Grading on the Curve

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Teacher234, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    Apr 22, 2018

    Hello.
    For those of you that do not know, I teach a special class for grades 2-4.
    Recently, I graded a quiz and realized that the grades were not really fair. The quiz grades were relatively unfair for the students. My students have difficulty with reading comprehension. I decided to use the grading curve, in which I learned about during a teacher meeting last month. (How embarrassing! I have been teaching for way more than a decade and just learned what a grading curve was.)

    Anyways, I curved the grades to help the students with their grades. After having done this, I am now reconsidering and having second thoughts about grading on the curve.
    Note: I only curved my fourth graders' quiz. My 3rd graders will make corrections and my 2nd grade will go over the quiz with me.
    Your thoughts...
     
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  3. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I despise curves. They only serve to inflate grades.

    If I were in your shoes I would have thrown out the bad questions or the entire quiz. Reteach the standards I was assessing and then retest.
     
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  4. TrademarkTer

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    I also don't like curves.....it seems especially odd to curve for grades 2-4. That material seems particularly fundamental for them to master.

    One thing I have offered students in the past (keep in mind, this is high school) if a quiz went poorly, I tell them that I will drop the quiz for them if they do better on the test for that section as they have demonstrated that they have learned the material.
     
  5. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    Ok. Thank you for your suggestions. I found a new grading system and wanted to try it out, but after some research and your help, I will not use the grading curve anymore.
     
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  6. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    In past years, I just dropped their lowest quiz grade.....I should continue with this. Now that I have thought about it, it is another to falsify the grades. I might as well grade each assignment for completeness. Thank you for helping me.
     
  7. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    Normally, I would go over the assessment with the students and allow them to do corrections. (0.75 points earned back for each corrected question)
    As far as the "curved" grades go, should I revert them back to the original grades?
    I wanted to try something new (as far as modified a grading system), but given what news articles and other teachers say....I will not continue with this system.
     
  8. TrademarkTer

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    If you've already told the kids it was curved, I would not revert them. It will make them not trust, and probably breed resentment. I just wouldn't do it again in the future.

    Are your corrections done under supervision? The thing I don't like about corrections for points back is teachers let kids bring it home, and they just copy from a friend, so they are getting points back without truly learning. When I've done corrections, I've counted the corrections as a separate homework grade (the corrections did not affect the original quiz grade). If, after doing corrections, you would like to offer some form of re-assessment, that might not be a bad idea.
     
  9. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    For the majority of my students, if I let them take the corrections home........the corrections will not get done. I go over the corrections with the students individually and we work together to get a good grade. Of course, I do not give the students the answers to correct their mistakes, but to guide them and direct them to the appropriate tools.
     
  10. TrademarkTer

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    I don't think they should get a grade on something you worked together with them on, but that's just my opinion. I think it's wonderful for you to help them with it, but if it's graded, it should be done independently. This gets back to my not giving points back for corrections.
     
  11. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    In my mind, especially at elementary, the grade should match the student's understanding of the standards. If everyone understands it extremely well, and one kid is meeting the standard, would it be right for that kid to be marked "below expectations"? Not a fan of curve grading in general, and extremely against in elementary.
     
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  12. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    0.75 points back for quiz/test corrections are way too much! That incentivizes students to fail because they know they can get 3/4 of the points back, so why study?

    In all of math classes, I don’t allow quiz corrections in either regular or AP, I only give 0.5 points back for test corrections in regular math classes, and I give 0.25 points back in AP math classes. And students can’t ever leave the room with their tests and must write why their original answer was incorrect and how they arrived at the correct answer.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
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  13. otterpop

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    I agree.

    I have never had a class in which grades were curved in my own academic studies.

    If your test is fair and the content was appropriately taught, there should be no need for a curve. If most students did poorly and it seems a curve is needed, it likely means the lesson should be retaught.
     
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  14. rpan

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    I’m not a fan of the curve either. Either they meet the standards or they don’t. Assessment should give an accurate picture of a student’s abilities against curriculum standards and allow teachers to bridge any gaps. A curve hides this information and makes assessment quite redundant, well the true aim of an assessment anyway (sometimes I think non-teachers view the need for assessments in a different view to how teachers view assessments)
     
  15. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    There are a few times grading on a curve is appropriate. Your explanation of how you want to use it is not one. You are talking about using it for grade inflation rather than the appropriate use. You are not alone in using it this way which causes problems for students later on.

    If a test or quiz is poorly written in that questions don't make sense, don't provide appropriate choices on multiple choice, or you never taught the information (gave it too early), then the most appropriate response is to throw out the quiz and do it again properly.

    Otherwise, a proper curve is when a test or quiz is designed to test the upper limits beyond the expectations for the content. You will see this in college and some higher level high school class where some of the questions are designed to see if there are any who are going well above A level content. The test contains enough content to ensure you will be able to determine A level mastery and below but contains content or complexity that goes well beyond an A for those students who are far superior than the course expectations. As the test creator you know where the expected average is going into the test. You know an A may be an 85 and a C a 60.

    When used to cover teacher instruction failures or student failures, grading on a curve is no less fraud than just putting a grade on the books without even testing them.
     
  16. TrademarkTer

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    That's a good point. The first time I ever experienced a curve was in college, where a test average of 40-50% was the norm. This was the first time we were tested on stuff we weren't directly taught so it was more appropriate in that context. I would assume elementary teachers, and even most secondary teachers, would not be giving tests on stuff they didn't directly teach (with the possible exception, as you say, of some upper level AP type courses).
     
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  17. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Very good point - thanks for sharing that! I, too, reflect on a college class where getting 80% was like acing the test because it was so difficult, but there was a huge curve to make up for that fact. It was a professor who liked to challenge his students far outside of the box.
     
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  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    What special class is it?

    I find this whole conversation very odd given that we're talking about 2nd graders. I've never heard of curving scores for students that young. I'm even surprised that grades are given as percents or letter grades instead of pass/fail or exceeds/meets/approaches/emergent.
     
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  19. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    The only time our class grades were ever curved was in college. I remember one class in particular (complex analysis), where I got an 83% on an exam, and I was pretty unhappy about it. However, I later discovered that the median exam score was a 62% and the standard deviation was 5, so I had an automatic A because I was 4.2 standard decisions above the mean. It was a great feeling, haha!
     
  20. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    My thoughts exactly. Why would 2nd graders need their grades curved?
     
  21. Teacher234

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    I do see your point and it is extremely valid. However, you teach AP math classes (college-level). I teach a Special Class for Mid-elementary. While I understand it may be slightly high, the students have to make corrections (with help from me) and go over the quiz/test with me. Sometimes, I have the student retake the assessment, but in an easier format (usually open-book).
     
  22. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Why don’t you require them to do test/quiz corrections and then retest them to see how they improve and change their old grade to the new one if they do better? They should be required to go over their previous test before you allow them to do the retake, though. Don’t give them points for going over their old one, but make the retake contingent on their completing the corrections beforehand.
     
  23. Teacher234

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    Excellent point. I will reconsider my corrections policy.
     
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  24. Teacher234

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    Note: While I will no longer use or even consider grading on a curve, for clarification purposes, I only curved the grades for my 4th graders.
     
  25. Been There

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    Until now, I've not heard of elementary teachers using a bell curve for grading purposes. For one thing, the diversity of students in most classes messes up any attempt to establish a standard distribution. In many schools, the high rate of transience, wide range of academic achievement and language skills precludes the use of a bell curve. Here's a link to a brief overview. FWIW, I always found it extremely stressful to be graded on a curve in college, knowing that I would probably never make it to the high end. The mere mention of it still makes me cringe!
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
  26. Teacher234

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    Thank you for replying.
    After using it once and seeing the outcome (and getting input from the teachers on this site), I am not using the curve anyway. background: During a meeting about academics in special class settings, we discussed how we could help our students compensate their grades for their difficulties. The SPED department (2 of 3 academic delay special classes, at least) tried it. The 5-6 academic delay SC teacher does not like the idea. The teacher who had the idea was out of district (about 2-3 hours away).
     
  27. a2z

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    I'd love to hear more about why people thought this was a good idea. How does compensating a grade cause improvement for a student?

    A good grade does not equate to skills and depending on how poorly an IEP is written, it may be a detriment to getting additional needed services. Some IEPs are still written using grades to monitor progress. Think how a curve would impact a goal that required a student to be scoring an 80% or better and tests that were curved so that a 40% now equals an 80%.
     
  28. MissCeliaB

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    The only time I curve or modify grades is if I am giving practice standardized tests. Then I grade on approximately the score of the test. For example, if I give a practice ACT reading test, I determine their scale score. To get the lowest level of TOPS, they need a 20. So I make it so that a 20 is the lowest B, an 85%. (A scale score of 20 is a raw score of 55%, so this is quite a boost...)

    I use a similar formula for practice EOC tests. It seems the most fair. If the state says that a raw score of 36% converts to a C, then I should be consistent with that in my grading!
     
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  29. Teacher234

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    After some further research and input from teachers, grading on the curve is not an appropriate practice for my classroom. I tried it once and now, will not do it ever again. 0=20, in the teacher's mind that informed me of grading on a curve (luckily, teacher is not in my district).
    In my classroom, grades are not necessarily used as indicating progress in academics. The assessments given are used as measures of progress. (Ex.: A student receives a 45% overall average in ELA Reading, but can still be considered making adequate progress and is proficient at instructional level.) Changing this system is not entirely determined by me.
     
  30. a2z

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    You have said multiple times you won't be curving again. My question was what was their rationale for curving and how does it compensate a grade? Why is this beneficial for a student on a regular assessment? They convinced you to try it, so what was the reasoning that made you believe it would be beneficial?

    You are saying that periodically standardized assessments are used to measure progress rather than class assessments. Correct?
     
  31. Been There

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    All too often I've noticed a tendency for schools to embrace a different program, concept or method without doing the requisite research to fully understand the pros and cons. Grading on a curve, while commonly used at the college level, doesn't make a lot of sense for lower grades. I recommend that educators acquire a modicum of content knowledge before making any hasty decisions that will impact their students. Here's another article on using the bell curve for grading.

    As a special ed. teacher, you should be familiar with criterion-referenced tests. These teacher-developed tests that are aligned with specific instructional goals and objectives can be constructed to produce percentage scores for grading purposes.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
  32. a2z

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    May I ask why you were addressing this to me?
     
  33. Been There

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    Oops, sorry about that! Thanks for pointing out my blunder - my comments were meant for Teacher234. Responding to different people can get kinda tricky for some of us!
     

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