Arter and McTighe in their book Scoring Rubrics in the Classroom, place great emphasis on empowering students with the ability to self asses. They seem to be suggesting that through a posting of clear expectations, the secret to writing or any skills based task, can be deconstructed into simple parts and tackled piece by piece. Students using rubrics can asses their level of attainment. Teachers are able to objectively look at student work through a specific stated critical lens. For a classroom of similar learners with similar tasks this appears to be a valid way to look at student work.
Kozol on the other hand in his Shame of the Nation seems to be a little gun shy to admit the ability to define or deconstruct “good writing” into six or seven simple facets on a rubric. He feels rubrics are only meant to check for specific aspects of an assignment. Knowledge and human understanding will never be broken down into seven simple principles. Being very mindful of falling into an oversimplification of cognition, Kozol warns us basically against missing the holistic value of student work.
As I was looking for an example of exemplary work that might not be valued through a Arter and McTighe rubric I immediately thought of Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” poem. Even the title is grammatically incorrect. Using a well developed rubric Ms. Truth’s commentary on social injustice might receive a failing grade from Arter and McTighe, but Kozol would argue that the value of the piece goes way beyond the minimal expectations of a well defined rubric.
We can’t be too full of ourselves when we grade papers. We are no authority on what is good and poor writing. We must be mindful of becoming the gate keepers preventing the Truths of today from having a voice. Sometimes teachers ( myself included) seem to be too full of themselves as keepers of the knowledge and use rubrics as their swords in their crusade justify their hold on knowledge. Ultimately I think after reading both books I will find myself writing, “This isn’t what I was looking for ….,” instead of, “confusing, awkward sentence” more on the top of student work.
P.S. Lori Mayo shared an article around this very topic this summer if anyone has a copy I would love to re-read it.