Part 1, Chapter 4: Rubrics
The use of the rubric itself is new to many involved in teacher evaluation. As we explained in previous chapters, many school districts were using narratives until recent years. Some districts may have elected to use a checklist that included a four-point scale. However, most of these did not define each indicator. For example, common checklists in the early years of teacher evaluation may have required that a teacher be rated on student engagement by asking the evaluator to check a 1, 2, 3, or 4. However, many did not define what the 1, 2, 3, or 4 looked like to the evaluator. This made the evaluation practice only slightly more objective than the narrative format. From a teacher perspective, feedback was limited, because they were not informed of the expectations required to earn a specific mark in student engagement.
A rubric, by definition is:
- an established rule, tradition, or custom or
- a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests
Both of these definitions can be applied when we are talking about teacher evaluation rubrics. The first definition, that which includes an established rule, is exactly what districts do when they adopt, adapt, or write a teacher evaluation rubric. They are establishing the rules by which they expect teachers to perform, improve, and excel.
When we typically think of academic rubrics, we may think of the second definition as it applies to scoring student work. However, when we evaluate a teacher based upon a pre-approved rubric, we are indeed providing feedback based upon a set of pre-determined standards. In this case, the project is the teacher’s classroom performance.
To delve a little deeper, we can refer to the educational philosophical construct of essentialism. Supporters of essentialism believe that there is a “body of specific knowledge and absolute standards of thought” (Cooper, et al., 2004). This seems to be the basis for application of any academic standards or rubric, especially as they relate to teacher evaluation. Teacher evaluation rubrics and student academic standards set absolutes for performance.
In response to changes in teacher evaluation mandates and state level reporting, some states and individual districts began creating teacher rubrics. The purpose of these rubrics was to provide a uniform platform with which to evaluate teachers. Many school districts chose to adopt research-based rubrics presently available. While the rubrics discussed in this chapter are not all-inclusive, we will attempt to examine some of the most commonly used rubrics in the field of education.
It is necessary to distinguish some terminology at this point. While we have defined a rubric, it is important to note that this is only a small portion of the entire evaluation process explained in this book. Simply adopting a rubric is a single, though critical, step in this practice.
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