The weakness of the rubric: Lester gets an A- for a no-hitter

by Mr. Sheehy

Lester\'s A minus performance

Jon Lester threw a no-hitter at Fenway Park Last night, and the Boston Globe‘s computerized report card gave him an A-. This, friends, is why rubrics–used blindly–are bunk. It doesn’t get any more objective than the system the Globe uses to rate the Sox pitchers, and it doesn’t get any more ridiculous when you don’t give a pitcher an A+ for tossing a no-hitter. The point of pitching is to get the batter out. Lester got all the batters out. That’s the point, no matter how he did it. Common sense must have the authority to override any rubric, which means that we should admit there’s a subjective element to grading and embrace it. That doesn’t mean we do not justify and explain our reasons for grading — but that doesn’t mean we should objectify the common sense right out of grading.

This year I’ve gone a little bit overboard in my enthusiasm for The World’s Greatest Essay Rubric — a rubric I designed to copy how my favorite prof. in college graded papers. It is subjective in parts, giving concrete feedback to students about what is weak and strong in an essay. I do not predetermine how to balance it all, however, because the final effect (the no-hitter) is what counts, and that totally depends on the balance the particular essay creates.