Ensuring fair and accurate scoring is essential to a successful Poetry Out Loud competition. After convening two panels on the Poetry Out Loud (POL) scoring rubric, the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation have made a significant change to the way competitions will be scored during the 2015-2016 season.

Level of Complexity will no longer be a separate evaluation category. Complexity will still be a required component of the judges’ evaluation process, but the poem’s complexity will now be considered as part of the reciter’s Overall Performance (just as the student’s range of poems is considered under this category).

The NEA and Poetry Foundation considered the following when making this decision:

  • Data analysis performed by the NEA’s Research office shows that student rankings at the National Finals did not change significantly when the Level of Complexity score was removed from each student’s score.
  • While judges are strongly encouraged to review poems and score Level of Complexity before competitions, they are not always able to do so.
  • It is very challenging for competition organizers to ensure consistency within the Level of Complexity category. Judges must be consistent with themselves for this category; however, this rule is enforced unevenly across the states.
  • Level of Complexity is intended to measure the poem text alone; however, many judges tell us that it’s very difficult to separate the performance from the poem.
  • Assigning scores for the Level of Complexity category discourages students from exploring the widest possible range of poems available.

For more details on this and other aspects of scoring, see the 2015-16 POL Teacher’s Guide.