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Special Education Case Study Assignment Rubric

What is a rubric?

A rubric is a scoring guide that evaluates a student’s performance based on a full range of criteria rather than a single numerical score. It is an assessment tool that evaluates students’ work by measuring it against a set of scoring criteria or “rubric.” A rubric can be an evaluation method used to measure a student’s progress toward achieving his/her IEP annual goal. Rubrics are an effective and concise way to clearly report progress in specific skill areas. They are also a more efficient method for ongoing assessment and can assist parents in clearly understanding their child’s growth.

Rubrics are a way to assess skills and behaviors that are not measured easily by written tests. Rubrics can be used in the observation of student’s performance and behavior in different settings and at different times. For example, when assessing a student’s social communication skills, the evaluator observes the student in a social situation and uses the rubric to note the student’ s performance level in initiating a topic, taking turns, etc (See secondary special education social skills rubric).

Rubrics can also be used in assessing a student’s skills using the student’s schoolwork at different points in time. For example, when assessing a student’s skills in written expression, the evaluator uses the rubric to note the student’s performance on several samples of the student’s writing. These writing samples may be assignments done in English class, resource room or other classes. The special education rubric is used to measure the student’s progress on his/her writing goals and is not tied to the grade in the other class.

A scoring rubric will help teachers define performance expectations and plan how to help students achieve it. It will also provide parents with a break down of the skills that will be taught and assessed toward attainment of the annual goal. Rubrics generally use a four-point rating and the criteria for each rating is clearly defined on the rubric.

Are rubrics widely used to assess student performance?

Yes. Rubrics are used at all levels of education. New York State uses a rubric to evaluate student’s writing on State Assessments. For example, the rubric the State has developed could be used to assess the writing of a middle school student or an elementary level student. Although the same criteria are considered, expectations vary according to the student’s level of expertise. The performance level of a first grader is expected to be lower than that of a high school student. For example, in evaluating a story, a first-grade student may not be expected to write a coherent paragraph to earn a high evaluation. However, a tenth grader would need to write coherent paragraphs in order to earn high marks.

In the general education classrooms, rubrics are frequently used for grading student projects and assignments. The rubric provides the student with expectations and criteria for performance. The special education rubrics are used only for measuring progress on the student’s achievement of an IEP annual goal. They are not used or tied to a student’s grade in his/her general education classes.

In what areas could it be applied to my child’s work or performance in the classroom?

A rubric may be used in therapy, a special education setting or in the general education classroom. The special education rubric, when used in the classroom, is still measuring the student’s performance on his/her IEP goal. The therapist or special education teacher is using the rubric to asses the child’s progress on the IEP goal in the classroom setting.

What rubrics have been developed by the PPS Department at BCSD for use with students?

The PPS Department has developed rubrics at the elementary, middle and high school levels, such as:

  • Writing
  • OT
  • PT
  • Social Work
  • Speech/Language
  • Organizational Skills

The development of these rubrics is an ongoing effort.

Do these rubrics replace standardized tests on my child’s IEP?

No. They are used to provide information on your child’s achievement of IEP goals at a much more frequent interval than can be used for standardized tests such as Key Math or the Woodcock-Johnson. Depending on the rubric and your child’s needs, assessment using a rubric may be used weekly, biweekly, monthly. They are a way of measuring progress frequently during the course of a school year. When student progress is reported to parents these assessments provide multiple pieces of information on a student’s progress in meeting goals. Written tests may continue to be used to measure progress in some goal areas. For example, for a goal in reading comprehension a grade level reading comprehension test may be used.

All rubrics below are in PDF format.

Grading and Performance Rubrics

What are Rubrics?

A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.

Advantages of Using Rubrics

Using a rubric provides several advantages to both instructors and students. Grading according to an explicit and descriptive set of criteria that is designed to reflect the weighted importance of the objectives of the assignment helps ensure that the instructor’s grading standards don’t change over time. Grading consistency is difficult to maintain over time because of fatigue, shifting standards based on prior experience, or intrusion of other criteria. Furthermore, rubrics can reduce the time spent grading by reducing uncertainty and by allowing instructors to refer to the rubric description associated with a score rather than having to write long comments. Finally, grading rubrics are invaluable in large courses that have multiple graders (other instructors, teaching assistants, etc.) because they can help ensure consistency across graders and reduce the systematic bias that can be introduced between graders.

Used more formatively, rubrics can help instructors get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their class. By recording the component scores and tallying up the number of students scoring below an acceptable level on each component, instructors can identify those skills or concepts that need more instructional time and student effort.

Grading rubrics are also valuable to students. A rubric can help instructors communicate to students the specific requirements and acceptable performance standards of an assignment. When rubrics are given to students with the assignment description, they can help students monitor and assess their progress as they work toward clearly indicated goals. When assignments are scored and returned with the rubric, students can more easily recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their work and direct their efforts accordingly.

Examples of Rubrics

Here are links to a diverse set of rubrics designed by Carnegie Mellon faculty and faculty at other institutions. Although your particular field of study and type of assessment activity may not be represented currently, viewing a rubric that is designed for a similar activity may provide you with ideas on how to divide your task into components and how to describe the varying levels of mastery.

Paper Assignments


  • Example 1: Capstone Project in Design This rubric describes the components and standard of performance from the research phase to the final presentation for a senior capstone project in the School of Design, CMU.
  • Example 2: Engineering Design Project This rubric describes performance standards on three aspects of a team project: Research and Design, Communication, and Team Work.

Oral Presentations

Class Participation/Contributions

  • Example 1: Discussion Class This rubric assesses the quality of student contributions to class discussions. This is appropriate for an undergraduate-level course, CMU.
  • Example 2: Advanced Seminar This rubric is designed for assessing discussion performance in an advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar.