This strand encompasses the argument in the essay – the 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 strand evaluates at the holistic and synthesis level. The Ideas strand seeks to evaluate not only the accuracy of the ideas presented but also how well the Position is proven 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.


Organization is a crucial aspect of the 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, both at the body paragraph and the essay level. Is the paper ordered in a way that supports the position?

Flow: Do ideas flow smoothly within sentences in a 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 often occurs within the introduction and thesis statement. Framing incorporates any information relevant to the entire paper, versus context, relevant to a specific evidence chunk. Does the author include only the basic frame (novel, historical event) or is the 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 the argument is 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 credible?

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 explaining the evidence accurately? At a higher level, students are expected to analyze thoughtfully, linking the evidence explicitly to the assertion.


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: This criterion addresses the appropriateness of the style and language for the task and 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 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.

Range & Quality: This criterion refers to the breadth and depth of words used correctly, the 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 incorporation of feedback from peers and teachers, and the effect of the changes on the essay. In middle school, this revision is scaffolded over the course of four years to help scholars begin to learn self-management behaviors in order to improve their writing.

Feedback: This criterion evaluates to what extent the scholar has independently incorporated feedback to substantially improve his writing. Additionally, when applicable, this also assesses the scholar’s mastery of his independent progress goal as a way to measure both growth and self-management behaviors.

Drafting: Drafting refers to both the number of revisions made and the quality of those revisions to the final product. Scholars should begin to internalize that writing is a process and that revisions lead to stronger final products.


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

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

MLA Formatting: Does the paper follow MLA evidence citation guidelines?

Document: Does the paper follow the formatting guidelines, including the heading, spacing, and title?