There is some data that is very straightforward to take. Which one is the letter M? Student touches M. You mark correct. Johnny stand up. Johnny doesn’t stand up. You mark incorrect. The skills that are easy to take data on our simple and generally include one component. Letter identification is one skill. Following one step directions is one skill. Yes there are a lot of other skills you need in order to accomplish the skill but in the moment, you can concretely decide a clear yes or no to whether the student demonstrated the skill.

Unfortunately not all behaviors and skills are that compact and discrete. Other concepts that we are teaching our students involve many steps and many skills. There isn’t a clear plus or minus to give because so much goes into the task. Many higher level academics and more complex social skills fall into this category. Writing a paragraph, having an on-topic conversation, and completing a division word program involve much more than just one skill. For these more complex skills, giving a simple plus/minus or correct/incorrect is going to be unfair to the student but also you are going to lose out on a lot of valuable information.

Student A write a 5 sentence paragraph on topic but doesn't have a concluding sentence. Spelling, grammar, and content is perfect.

Student B writes one sentence that is off topic. He doesn't have a capitol letter or period. Several words are spelled incorrectly.

If your definition of a correct paragraph says that the student needs to write 5-8 on topic sentences, with correct grammar and spelling, and include a topic sentence and concluding sentence – technically both students didn’t do it. You could mark both students as incorrect. But would that be fair? Student A accomplished a lot more and demonstrated a much higher level of understanding of the concept. Student B needs a lot of additional practice in all areas related to writing a paragraph. Remember you aren’t taking data because it’s fun. You are taking data to drive your instruction. Overly simplistic data will not drive your instruction. That data is not meaningful.

Using a simple rubric, you can take much more descriptive data that will illustrate the major difference between your two students. Student A would have scored a 7/8 and Student B would have scored a 0/8. Those scores are drastically different and show the major differences that your instructional approaches need to these students.

A rubric is a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring.

A rubric is a tool that incorporates several skills into one grading system. Rubrics can be immensely helpful in taking data. It will make the data easier take, the data will be more useable, and you will be able to more accurately track progress and mastery. Rubrics sound overly complicated, but they are not!

Rubrics can be used to teach as well as evaluate.

Rubrics clarify expectations. Students know exactly what we want from them. Rubrics not only help you take data but it helps explain to students what they need to do.

Use visuals within your rubrics.

Since rubrics can be used as a teaching tool, remember how important visuals are for our students. Using visuals help students who struggle with receptive language or processing. Use visuals helps provide much needed support to these multi-step concepts.

Check out our Visual Rubrics for Special Education Pack. I’m in the process of working on another massive rubric pack because I’m just obsessed. Instead of writing a vague social skills goal like will participate in a conversation with 80% accuracy (ummm… what does that mean??), you can now write a specific and measurable goal using a rubric. That goal now reads – will score a 9 out of 10 per attached conversation rubric on 3 consecutive opportunities.