Building you up...Lori
I do love a good rubric, and I think I'm pretty good at grading essays, especially when it comes to applying the state rubric. It's a quick process and I'm pretty darn accurate. But have you ever come across a paper that stumps you? How about this...have you ever seen the way a different teacher applies the rubric? Perhaps they would give an essay a 3 where you would only give it a 2.
Grading STAAR essays in a consistent way matters. It sends a message of success to our students and can be a source of formative assessment if we use it correctly.
In order to calibrate and ensure validity in grading, many campuses in my district choose to have a grade night. I recently participated in one and, all hands were on deck! We ordered dinner and hunkered down. Some teachers listened to music. Others preferred to work silently. We all sat clustered in small groups and kept one another on task. Teachers graded each others' papers, and some campuses--like the one I helped--even choose to conduct two rounds of grading in the same night. Every essay was touched and scored twice to make sure that teachers are scoring the same way. When I first heard about this practice, it worried me. I thought we would be there for eternity. But, it was such a valuable experience. We were surprised at how consistent we became over time, and it was beneficial for our instruction to have conversations about those essays where we struggled to reach a consensus.
In terms of instruction, there was value in thinking about what would have clearly pushed a 2 to a 3 or what differentiated a 1 from a 2. Additionally, it helps to be able to identify trends when you are in a room with your colleagues. There is something about the immediacy of it. Then, during the next PLC meeting, it opens a discussion about what instructional adjustments should be made. Those trends become a priority because we all spent the same amount of time engaged in the same amount of work seeing the same patterns. It is definitely a team-building activity and one that I highly recommend if your department is struggling to function well together.
There is something about seeing the work of another teachers' students that is humbling and affirming all at the same time. It can really bring a fractured...or even just frazzled...team together.
And don't worry...the grade night actually made the burden of grading lighter, even with the second round of grading!