Convert Rubric Scores to Grades

Posted on April 16, 2017

Convert Rubric Scores to Grades

Posted on April 16, 2017

Convert Rubric Scores to Grades

QUESTION: How do I convert writing rubric scores to something I can put in the grade book?

ANSWER:If you’re using the 6 Traits to teach students what good writing looks like, you’ll want to assess their writing using the traits as well. Typically, teachers use an analytic-rubric that lists the criteria associated within 4-5 levels of achievement.

Then, a common mistake is to simply add up the levels a student earns in order to get a grade. Here's a way to avoid this trap!

8-Step Process to Convert Rubric Scores to Grades

Let's start with three guiding principles that must be followed to convert a six-traits rubric score to a grade-book grade (or percentage or point value). And for the sake of an example, let's utilize a 5-point rubric. (Download a customizable rubric template in Word.)

GUIDING PRINCIPLE 1: No one can fail on the rubric. Students fail the assignment when they do not turn it in. However, submitting a piece qualifies them for at least a D-. This means the lowest score, a Level1, needs to be within a passing range (e.g., 60% or D-).

GUIDING PRINCIPLE 2: Honor those who go beyond the goal. Utilize the top level for those students who do better than you expected. Have an A  level (Level 4), but then have an exceeding or A+ level (Level 5).

GUIDING PRINCIPLE 3: All traits do not weigh equally. Depending on the piece, different traits come into play. If students are only writing a first draft, then conventions should weigh less than the traits of ideas and organization. In poetry, word choice and sentence fluency might be worth more. In most drafts, ideas and organization would garner the most value. Simply tallying up points within a rubric counts all traits equal. Instead, consider weighing traits based on the process or assignment.

If you are adding levels to get a total score, you are ignoring all three principles above—kids are failing if they are getting all level 1 scores, there is no pass-plus level or exceeding level, and by adding and dividing, you are weighing all traits equally. It is not appropriate to just add up the levels as points.

Smekens Education Original Rubric Calculator

To avoid this mistake, we've developed an online rubric calculator that allows teachers to adhere to the three guiding principles. To use the calculator, follow these steps:

Step 1: Determine the % value of each rubric level (e.g., 100%, 95%, 85%, 75%, 60%). Percentages will vary dependent on your school’s policy. Remember, Level 5 is not your “A.” Level 5 is “A+.” Level 5 is reserved for those whose work is exemplary. Level 4 is an “A” and level 1 is a “D-”.

Step 2: Determine the traits you are going to assess. You do not have to score all of the traits with each assignment. In fact, consider assessing for only 2-3 traits per assignment. This allows you to focus your instruction and limits the time you spend grading. (TIP: Be sure to announce to students which traits you plan to assess.)

Step 3: Determine the point value of each trait. Point values can equal any amount. You can base an assignment on 100 points or 10 points. When you consider the points possible for each trait, remember this is where you place your desired emphasis. If it’s a first-draft only assignment, you might de-emphasize conventions and ramp up the value of the trait of ideas.

Step 4: Input a student’s scores based on your writing rubric. Enter a student's name and the assignment in the fields at the top left of the calculator. Then, enter the student’s score for each of the traits assessed. As you click on the number corresponding with the student’s rubric score, the calculator automatically converts the points. (REMEMBER—This is NOT a rubric. This is a rubric calculator. Use your own classroom rubric with specific criteria that corresponds with the five levels on the calculator.)

Step 5: Click “Calculate grade.” The screen changes and includes the student’s score calculated in points and percentages at the top of the rubric calculator.

Step 6 (OPTIONAL): Add trait-based comments and compliments. Rather than writing all over the student’s piece, use the online calculator to provide customized feedback per trait. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the writing to impact revision and/or support them in future writings.

Step 7 (OPTIONAL): Provide the student a copy of his score sheet. More than just a final score, you can print and provide students analytic trait feedback with your compliments and comments.

Step 8: Click “Next student.” Upon clicking, the Rubric Calculator returns to page 1, holding the assignment and points possible in place. Keep clicking “Next student” until all grades are completed. When you’ve finished grading all students, simply click “Clear all.”

Article originally posted January 17, 2017.

Watch as Kristina Smekens shares how to build a kid-friendly rubric: Building Kid-Friendly Writing Rubrics: Grades PK-1, Building Kid-Friendly Writing Rubrics: Grades 2-12 FREE 4-minute preview


So glad I came across this video! I have trouble grading writing with rubrics, and this helps so much! Now I know what to do differently to improve! Thank you!

Posted by Valeri on January 24, 2017 @ 5:16 pm