Writing Rubric

The Achievement First High School Writing Rubric provides a common vision and language of writing proficiency, thereby enabling teachers to pinpoint growth areas and systematically promote progress. The network developed the rubric in 2010, after months spent gathering and reviewing student work from some of the country's most prestigious schools. With a clear picture of what America's highly competitive high school students can put on paper, Achievement First then set about defining the critical elements of this caliber of composition, translating each into a set of 12 identifiable, assessable and teachable dimensions of writing excellence. Now implemented across all Achievement First high schools, the rubric empowers scholars and teachers alike by allowing them to identify actionable ways to pursue college-level writing readiness.

Several critical mechanisms help to ensure ongoing and effective implementation of this innovative and invaluable tool. First, the rubric is highly interactive. For example, where assessment relies on subjective terms (e.g., essays must include a "defensible" thesis), teachers can click on the terms in question, instantly pull up a shared definition, and review a list of samples that meet and/or fall short of the criteria. Second -- and perhaps most importantly -- teachers norm their scoring skills regularly. At the end of every three-week Seminar Cycle, composition teachers select one essay for all teachers to score across the rubric's 12 dimensions. From there, the group comes together to identify disparities and hash out any conflicting marks. Where discrepancies exist, teachers compare scholar essays to a series of "standard bearers" -- four in history and four in literature -- that embody expectations at each level of proficiency. The process ensures ongoing consistency of expectations and holds teachers accountable for moving scholars forward on discrete, identifiable aspects of pre-college writing proficiency.