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Posts Tagged ‘bell

The news article in the tweet above provided a long answer to the question why the percentage of children graduating from primary to secondary school has not changed over five years.

One short version of the long answer is that the number of students taking the exam, the PSLE, is statistically large enough that the pattern repeats itself.

But here are a few short considerations.

A normal distribution is a bell curve, but a bell curve does not have to look like a normal distribution. The majority of students — about 66% — end up in the Express stream so the bell is skewed.

Not force fitting results into a curve does not mean that moderation did not occur. Moderation exercises typically occur after many individuals grade papers. The graders make adjustments should they be too strict or too lenient.

As the post-exam processes are not completely transparent, we can only guess what happens out of the view of stakeholders. But another short answer presents itself if you lean cynical: We have found a comfortable formula and we are sticking to it for sorting’s sake.

The issue of “grading on the curve” raised its ugly head in the news. This time the headline was a bold declaration:

But there was more to the headline. The article highlighted a variety of curve equivalent and curve adjacent schemes. Then there was a university don’s claim:

The claim that was not substantiated seemed to be that grading on a curve was part of assessment and that this was useful feedback. Specifically:

  • How is grading on a curve part of assessment when the other entities in the same article also claim they have done away with such moderating?
  • How exactly does sorting students on a curve provide feedback on meeting course objectives?

I do not know if he did not elaborate, or if the journalist or her editor left this out. Either way we have a claim without explanation or backing. None of us should take unsubstantiated claims seriously. Thankfully none of us will be graded on a curve to be critical thinkers.


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