Monday, December 8, 2008


I know a couple of academics read this blog. This post is specifically for you. In honor of your first term finals weeks, which may have happened or may be coming up soon, I'm going to bring up the issue of grading on a curve.

There's one kind of straight curve where you take the highest scoring test in a class, then add the difference between that absolute score and 100% to everyone's score. So, if Jane was the highest scorer and received a 94% on an absolute scale, everyone gets 6% added to their absolute score. BORING.

Or you could grade on a bell curve and force the majority of the students to receive some average grade in the B to B- range. TEDIOUS.

Why not grade on the more entertaining French curve? FUN!


Jen said...

My Latin teacher would stand at the top of the staircase and throw all the papers or tests down. Whose ever test landed the farthest got the A and the closest failed. So if your paper got a little air you got a better grade. Since I was a poor Latin student this grading method worked in my favor. Semper ubi sub ubi!

Bill said...

I ain't no innerlectual. Am a French curve like a French twist?

Angry Professor said...

The second-highest scorer on my exam sets the curve. So, if the second-highest scorer gets a 72%, everyone's grade gets divided by .72.

But I must admit, I love me some pure, normal curve. Compute the z-scores, hand out the predetermined fixed number of As and Fs... I wonder what my students would do if they knew that (say) 15 Fs would be handed out, no questions about it.

The French curve is not as interesting as you might think. Any time the grading scheme uses a straight scale (60, 70, 80, 90) the distribution looks like a French curve.

GDad said...

Bill, click on the link for pics of the French curve. You used to see little plastic ones in the school supplies aisle in the grocery store, but not so much any more.

Jen, did you ever figure out ways to give your paper a little more aerodynamic/academic lift?

AP, I was hoping you'd comment. Maybe someone with a) tenure, and b) not too many years to retirement could announce a pure curve to a class just to document the reaction. Call it a psychology experiment.

Jen said...

I would blather on in the essays. I figured if there was more ink or lead on my paper it would have enough weight to propel it forward. I'd also dog ear the corners of the pages. For one test it would be the top and for the next it would be the bottom. I never learned if he threw over handed or underhanded or how he was holding the papers. I ended up with a C in the class and since I had no idea what I was doing in that class I figured I made out pretty well. Nouns really messed me up more, than verbs. Spanish was much easier.

Jen said...

comma is in the wrong place