“I think anytime we assess writing, we are assessing not only out students’ progress but our own teaching.”

Mark Overmeyer, What Student Writing Teaches Us

I’ve reached a point where I can point out some flaws in an adolescent’s baseball swing. I’m a good enough golfer that I can usually tell what I’ve done wrong when (not if) a shot turns out poorly. But help with someone’s jump shot? Critique a painting? No, thank you. These things require a certain level of expertise: those who can’t, teach, is an overstatement.

Judging other people’s writing is intimidating. Even for a skilled writer the task has to be approached with a great deal of humility. Add then the responsibility of having taught the writer and the experience can wind up sounding something like this:

          Paraphrasing Descartes (I think):

I helped you. You sucked. Ergo, I must suck.

This is, of course, not what we tell students or put on progress reports. This is that internal voice, that mousy-haired raven with the voice of someone named Mr. Bobledyk or Mrs. Tebos who still scolds our adult selves for not being good enough or smart enough and intimates that we are, indeed, nothing more than a sham.

But judge, er, assess we must. The question is how do I it meaningfully and manageably? The next question is how does it inform my teaching so I can do better so they can do better?

Who knows what sort of pedagogical mandates I will face come fall. But here are two I might: the use of John Collins and some type of rubric, probably the six-point holistic variety. I’m not one for diatribes and I don’t have any fundamental issues with either of these. But I do prefer good practice, so I’m thinking of meshing the two, adapting a rubric that Overmeyer helped create: take the form of a rubric and the focus of Collins’ Focus Correction Areas to guide the assessing.

It would look something like this:


One of the nice touches (from the book) is the area for “Above and Beyond” where students are able to, if not encouraged to, step out of these norms and take risks.

Now the question is, to assess this common core standard…

W.8.1a Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

…what exactly would the FCA’s be?