Thesis refers to how the scholar has articulated the content of his writing, both explicitly through the thesis topic statement, title, and topic sentences, and implicitly through the scope ideas discussed in the writing.


This strand evaluates the accuracy, the complexity, and the quality of ideas presented throughout the author’s work. This strand is broader than the Interpretation strand – it encompasses the writing as a whole.


This strand addresses the overall structure of the writing. Does the organization support and encourage the reader in a logical way? Do the ideas flow smoothly?

Structure: This criterion addresses the overall architecture of the writing, both at the body paragraph and the essay level. Are ideas grouped in a way that makes sense? Is the paper ordered in a way that supports the topic?

Flow: Do ideas flow smoothly between sentences and paragraphs? Do words flow smoothly within sentences?

Framing and Contextualization

Framing: The framing often occurs at the beginning of the piece, through the title, hook, and/or introduction. Framing incorporates any broader information relevant to the entire paper, versus context, relevant to a specific evidence chunk. The framing should prepare the reader for the topic.

Context: Context is more specific and concrete than framing; it refers to the background information around examples and evidence chunks. Does the author set up the reader with enough background information for the paragraphs (or sections) to be read and understood smoothly?


Selection evaluates the examples and evidence an author selects. Strong selection should support the topic. By third grade, authors should be incorporating paraphrased textual evidence, and by fourth grade, authors should integrate both quoted and paraphrased textual evidence.


Examples and evidence should not stand alone. Young authors elaborate on their examples, and older authors explain and ultimately analyze their evidence.

Sentence Fluency

Sentence Fluency focuses first on the completeness of sentences, and then on the type, variety, fluidity, and effect of the sentences within the writing. Strong sentence fluency leads to natural, active, and concise writing, enhancing the meaning for the reader.

Word Choice

This strand evaluates an author’s ability to select the best word to communicate an idea and utilize a broad range of dynamic, accurate, and academic words.


This strand evaluates an author’s ability to understand and apply grade-level grammatical standards (as named by the CCSS) to authentic writing.


This strand evaluates an author’s ability to spell first phonetically and then accurately.