Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wordy Rubrics and the Search for Higher Thinking

From Jay Matthews comes a tale of an AP teacher who was told by his principal that
“I am not opposed to multiple versions of a test or quiz; it is standard operating procedure for every type of testing program,” the principal said in an e-mail to me. “Instead, I would prefer that teachers use more rigorous assessments when possible, that require written responses and higher levels of thinking. In addition to being more challenging and requiring a sophisticated skill set, these types of assessments are also more difficult for students to copy.”

This has got to be the biggest line of bullshit ever perpetrated on teachers ... that multiple choice is bad and that long answer, essay questions require higher levels of thinking, are more challenging and require a high skill set.


Anyone take the AP math test? How about the SATs and the SAT IIs? How about the Praxis content tests? How about all those college courses? The difficulty and the skill set have more to do with the teacher than the format.

But then, most administrators have never taken actual tests before. They don't understand that I can make a very challenging multiple choice test or an easy one, a challenging calculus essay test or an easy one. I can make questions that take an entire page to answer, that have objective measurement, that take very high skill sets to finish and that bring out the best in my students. Or I can make one that uses a rubric full of things like this from a teacher automatic rubric maker website:

Can someone tell me the difference between a "Good Solid Response with a clear explanation" and a "Complete Response with a detailed explanation" and, while you're at it, perhaps you can explain why being correct is only one of 6 equal parts? Why the intense need for a visual or sketch or for counter-examples? And the "Goes beyond the requirements of the Problem" is a beautiful way of saying that the kid doesn't know beans for what he's doing but he sure is good at typing. Please don't tell me to use a better rubric -- they all seem to suffer from this rot.

Give me the AP scoring method every time. This rubric stuff is utter crap.


  1. I agree with you 100%. I try to use the AP scoring in all my classes.

  2. "more rigorous". priceless.