Thursday, September 8, 2016

Trouble with the Curve

Many pundits are giving Donald Trump extra points by grading him "on the curve."  All grades should be based on the same rubric or standard. Let's review when and when not a curve should be implemented.  If you give a test and the highest grade is 70, your test was either too hard or did not properly address the material.  One option is simply to throw out that test and the scores. Another is to curve the scores by boosting the top score near to 100.  All the lower scores get boosted equally. In a case like this you might just add 30 points to every score.

When there is just one single score that is near the top, that score rules the curve. The person who achieves that top score is the one who "wrecks the curve."  Now, you may add points to everyone's score, but you cannot add much.  You cannot add more than that top score would require to be perfect.

The fact that Hillary Clinton comes into a forum or debate better experienced and better prepared than Donald Trump does not imply the necessity to implement a curve.  If Hillary hits an A- let's say, a 95 that grade does not translate to "curving" Trump's grade much higher than what he achieved.  He gets graded according to the same rubric/standard where A is the top.  You can curve the grades and  boost Hillary's grade to 100.  If Trump made 70 he can be boosted to 75.  It is still a C. It does not mean that for showing up and making remarks he gets an A- because we are "grading him on a curve,"and he is so less experienced and prepared than she. We are grading both on a rubric.  We are using a standard.

Now, if we are talking about differentiating grading (i.e. the standard) because one participant is advantaged over another, that is another matter entirely.  But do we want to differentiate evaluations for the potential leader of the free world?  There is a lot that is unfair going on here.  Donald Trump is not the one being treated unfairly.  He has been provided a wide berth and a lot of cushion. 

So before the debates start, gathering lessons from this badly managed forum, let's not get all wobbly on how we "grade on the curve."  We use it as needed when the entire test has somehow failed.  We do not use it when one participant has excelled.  We do not use it when one person has wrecked the curve.  One person.  Like this one.