## Thursday, June 12, 2014

### listening-test follies

I graded all my kids' listening tests yesterday and have laid out the big picture, statistically speaking, below. Let's see whether the students fit onto a bell curve. NB: I'm including my intermediates with my beginners.

Total number of students who took the school-sanctioned listening test: 84

Number of A's: 8
Number of B's: 15
Number of C's: 24
Number of D's: 12
Number of F's: 25

Well... it was kind of a bell curve until we hit the F's, eh? Yikes. I can reassure myself, a bit, by noting that some of those F's are absences, not F's due to performance.

Sadly, my intermediates, who are my favorites, were the class with the largest number of F's (9, out of 16 test-takers)—this despite the thorough review I had given them a week earlier. Heads will roll, I'm afraid.

By contrast, one of my Thursday classes did amazingly well: 5 of the 8 A's mentioned above came from that class alone. God only knows what got into them, but they rocked and rolled on that test. I'm surprised and proud.

_

1. Dear God, man... it's a massacre!

2. Charles,

The wisdom I'd heard from veteran coworkers and supervisors at DCU is that the listening test helps fit the students into the prescribed curve. I hate the curve, as do most of my colleagues and supervisors, but it's university policy, so we abide by it.

As it turns out, the wisdom is generally true: all those F's do wonders to bring down students who would otherwise have stratospheric grades. The curve at DCU is rather parsimonious: for beginners, only 20% in any given class can receive A's. Only 50%, total, can receive A's and B's. The curve gets more generous the higher you go in level.

The curve creates its own justice issues. For example, if only 4 students out of 20 can receive an A, and if you've got 6 students on your roster who are currently getting an A, then two of those kids have to be bumped down to a B.

For most of us, this is agony: no one wants to kill the hopes of an otherwise worthy student. So when something like the listening test comes along and destroys those A's for us, spreading destruction like a tornado in a trailer park, it's almost a relief, because it means we don't find ourselves in violation of school policy.

3. I get the logic, and I understand that you have to abide by school policy... but that's still kind of like saying that not feeding the prisoners is good policy because you have to execute a certain number of them anyway, and having a bunch die of starvation makes it easier.

In other words: curves suck.