Preparing for PARCC/NJSLA Part II – Using Writing Rubrics

Preparing for PARCC/NJSLA Part II – Using Writing Rubrics

Jaclyn Siano

Using Writing Rubrics to Inform Instruction: Scoring Student Essays

This post is part of our blog series on PARCC/NJSLA. In this series, we offer tips and strategies you can use to ensure that your students perform at their very best on the PARCC/NJSLA tests.

PARCC and NJSLA have posted their writing rubrics for the Prose-Constructed Response (PCR). However, since each writing task is unique and the rubrics are generic, to make good use of these rubrics you must create item-specific guides that qualify the range of student responses.

You can create item-specific guides to score your students’ on-demand writing samples. These guides will give you an idea of which writing skills you should focus on to help students improve their writing.

First, we need a thorough understanding of PARCC/NJSLA’s generic rubrics, and then we must identify the item-specific information related to each prompt. There are three components to PARCC/NJSLA’s generic rubric: Reading Comprehension – Comprehension of Key Ideas and Details; Writing – Written Expression; and Writing – Knowledge of Language and Conventions.

Below is a list of student expectations for each category.

Reading Comprehension

  • Students must include evidence of understanding, including direct references and inferences.
  • Students need to link perspective (“analysis”) to specific evidence.

Written Expression

  • Students must respond to all parts of the prompt.
  • Students must develop a claim or topic with reasons and textual evidence.
  • Students must write in the specified discipline (narrative, essay, etc.).
  • Students must write in a style and organization effective for the conventions of the discipline.

Written Conventions

  • Students must demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English.
  • Students need to write enough so that scorers can properly assess their command of standard English conventions.

The first step in creating the task-specific rubric is to survey your students’ essays. Task-specific rubrics are constructed using student responses and by identifying expected conditions for each category of the generic rubric. Use Inspired Instruction’s Item-Specific Considerations to set the expectations for each category.

Now that you have considered every element of the rubric, return to your students’ essays and use the rubric and your item specific guide to identify strengths and areas of need.


For responses to the Literary Analysis Task and Research Simulation Task, three dimensions are scored for a total of 19 points (15 for grade 3)

  • Reading: worth up to 4 points
  • Written Expression: worth up to 12 points*
  • Knowledge of Language and Conventions: worth up to 3 points

*When determining the score for Written Expression, the scorer first determines the holistic score (4, 3, 2, 1, 0) based on which score point best describes that
paper. Then that score (4, 3, 2, 1, 0) is multiplied by three. This means that only certain scores can be represented (12, 9, 6, 3, 0). This is true for both rubrics.

Scoring Process

  • Use the rubric and your item specific guide to review each essay.
  • Score Reading Comprehension.
  • Consider the elements to Written Expression and score accordingly:
  • Did the student write an essay that addresses all parts of the prompt?
  • Did the student provide a claim with reasons and evidence?
  • Was the student’s essay organized and effective for the given genre?
  • Remember to consider the holistic nature of the essay when selecting point values for Written Expression and remember to multiply by three.
  • For the Writing – Knowledge of Language and Conventions category, points should only be deducted when the errors impede meaning.

Remember, the purpose of evaluating our students is to help them improve their abilities. In our next post, we’ll describe how to analyze your students’ needs and provide corrective instruction.

Inspired Instruction offers hundreds of PARCC/NJSLA lesson plans, online PARCC/NJSLA-like assessments with technology-enhanced items, PARCC/NJSLA workshops, and PARCC/NJSLA demonstration lessons.

Please contact Michele Regan for more information or call 908-223-7202

Inspired Instruction and Standards Solution Holding, LLC are not owned by or affiliated in any fashion with PARCC, Inc.

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