After Day Three Of Finals

In a stack of papers called Grading.

  • Jan
  • 18
  • 2008

Not many kids wrote papers that raised their F to a D-. It helped a small handful of students, but all were already only a few percentage points away from passing. No one managed to raise, say, a 22%/F to a D-. That’s what I was hoping for. There’s one student for whom the jury is still out, but I don’t think she’s going to make it. [Update: She made it.]

So the question for today revolves around writing.

Big Question

When grading writing, how do we know expectations are reasonable?

Writing isn’t objective and, sadly, an essay that works for me might not work for the next teacher. You think to yourself, “does this writer use evidence to support his opinion? does he write a clear introduction leading up to some kind of main point? do body paragraphs support and explain that point?” Those all sound objective, but they really aren’t. What’s clear to me could be confusing to you.


Merely listing a quotation doesn’t work, obviously. Interpretation happens when the writer explains the significance of facts presented. But when talking about bare minimums — does this paper pass or not — if the author includes a quotation and then simply paraphrases it, is that good enough? And what if it’s a quotation that so obviously ties into the main point that no explanation is needed?

Abigail is a liar. “I know this woman! She is entirely false,” says John Proctor. Proctor states that Abigail does not tell the truth.

Is that good enough to pass? Yeah, I know, you’d need to read the rest of it. But what if you had to judge just that piece of evidence? Does that work for you? Are we talking about objective skills demonstrated here?

No Quotations

And what of the authors who do a great job summarizing the events of the text in their own words, but who never quote the text itself? Are quotations necessary when it’s obvious that the author has read the text and knows what happens at a given point?

Abigail’s motive was to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor so that she can have John for herself. She asked Tituba to make a charm to kill Elizabeth, but then they were caught by Parris. Instead of confessing, she pointed to Tituba. Abigail used witchcraft to accuse those she dislikes and began the uproar. Her desires lead to the death of many innocent people, and she showed no remorse.

I’ll revisit these essays on Wednesday when we return just to make sure I didn’t simply burn out on these. But I’m reasonably certain that out of all these essays I read, only 17% of them passed. Realizing that all of these essays were written by students who currently have an F in class, that still seems dreadfully low. How am I supposed to know if my expectations are out of whack? Do I get another teacher to do a second read on all essays I assign?

1 comment

1. Benjamin Baxter says:

[2/3/2008 - 9:00 pm]

I worry about having high expectations, too. But once I’m certain that it was through no fault of the instruction or the presentation of material — it usually is — I’m prepared to sigh and chalk it all up to how a high school diploma should mean something and doesn’t, anymore.

On reflection, that half-hearted rationale is frustrating.