Q&A #356

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Curving test scores

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From: Scott

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 1998072521:56:06
Subject: Re: Re: curving test scores

Teachers work hard on "how to correct or adjust" situations which they
may not understand. So grades are "curved" if scores are too low. This
cheapens accomplishments of significance by strong students. 

This is done often because the teacher suspects the test was too
difficult. Besides, when the grades are curved everybody wins to some
degree. And boy do we like winners. So much so that we have designed a
system (over the last 40 years) that adjusts for failure so only the
pathetically weak students feel the weight of knowing exactly where
they stand. Are election returns curved so the losers feel better?
Does the NFL curve stats so nobody loses his job and everybody gets
a SuperBowl "diploma"? Not the ring, of course, but some tangent
symbol designed to make everyone feel better about losing.

When the grades are all high do you adjust the results because the
test may have been too easy?  I bet not.

A top-notch teacher (and there's no substitute for experience here)
will learn what kind of an average grade to expect from a particular
event. An average grade of 85 is reasonable and tests should be
designed to produce that result. That means that the bright students
can "shine," the weaker students can "hang on," and the poor students
will expose their weaknesses... and everybody gets a fair and
accurate picture of their performance at that point in time. 


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