After grading 5 class sets of 3 different assignments over the last week, I discovered a disturbing trend – nearly all of my students were falling into the D range on each assignment. Sadly, the “outliers” were up in the B range. Obviously there is a problem when this happens, and my interpretation of the numbers is that the problem happened on my end. My reasoning: the bell curve. At right you see a normal bell curve. In my A Bell Curveopinion, the center of the curve is “average,” which I feel should be in the C+/B- range. In a normal situation, there will be a few points well above that, and a few points well below that, but the majority of students will earn grades near the average.

In the case of these assignments, the bulk of the curve was down on the lower end, thus making it look distorted. This indicates to me that it was less a problem with students and more a problem with the assignment and/or my teaching of the content and skills involved.

What’s the point? Simple: I need to reteach some of the skills that were assessed in those assignments. So I’m planning on conferencing with each student about their assignments, and spending some time reteaching comparing/contrasting, and how to write about theme and conflict. I had a talk with my students about this and they clarified a couple of things for me, emphasizing that they felt the same thing about their assignments – that they didn’t really know how to approach certain aspects that happened to be heavily assessed. Ergo, time to reteach.

What is interesting to me is that this arises as our district, and particularly our English department, is engaged in fairly heated conversations about “documented” curriculum. Without getting into how “documented” has been defined, it got me thinking. If this were a move toward a “scripted” curriculum, where teachers are expected to teach the same lesson each day, how would we make room for something like this? What sort of modifications would we be able to make in order to accommodate an obvious lack of learning?

If our “documented” curriculum were to become a “scripted” or “mandated” curriculum, how would we ensure that the students who don’t develop a particular skill are able to demonstrate mastery? It seems that if it’s a day-to-day curriculum, this is no longer an option.

Anyone out there work with a scripted curriculum? What do you do (or can you do) when the students don’t “get” the content knowledge or the skills you assessed?

(photo credit: “Bell Curve” by vlasta2


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