how much is a thesis statement worth?

I tried grading by the rubric before.  I would break down the grading to points and each “element” of writing would be awarded a specific number of points and therefore somehow represent the importance of that particular element.  But this was always tricky.  How do I decide whether (out of 100 points) if the thesis statement should be worth 20 points or 40 points?  How do I decide how many points should be given for overall grammar?

After semesters of struggling with this, I abandoned it.  I started holistic grading.  I refer to our department’s grading rubric, which was written with the state’s “C standard” in mind.  The truth is, when I read an essay, I KNOW what the grade is.  I don’t need – and really can’t have – points dictating how to break down an essay.

I know students want to be able to “calculate” their grade in this way, but writing just can’t be assessed in this way.  The piece of writing  as a whole has an impact: Is it clear?  Does it have a strong point of view?  Does it support its ideas?   And we can answer these questions by looking at grammar, spelling, punctuation, organization, transitions, documentation of sources and etc.

I’m not sure that we can “calculate” the grade of an essay.  Quantitative grading, in this case, seems not only difficult but perhaps this also hinders proper and accurate assessment of a piece of academic writing.  We must provide clear defintion and criteria for effective writing, of course, but suggesting that a clear thesis statement is worth 10 percent of the overall essay grade seems… almost arbitrary.


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