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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gaussian Madness in Kentucky

A school district in Kentucky, having already eliminated "D" as a passing grade, is now considering tossing out the "C" as well. When I read the headline, I got excited. Unfortunately, the article let me down. Although they claim to be seeing improvements since they made the switch, I am skeptical based on nothing more than mathematics. As long as you teach to a curve, meaning lumping kids together by age and expecting them all to perform at the same level on all subjects, you are going to get a range of grades. Those grades ought to fall along a bell shaped curve, though whether that curve is strictly Gaussian is up for debate. Regardless, there has to be a range of scores and I suspect that it will be large enough to guarantee plenty of kids will miss the "B" cut. I applaud the district for making changes in its grading policy, though I would suggest eradicating letter grades and grade levels entirely and begin using a more costly, yet more accurate, performance based assessment.

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