This strand encompasses the argument in the essay—the four or five key sentences that state what you are proving and how you are proving it.

Thesis: The sentence(s) explicitly or implicitly stated early in the paper that outline the argument being made in the paper.

Assertions: The assertion is the sentence at the paragraph level that is the written articulation of the subargument. This sentence is sometimes called the topic sentence.


This strand evaluates at the holistic and synthesis level. The Ideas strand seeks to evaluate how well the Position is proven (substantiation) and how well the ideas are synthesized and interwoven. This strand is broader than the Interpretation strand—it encompasses the essay as a whole.

Quality: Quality evaluates the correctness of ideas, the complexity of ideas, and the integration of ideas across a full spectrum.

Substantiation: Substantiation addresses the level of proof that supports the position. When scoring at levels 5-8, it is important to think about the substantiation of both the position's depth and breadth.


Organization is a crucial aspect of argumentation. This strand addresses the overall structure of a paper. Does the organization support and encourage logical order? Do ideas flow smoothly?

Structure: This criterion addresses the overall architecture of the essay—is the paper ordered (chronologically, compare and contrast, logically, cause and effect, etc) in a way that supports the position?

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


There are two primary criteria that make up Contextualization:

FRAMING: The framing criterion is the broader umbrella within contextualization. Framing occurs often occurs within the introduction, thesis statement, and around evidence. Does the author include only the basic frame (novel, historical event) or is their argument framed within the greater discourse of historical ideas and movements?

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


Selection primarily evaluates evidence selection—relevance, persuasiveness, and concision. Included in this strand is evidence presentation—how smoothly is argument incorporated into the paragraph.

Choice: When we evaluate choice, we are analyzing the type of evidence selected—is it pertinent, is it relevant, is it authoritative?

Presentation Evidence must be presented clearly within an essay; this criterion addresses the blending, chunking, and overall weaving of evidence into an argument.


Interpretation deals with logic, analysis, and reasoning. The Ideas strand within Argument is comprehensive and evaluates the synthesis of ideas. The interpretation strand is much more specific to the paragraph level.

Analysis: Analysis evaluates the discussion of evidence. At the lower level, is the interpretation accurate and focused? At higher level, students are expected to analyze thoughtfully, including subtle nuances while retaining clarity.

Justification: Justification evaluates a student’s ability to develop a link from evidence to assertion. As readers and teachers, we often find that students almost prove their argument but fail to fully land on their point: this criterion addresses that logic gap.


Formal essay writing style is more limited than its creative counterparts. The style strand evaluates the formal register, or formal style, of the author's writing as well as their craft.

Register: Addresses the appropriateness of style/language for the task/audience. For academic writing pieces assessed using this rubric, we strive for formal register.

Craft: Craft refers to the specific writer's moves in expository writing.

Sentence Fluency

Sentence Fluency focuses on the type, fluidity, and effect of sentences within the essay. Strong sentence fluency leads to natural, active, and concise writing.

Fluency: Fluency is the ability to expertly deliver information quickly, naturally, and correctly.

Concision: Concision is marked by effective and efficient communication: it is free of superfluous information and requires a strong command of language and a dedication to revision.

Word Choice

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

Diction: Selecting the best word to most clearly and powerfully communicate an idea.

Range: The breadth of words used correctly; an author's vocabulary.


Authors need to understand and apply grammatical rules; they also need to spell correctly.

Grammar: These are Standard English rules of communication.

Spelling: This criterion evaluates spelling in an essay.


David Conley clearly articulates that “self-management behaviors” are one of the four key levers to ensure college and career readiness. Revision evaluates the changes made from the rough draft to final draft, including the depth of those changes, the independence of the author, and the effect of the changes on the essay. In this way, we require students learn self-management behaviors (reflection, time management, advocating for themselves, professional meetings, etc.) in order to revise their paper.

Quality: “As the lone criterion for Revising, quality evaluates all aspects of revision.”


This strand encompasses the final product, from completion, timeliness, and presentation to MLA formatting guidelines.

Professionalism: Includes completion, timeliness, attention to the details of the assignment, and final product presentation.

MLA Formatting: Follows MLA formatting guidelines.

Document: Formatting of the document, from headers and title to spacing.