Passion and Care are fundamental to learning, but a single-minded emphasis on assessment and definition is draining the life and joy from the classroom is the introduction of Standards. Content in a class was defined by the material, whether that was a novel or play, a time period, a component of biology, a formula, or something else.You studied the subject and then took a test on your knowledge of that subject. The Standards movement took broad subjects and specified them into skills and discrete units, with an emphasis on assessment and accountability. This may sound like the same thing as a Subject, but it’s not.Classroom management was largely a matter of controlling behavior, keeping kids awake and behaving (which often meant simply listening).
‘I can identify the parts of a cell,’ or ‘I can use capitalization properly,’ or ‘I can recognise the environmental factors that affect human migration.’ A teacher planning a Standards-based class will often create as many of these kinds of definitions as possible, for everything a student will be doing for every moment of the is the Second Big Development: the Rubric. Done even marginally right, each essay takes at least 15 minutes.
I graduated high school in 1983, and cannot recall a single rubric either there or in the college years that followed. On a test, answers were either right or wrong and they added up as one might expect. Four an hour, into 120, 30 hours of grading essays alone.
Essays were filled with margin comments followed by a grade and maybe a short explanation. Why not have a general list of the things that make an A, a B, a C, and a D, attach to the essay, circle the appropriate one, and be done with it?
When I started teaching high school around 2000, I increasingly found myself designing outlines for every assignment. With a rubric I can grade a full class in about 2 hours.
But it’s more than ease or simplicity that drives a Rubric. And if you are teaching the book, what is it about the book that you are teaching?
Imagine teaching a book but grading through an essay. Is it the act of reading, which itself is complicated?It is about the magic of the thing itself that inspires the teacher to such heights that they are compelled to share and the student to such investment that they are compelled to work.A great deal of school involves tedium and drudgery — hard effort, concentration, repetition, and so forth — but the of a class is passion and care.A teacher today designs activities and actions, scripts group work and mini-lessons, and targets every action to measurable ‘skill’ or demonstration.One of the markers of the Standards movement is a very narrow way of defining what students are doing at any given moment, often into easy to digest ‘I can’ statements. Imagine reading each essay at least twice with the goal of making it as strong as possible, in every aspect, from grammar and mechanics to vocabulary and syntax, to transitions and paragraphing, to idea and support.You likely saw ‘Daily Objectives’ on the board every day, and ‘Essential Questions’ for every unit.Your syllabus may have been ten to thirty pages long.Kids still take Subjects, but they are taught and measured to Standards. If you were in school before the Y2K catastrophe-that-never-happened, the classes your teachers planned likely involved a lot of content and lecture and subject tests.You’d read , talk about it a bit, maybe read it aloud as a class and take notes, and at the end you’d take a lengthy test or write an essay and then move on.What, exactly, is it that you want your students to know and demonstrate at the end of the class? This is the engine that drives Standards, the ever-narrowing questioning of a class’s purpose and function.It’s also the authority behind Rubrics, an attempt to put in writing both the specific task being taught and how one demonstrates skill and understanding.