_The Myth of the Normal Curve_

Did you know that the so-called normal curve, ubiquitous in grading and other education contexts, was developed to represent occurrences of random events? Do you really think human characteristics and efforts are random? I have thought before about how silly ranking is, because no matter how well everyone is doing–how competitively they are performing–someone gets the top ranking and someone gets the lowest. Likewise in my local context with thinking about Data Walls (practice recommended by Focus on Results), Value-added teacher evaluation, Healey School redesign etc. Excerpt from a review* of The Myth of the Normal Curve, a book co-edited by a BC prof….

“Valle and Gabel (Chapter Thirteen) describe the impossible expectations placed on mothers compelled to prepare their children for a life at and above the norm. “Even mothers who instinctively recoil from this kind of [competitive] thinking still engage in it because the risks seem simply too high not to do so” (p. 189). The ideology of the normal curve is so instantiated that even those trying to resist its regime get hooked on its barbs.”

Seems NCLB created the same kind of risks for school districts as those for mothers referenced above.
“Though lined with snares, pathways to resistance exist. Gerald Campano and Rob Simon (Chapter Fifteen) propose practitioner research to be instructive. Rather than chase the norm, school improvement undertaken by teachers and students on their own terms highlights the possibility in distinctiveness. Authentic dialogue about the possibilities and pitfalls in coalition among school reformers interested in race and disability is another place to begin (Ferri, Chapter Ten). The Myth of the Normal Curve offers critique of a foundational concept as it plays out in a range of contexts and locales. Challenging the utility of a model so ingrained in the ways we measure is bound to raise eyebrows. This book can easily spark the dialogue and debate Dudley-Marling and Gurn invite.”

I like the sentence about school improvement on stakeholders’ [like I might encourage teachers and students to remember they are part of a larger system/district] own terms and distinctiveness.

*REFERENCE: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 21, 2011
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16346, Date Accessed: 4/12/2011 10:53:01 AM

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