State Education

Katy Knudson knudsonk at UCS.ORST.EDU
Wed Jul 19 12:04:15 MDT 1995

        James and Steve were discussing the travesty that is curve grading.  I
agree.  The curve is destructive.  It encourages either mediocrity or
cutthroat competition.  If everyone in a class does poorly, no one
suffers the consequences of substandard performance.  In other
situations, conscientious students who need the top grades have no
incentive for helping other students.  While this may discourage
cheating, it also discourages cooperative study groups and tutoring,
which benefit everyone involved.  In my opinion, instructors should set
a fair standard and stick by it.  If a class of high achievers produces
many high grades when compared to an equitable standard, wonderful!  If
everyone is failing, there is probably a problem  with instruction or
testing methods (or sometimes the students are just not studying).  I use a
bell curve of student grades for quality control of my own methods.
        I once gave my sophomore biology class a new type of test in which
they needed to study some lab diagrams to be prepared. They were fairly warned
about the change in format, but few took me seriously, and many scored poorly.
As we discussed the results the next day, this class informed me that I
"HAD" to use a curve on their scores to bring them up.  (This group had
not yet learned that students telling me I HAVE to do anything for them is a
very bad idea.)  I explained to that I see my role as a teacher as much more
important than just teaching them biological facts.  I am preparing them
for life.  I asked them if they thought an employer would wink at poor
performance by employees if they all did it.  They had to admit that this
scenario was unlikely, and eventully accepted that I would not do them
the disservice of removing the consequences of inadequate preparation.
Teachers need to be committed to tough love for their students.  A fairly
earned grade in a tough course does a lot more for the self esteem than a
good grade in a class that is a joke.
Kate--more than once labeled the meanest teacher in the world (among
other descriptions :)

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