Grading on the Curve

October/12/2014 6:22AM
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It was in junior high when I was first introduced to grading on the curve. Since then I’ve learned it applies to all aspects of life. Some students are not going to do well, some are going to excel, and the majority will fall in between. Most of us lived with it all through college.

When I became a supervisor for the first time I was told it applied to work. In the real world, like academia, some employees excelled vs. objectives, some did not make objectives, and the most fell in between. That’s how the salary budget was allocated. You had to force rank your people to determine who got raises and how much they received. I  held over a dozen different jobs in my work career where I had to make these decisions. But, in truth, the employees made the decisions, just like the students did for the teachers and professors. But, at work, poor performers over time had to find work elsewhere. Funny thing, it didn’t seem to matter how much time you invested in trying to help them improve their performance, they just either could not cut the mustard, or choose not to work that hard. For the former, you worked harder, for the later, you knew it was their problem and just wanted to see them leave.

There are exceptions to the curve and they fall in two categories. Government and union jobs. As more government jobs become union jobs, it gets closer to one category. At the university level it involves tenure, which is like a union job. If you want to put a finger on the number one reason our children are becoming under-educated vs. the world, this is the reason.

Proof: New York just released the teacher ranking for the state. Here’s their curve: 95% “highly effective” or “effective”,  4% “developing” and 1% as “ineffective” . Isn’t it remarkable that this is the one place in the world where all the exceptional people choose to work? Even more remarkable is the result of the statewide test scores where over half of the students in grades 4-8 were not proficient in reading and math. So, the very people who introduced me to the idea of grading on the curve aren’t graded on the curve. The state law requires that 60% of the teacher’s rating be based on class-room observation and only 20% on those aforementioned test scores. The remaining 20% is bargained by the unions.

Why does this happen? There is absolutely zero accountability for the administrators rating teachers. No one wants to tell a group of parents that little Johnny or little Janie is being taught by an inefficient teacher.  Then, of course, you have tenure.  And, over all this is the union and the threat of strike.

There it is Mom and Dad, you are the reason your children are going be under-educated and non-competitive in a global economy. If your students are doing well, grade-wise, just remember they are being graded on the curve against an ever declining pool of educated students. Students from other countries and other states who will be coming to your state universities and scoring higher on the admission tests and paying more tuition so those inefficient state universities can remain inefficient and drive up tuition costs and student loan balances.

It’s broken from top to bottom and will remain broken until someone tears it apart and fixes it.

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