Grading Criteria

Introduction: Parents have told me on many occasions that, “It must be difficult to grade Art. It's so subjective.” My response is that for the basic, "foundational" Art curriculum that I'm teaching here at SJHS, grading is actually very objective. Each assignment that is given to students, whether it be a short exercise or a long project, has an objective grading criteria, that even an untrained observer can discern. The purpose of the grading criteria is to break down an assignment so it can be evaluated as objectively as possible. How well the student meets the requirements of the grading criteria will determine the final grade given for an assignment.

Grade Codes used by the Davis County School District:

A: Superior

B: Good

C: Average

D: Poor

F: Failure 

I: Incomplete

Here’s my grading policy in the most succinct form possible:

Step 1: Verbalize the grading criteria to the students ("what I'm looking for").

Step 2: Show STUDENT artwork that meets the criteria in a superior ("A") fashion, and explain why.

Step 3: Demonstrate the procedure, process, technique, or steps that lead to a superior art product.

Step 4: Award all students who meet the grading criteria ("what I'm looking for") in a superior fashion with an "A."

Step 5: Award all other students who complete the art assignment on time with a passing grade, depending on how well their work compares with the superior ("A") student work.

Step 6: Display the superior student artwork publicly for all interested parties to see. Encourage all to view the artwork so that all students are clarified as to "what an 'A' looks like."

Grading Criteria for Assignments:

Simple Shapes Character Drawings

1. Size: The drawing must demonstrate correct management of negative space, and must be the correct size when compared to the border.

2. Proportion: The drawing must demonstrate that it is "in proportion." The size of the various parts of the drawing must be the right size when compared to the others.

3. Detail: The drawing must demonstrate that all detail has been observed and drawn correctly.

4. Line Quality and Line Variety: The drawing must demonstrate final lines that are smooth, clean, dark, and show a variety of thickness. Final lines that have a sketchy, broken, messy, or dirty quality do not meet this criteria.

5. Presentation: The drawing must demonstrate a border that is straight and is correctly measured, a title that is spelled correctly, the student's name in the correct location, neat penmanship, and must be free of stray marks, wrinkles, folds, or tears.

6. Punctuality: The drawing must be turned in on time. Drawings that are turned in "late" are disqualified from being evaluated on the other grading criteria. The only criteria on which "late" drawings are graded is "Punctuality," and a half-credit score is given. Exceptions are made for drawings turned in "late" because of excused absences.

Color Scheme / Color Theory Assignments (Each assignment may have different individual requirements and criteria. Below are general grading criteria.)

1. Solid Color: The assignment must demonstrate colors that are dark, intense, and solid. The white of the paper should not show through the color.

2. Within the Lines: The assignment must demonstrate that the student has the ability to color within the lines.

3. Clean Background: The assignment must demonstrate that the student has the ability to keep the background clean, white, and free of smudges, smears, wrinkles, tears, stray marks, etc.

4. Correct Color Scheme: The assignment must demonstrate that the correct colors have been used, based on the color scheme assigned.

5. Punctuality: The assignment must be turned in on time. Assignments that are turned in "late" are disqualified from being evaluated on the other grading criteria. The only criteria on which "late" assignments are graded is "Punctuality," and a half-credit score is given. Exceptions are made for assignments turned in "late" because of excused absences.

Value (Shading) Assignments (Each assignment may have different individual requirements and criteria. Below are general grading criteria.)

1. Smooth, Unscribbled Values: The assignment must demonstrate smooth and unscribbled values; impossible to tell the direction of the pencil strokes.

2. Within the Lines: The assignment must demonstrate that the student has the ability to shade within the lines.

3. Clean Background: The assignment must demonstrate that the student has the ability to keep the background clean, white, and free of smudges, smears, wrinkles, tears, stray marks, etc.

4. Accurate Values: The assignment must demonstrate that the different shades of value have been accurately duplicated from the example, or model page.

5. Contrast: The assignment must demonstrate that the rules of contrast have been followed; shapes next to, or touching each other, are not the same value.

6. Punctuality: The assignment must be turned in on time. Assignments that are turned in "late" are disqualified from being evaluated on the other grading criteria. The only criteria on which "late" assignments are graded is "Punctuality," and a half-credit score is given. Exceptions are made for assignments turned in "late" because of excused absences.

Linear Perspective Assignments (Each assignment may have different individual requirements and criteria. Below are general grading criteria.)

1. Straight Lines:

A. One-Point Perspective: The assignment must demonstrate that all vertical lines are parallel with the left and right sides of the paper, and that all horizontal lines are parallel with the top and bottom of the paper. All lines must be drawn with a ruler.

B. Two-Point Perspective: The assignment must demonstrate that all vertical lines are parallel with the left and right sides of the paper. All lines must be drawn with a ruler.

C. Three-Point Perspective: The “Eye Level” is parallel to the top and bottom of the paper. All lines must be drawn with a ruler.

2. Correct Perspective:

A. One-Point Perspective: The assignment must demonstrate that all rules of One-Point Perspective have been followed; all depth lines converge on the "Vanishing Point," other lines are either horizontal, vertical, or correctly angled.

B. Two-Point Perspective: The assignment must demonstrate that all rules of Two-Point Perspective have been followed; that all vertical lines are parallel with the left and right sides of the paper, and that all “depth” lines converge on the correct “Vanishing Point.” All lines must be drawn with a ruler.

C. Three-Point Perspective: The assignment must demonstrate that all rules of Three-Point Perspective have been followed; an “Eye Level” that is parallel to the top and bottom of the paper, all other lines converge correctly on one of the three “Vanishing Points.” All lines must be drawn with a ruler.

*Exceptions would be for lines such as those for angled roofs, etc., that do not necessarily converge on a “Vanishing Point.”

3. Neat Inking: The assignment must demonstrate that its inked lines are black, thin, free of blots, that lines come together neatly at all corners, that all lines are of the same thickness, and that there is no variety of line thickness.

4. Background and Presentation: The assignment must demonstrate that the student has the ability to keep the background clean, white, and free of smudges, smears, wrinkles, tears, stray marks, etc. The "Eye Level" and "Vanishing Point(s)" should be labeled neatly, pencil lines are invisible, white-out applied neatly, if applicable, and name and class period in the lower right-hand corner.

5. Punctuality: The assignment must be turned in on time. Assignments that are turned in "late" are disqualified from being evaluated on the other grading criteria. The only criteria on which "late" assignments are graded is "Punctuality," and a half-credit score is given. Exceptions are made for assignments turned in "late" because of excused absences.

Still-Life Drawing Assignments (Each assignment may have different individual requirements and criteria. Below are general grading criteria.)

1. Time: One class period minimum.

2. Effort: Working the ENTIRE time required; pencil and eraser always in motion; not just staring at the object; not staring off into space, or at the walls.

3. Attitude: Excited, determined, happy, enthusiastic; not bored, sleepy, or whiny about the difficulty of the assignment.

4. Quality: Accurate representation of the three-dimensional object; accurate line and value as time allows.

5. Punctuality: The assignment must be turned in on time. Assignments that are turned in "late" are disqualified from being evaluated on the other grading criteria. The only criteria on which "late" assignments are graded is "Punctuality," and a half-credit score is given. Exceptions are made for assignments turned in "late" because of excused absences.

Grid Drawing Assignments (Each assignment may have different individual requirements and criteria. Below are general grading criteria.)

1. Measuring: Grids must be measured accurately. The lines must be straight and lightly drawn.

2. Accuracy: The system of grid drawing produces highly accurate images. Each square should be completed one at a time. All positive and negative shapes within each square are accurate.

3. Line Quality and Line Variety: The drawing must demonstrate final lines that are smooth, clean, dark, and show a variety of thickness. Final lines that have a sketchy, broken, messy, or dirty quality do not meet this criteria.

4. Presentation: At the end, the grid should be completely erased. Drawings that have grid lines that are still visible do not meet this criteria. In addition, the student's name is in the correct location, neat penmanship, and must be free of stray marks, wrinkles, folds, or tears.

5. Punctuality: The assignment must be turned in on time. Assignments that are turned in "late" are disqualified from being evaluated on the other grading criteria. The only criteria on which "late" assignments are graded is "Punctuality," and a half-credit score is given. Exceptions are made for assignments turned in "late" because of excused absences.

Conclusion:

I hate grading, especially in Art. Grades should be irrelevant and mastery of skills, regardless of the time needed, should be the goal. The goal of an Art student should be mastery of Art skills, not the achievement of an "A." This is how Art Academies or Art Ateliers work. In an Art school such as the Hein Academy of Art, the students participate in a self-paced program, and advance only when certain skills are mastered. This frees the student from the pressure of achievement or failure within a certain period of time, and allows a self-paced journey of progress and skill-development.

Unfortunately, the public school is not set-up this way. Student have prescribed time-limits (terms and semesters) and a measure of a student's skill must be submitted and recorded, regardless of actual skill-mastery. His skills (developed or not) will be graded and measured with those of the same age. While I disagree with this, I know I can't change the system. I have to grade students. 

So, I will set the grading criteria for an assignment, and then the grading standard will be set by the students. The student work which most closely meets the grading criteria will be awarded the top grades, and student work which does not meet the criteria quite as well will receive grades that are a bit lower. Problems arise when a student (or parent) wants an "A" (superior) for student work that is complete, but yet does not meet the grading criteria as well as another. Remember, the word “completion” and the word “superior” are not synonyms.

For those disappointed in their grades, they should do one, or more of the following:

1. Ask me for constructive criticism. Ask me where your assignment falls short, or needs improvement. Artists who want to improve are some of my favorite people. Remember, I will give almost daily criticism to the group, but I will need to be asked, personally, to give you individual feedback. Unrequested criticism or feedback has a tendency to annoy students, so this I will almost always avoid.

2. Work harder at meeting the grading criteria.

3. Accept that their work is good, but not superior, and that there is room for improvement.

4. Take only community art classes or private art lessons where grading is not part of the program.

5. Transfer out of the class and find other electives in the "Arts" that will meet high school graduation requirements (Band, Orchestra, Choir, Drama, Dance). A high school diploma does not require the completion of even one “Visual Arts” class.