assessment, assumptions, grades, No grades, Personalized Learning

Using the Single Point Rubric for Better Assessment Conversations

A few years ago, I read the following post discussing single-point rubrics from Jennifer Gonzales on her incredible blog Cult of Pedagogy. The post discussed the idea of using a single-point rubric for assessment rather than the multi-point rubrics I was taught to use and how they were not only easier to create, but also offered up an opportunity for students to understand their assessment in a deeper way. Intrigued, we started tinkering with it over the last few years as an English department, developing our process as we went. The other day, I realized that I have never shared that work on here and thought that perhaps if someone had missed Jen’s post or was wondering what this looks like implemented, a blog post may be helpful.

So first of all, what does a single-point rubric look like? Here is an example of one we used with an assessment after finishing the book Refugee for The Global Read Aloud.

We operate on a 1-4 standards-based assessment system, so the difference between multi-point and single-point is the descriptive language found for each score. Where under a multi-point rubric you would fill in the description for 1 through 4, with a single-point rubric you just focus on what you would expect an at grade-level product to contain. This is what sets it apart in my mind; it allows us to focus on what we are specifically looking for and recognizing that students don’t always fall into the other categorizations that we set, no matter how much we broke them down.

This is one of the major reasons why I have loved using single point rubrics; it allows me to leave more meaningful feedback for students when they are either not meeting the grade-level target or are exceeding it. Rather than trying to think of all of the ways a student may not be at grade-level, I can focus on what would place them there assessment-wise and then reflect on when they are not. This has allowed me to leave more meaningful, personalized feedback, while also really breaking down what at grade-level thinking contains.

So what is the process for creating one?

  1. Determine the standards or learning targets that will be assessed. Students should be a part of this process whether through discussion and creation of the rubric or at the very least seeing and understanding the rubric before anything is turned in, after all, we want students to fully understand what we are trying to discover as far as their learning.
  2. Once the standards have been determined, decide what “at grade-level” understanding will contain. While the rubric shown above shows only one box per standard, sometimes our rubrics are broken down further within the standard in order for students to see exactly what it is we are hoping to see from them. (See the example below).
  3. Discuss with students if you haven’t done so already. Do they understand what at grade-level understanding looks like and what it contains? Is the rubric a helpful tool for them to take control of their learning? If not, go back to the drawing board with the rubric.
  4. Add reflective questions for students so that their voice is heard and further ownership is created over the learning process. This is important because too often assessment is something that is done to students rather than a process that allows students to fully see what they are able to do independently, as well as set goals for what they need to work on.
A few reflective questions – to see the original rubric, go here

Using the single-point rubric is a breeze for me compared to the multi-point rubric. First of all, it takes less time to create because we really just focus on that “at grade-level” understanding. Secondly, and this is the big one for me, it allows me to deeply reflect on why my gut or the rubric is telling me that a child is not showing “at grade-level” understanding or above it somehow. I have to really think about what it is within their understanding that moves them into a different category. One that is not limited by the few things that I could brainstorm before I saw their work. I then have to formulate that into written or spoken feedback in order to help that child understand how they can continue to grow. This allows our assessment conversations to change from grades to reflection.

Tips for implementing:

  1. Discuss it with students before using it the first time. Our students had not seen a rubric like this before and so we took the time to discuss it with them before we used it. This would happen for any assessment rubric, but it took a little bit longer because it looked different.
  2. Set the tone for assessment. I have written extensively about my dislike of grades and how I try to shift the focus, and yet I work within a system that tells me I have to assess with numbers attached to it. So there are a few things that need to be in place with the biggest one being the ongoing conversation that assessment is a tool for reflection and not the end of the journey. This is why students always self-assess first in order to reflect on their own journey and what they need from us. This can be messy in the beginning but through the year it gets easier for students to accurately reflect on their own journey and what they need to grow. They then hand that to me in order for me to look at their work and then it culminates in a final discussion if needed.
  3. Break it down. It is easy to get caught up in too many things to assess, using the single-point rubric has allowed us to focus in on a few important things. This is important so that students can work on those skills specifically rather than feel overwhelmed by everything within the process.

What do students think?

Our students seem to like them, or at least that is what they say. They understand mostly what they are being assessed on and they understand the feedback that is given to them. Having them self-assess and reflect prior to our assessment is also huge as it shows students that they are in charge of their assessment and their growth and that we want them to fully invest in their learning. It gives them an opportunity to see how they are growing and what their next step is before I add my opinion in there. This can also help reduce the “shame” factor that is sometimes associated with grades. When we discuss repeatedly with students that there is nothing wrong with being below grade-level and instead let the assessment guide us to the next steps, it shifts the assessment process, as well as the internalization of grades.

Overall, the single-point rubric has been another tool that allows us to help students become more reflective learners, while also helping us get to know the students’ needs more, resulting in a more impactful assessment experience for everyone involved. While we started small, the single-point rubric is now almost exclusively the only type of rubric we use in English and for that I am grateful. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would highly recommend you do. If you have any questions, after all my brain is tired from traveling, please leave them in the comments.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.   

17 thoughts on “Using the Single Point Rubric for Better Assessment Conversations”

    1. We are on a standards-based report card on our quarter so it is not directly translated to letter grades or percentages. So the grade would be either a 1- beginning, 2 – developing, 3 – proficient, or 4 – exceeds expectations

      1. We are thinking about moving to a standards based report card. Do you mind sharing what you use? Any guidance is much appreciated.

    2. There is no need for this conversion except when it is time for report cards. There should be no need to do this at Grade 7; there is NO need for subject grades in middle school and no educational need for them in grades 9 and 10. Somewhat ideally subject grades should only be for grades 11 and 12. If you have to have a subject grade use a logic rule, e.g., all 3’s and 4’s, mostly 4’s as standards grade = subject grade of A.

  1. How would standards 2 and 3 in the first example be done better than as described in your single point rubric for level 3?

    1. Often times it then comes down to the sophistication of language and how that is used to express their understanding. As far as the evidence it comes down to specific evidence used and then how it is discussed that sets it apart from what we would expect the average 7th-grade understanding to be.

      1. And that perfectly describes my problem with single point rubrics – the lack of clarity about the level above and the level below. For me, your descriptors for standards 2 and 3 are above proficiency.

  2. I like this idea. This rubric encourages teachers to drill down to specifics rather than scurry to cover everything before the “big test”.

  3. I finished writing a rubric the other day for an assignment that probably would have fit the single point rubric better. I’m definitely going to try this. Thank you.

  4. Kristen…Take a look at this! I know we’ve been talking a ton about trying to figure out “grading,” and this came up on a blog I follow. May be something we want to discuss. 🙂 Lisa Jenkins 7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher Hillsboro Junior High School 12 Hawk Drive Hillsboro, MO 63050 636-789-0020 ext 2117 Classroom Website:

    [image: Image result for reading quotes for teachers]

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  5. I love Single Point Rubrics! I dabbled last year in math and this year I have been using them across all subjects, changing over my old rubrics as I go. I think they are much easier for my students to understand – especially my many ELLs. I find I can be clear about what I want students to do, without wasting time dreaming up all the ways to NOT meet expectations. Single-point allows more flexibility. Often times students would surprise me and exceed in some way I hadn’t thought of (and isn’t that what exceeding is all about – going beyond what the teacher may expect?), and it was hard to recognize that on my old rubrics. Similarly, if they haven’t quite got it in some way. Good criteral language is important though! Logical, relevant, meaningful, significant, etc.

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