the assessment and lets the students decide how they will show they have mastered the content.”

Example of a Standards-Based Rubric

Steps for Creating a Standards-Based Rubric:

  1. Learning Target: The first step in creating a standards-based rubric is to start with choosing standards students will need to master to successfully complete the project.
  2. Meets Standards: Rewrite the learning target using student-friendly language in the “Meets Standards” box (Students do not speak standards).
  3. Approaching Standards: Now we need to tackle what it means for students to be approaching the standard. The verb in “approaching standard” should show partial progress of the standard. For example, if the standard calls for the student “to compute” scale and proportion then the approaching column calls for students “to recognize”. They have to show partial understanding of the standard, but the verb “recognize” shows that they are making progress towards the standards. This is not about the frequency with which students are completing the task, but the extent to which they are doing so. Think about what it means to be approaching your chosen standard and add it to the “Approaching Standards” box.
  4. Exceeding Standards: This can be hard to define because we don’t always know how far students can go and the last thing we want to do is give them a constraint. Looking at the related standards for the grade level above is often a helpful resource for the teacher to use when giving the student feedback.
  5. Below Standards: This box should also be left blank so that the teacher can give the student explicit, constructive feedback towards mastering the standard.

A standards-based rubric allows teachers to accomplish more with an assignment because we allow students to set their own “higher standards” for mastering the standard.

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