Expressive Essay Rubric

What is a rubric?

A rubric is a scoring guide that evaluates a student’s performance based on a full range of criteria rather than a single numerical score. It is an assessment tool that evaluates students’ work by measuring it against a set of scoring criteria or “rubric.” A rubric can be an evaluation method used to measure a student’s progress toward achieving his/her IEP annual goal. Rubrics are an effective and concise way to clearly report progress in specific skill areas. They are also a more efficient method for ongoing assessment and can assist parents in clearly understanding their child’s growth.

Rubrics are a way to assess skills and behaviors that are not measured easily by written tests. Rubrics can be used in the observation of student’s performance and behavior in different settings and at different times. For example, when assessing a student’s social communication skills, the evaluator observes the student in a social situation and uses the rubric to note the student’ s performance level in initiating a topic, taking turns, etc (See secondary special education social skills rubric).

Rubrics can also be used in assessing a student’s skills using the student’s schoolwork at different points in time. For example, when assessing a student’s skills in written expression, the evaluator uses the rubric to note the student’s performance on several samples of the student’s writing. These writing samples may be assignments done in English class, resource room or other classes. The special education rubric is used to measure the student’s progress on his/her writing goals and is not tied to the grade in the other class.

A scoring rubric will help teachers define performance expectations and plan how to help students achieve it. It will also provide parents with a break down of the skills that will be taught and assessed toward attainment of the annual goal. Rubrics generally use a four-point rating and the criteria for each rating is clearly defined on the rubric.

Are rubrics widely used to assess student performance?

Yes. Rubrics are used at all levels of education. New York State uses a rubric to evaluate student’s writing on State Assessments. For example, the rubric the State has developed could be used to assess the writing of a middle school student or an elementary level student. Although the same criteria are considered, expectations vary according to the student’s level of expertise. The performance level of a first grader is expected to be lower than that of a high school student. For example, in evaluating a story, a first-grade student may not be expected to write a coherent paragraph to earn a high evaluation. However, a tenth grader would need to write coherent paragraphs in order to earn high marks.

In the general education classrooms, rubrics are frequently used for grading student projects and assignments. The rubric provides the student with expectations and criteria for performance. The special education rubrics are used only for measuring progress on the student’s achievement of an IEP annual goal. They are not used or tied to a student’s grade in his/her general education classes.

In what areas could it be applied to my child’s work or performance in the classroom?

A rubric may be used in therapy, a special education setting or in the general education classroom. The special education rubric, when used in the classroom, is still measuring the student’s performance on his/her IEP goal. The therapist or special education teacher is using the rubric to asses the child’s progress on the IEP goal in the classroom setting.

What rubrics have been developed by the PPS Department at BCSD for use with students?

The PPS Department has developed rubrics at the elementary, middle and high school levels, such as:

  • Writing
  • OT
  • PT
  • Social Work
  • Speech/Language
  • Organizational Skills

The development of these rubrics is an ongoing effort.

Do these rubrics replace standardized tests on my child’s IEP?

No. They are used to provide information on your child’s achievement of IEP goals at a much more frequent interval than can be used for standardized tests such as Key Math or the Woodcock-Johnson. Depending on the rubric and your child’s needs, assessment using a rubric may be used weekly, biweekly, monthly. They are a way of measuring progress frequently during the course of a school year. When student progress is reported to parents these assessments provide multiple pieces of information on a student’s progress in meeting goals. Written tests may continue to be used to measure progress in some goal areas. For example, for a goal in reading comprehension a grade level reading comprehension test may be used.

All rubrics below are in PDF format.

Body Paragraphs

The main idea or a thesis statement is clearly defined. There may be more than one key point. Appropriate relevant information and details are shared from a variety of sources including personal experiences, observations, and prior knowledge. Supporting details are accurate, relevant, and helpful in clarifying the main idea(s).

The main idea can be identified. The writer shares relevant information, facts and experiences.  There is a clear distinction between general observations and specifics.  Supporting details are relevant and explain the main idea.

The main idea can be identified. The writer shares some information, facts and experiences, but may show problems going from general observations to specifics. Stronger support and greater attention to details would strengthen this paper.

More than one of the following problems may be evident: The main idea is not identifiable. The writer shares some information, but it is limited or unclear. Details are missing or repetitious.


Writer’s Voice, Audience Awareness,

The paper is honest and enthusiastic. The language is natural yet thought-provoking. It brings the topic to life. The reader feels a strong sense of interaction with the writer and senses the person behind the words.
Writing is smooth, skillful, and coherent.  Sentences are strong and expressive with varied structure

Writer's voice is  consistent and strong.  The writer is aware of an audience. The reader is informed and remains engaged. Sentences have varied structure.


Writer's voice may emerge strongly on occasion, then retreat behind general, vague, tentative, or abstract language. The writer is aware of an audience.  The reader is informed, but must work at remaining engaged. Sentence structure shows some variety.

Writing is confusing, hard to follow.  Language is vague.  No audience awareness.  No variety in sentence structure.


Spelling, punctuation, capitalization

Punctuation, spelling, capitalization are correct.  No errors.

Punctuation, spelling, capitalization are generally correct, with few errors. (1-2)

A few errors in punctuation, spelling, capitalization. (3-4)

Distracting errors in punctuation, spelling, capitalization.


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