Talk:Grading on a curve

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I agree that this article has serious issues. The usual phrase is grading on THE curve and this article may have got off to a bad start by trying to discuss "Grading on A Curve." I'm distantly related to Karl Gauss and over the last several years I've been trying to develop a standardized procedure for grading on the curve. Gauss developed the math which was later incorporated into the Theory of Relativity. My efforts to grade on the curve have led me to a Theory of "Numeric Relativity." I also developed what may be a new concept: "normal cognate." After developing my ideas, a distant memory came back of graduate school math and "measure theory." I think measure theory is indeed relevant -- although I hadn't consciously made use of it -- along with information theory, which I had made use of, as explained in my material. My whole position is stated in an article on my web site <ref: davidgaus.com> ----

As far as I'm aware, 'bell curve grading' is a colloquial term and is a very loose way of referring to any number of different ways of grading vaguely connected to a normal distribution. Very little is said in the article and what is there is of poor standard in my view. I think it would be preferable to expand on normative assessment within assessment. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and not suggesting deletion only because it may be a legitimate attempt to get at something different. As it is, it does not appear to warrant an entry to me. Holon 09:28, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, this article is terrible. What does it mean to say "even if the numerical grade is passing"? No numerical grade is inherently a passing grade if you are using a "curve" to assign passing and failing grades. The very idea of "curving" is that a score that qualifies as passing is only good enough for a passing grade because of its standing compared to other students' scores, not because it reached any pre-determined benchmark. Also, I would suggest that we clarify that strict "bell curve" grading is actually only the second option currently listed in the article, and that the first option has nothing to do with a bell curve. Several other errors should be corrected as well, for example the statement "the curve can be computed," which is not actually referring to calculating the Normal curve (which has a forumula, and which you don't need to use to assign "curved" grades of all types) but to assigning letter grades. 216.186.103.82 04:53, 3 May 2006 (UTC)Ventifact

Yes, the first dot point has nothing at all to do with the normal distribution. It is certainly incorrect to refer to 'computing the curve'; the curve is a probability density function which can be evaluated for a standard score. The curve is not computed -- it is the graphical representation a function of the mean and standard deviation (i.e. normal distribution). I presume the point supposed to be made is that the normal distribution may be used as a theoretical basis for partitioning scores to obtain grades or standardized scores. However, this is only vaguely explained in the second dot point. I don't see that this article provides any useful information. It provides more confusion than explanation. I am not inclined to spend time attempting to clean it up because I am not convinced there it has anything to say worthy of an article entry. Holon 02:55, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
Is it common to refer to bell curve grading in the US? If so, perhaps the most useful purpose of such an article would be to clarify misconceptions. Otherwise, I believe it should be nominated for deletion fairly soon. Holon 02:58, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
In my experience it is common to refer to "curving" grades but not to the "bell" curve specifically. Colloquially, people use "curve" to refer to any changing of grades from a pre-determined scale. So, for example, if the class average is 5 percentage points below what the instructor considers appropriate, he might add 5 percentage points to all students' scores; this is very commonly referred to as a form of "curving," even though it does not actually attempt to assign grades according to any frequency distribution curve (Normal or otherwise). In the US, true bell-curve grading is common only at the university level, and in any event people very rarely refer to "the bell curve", it is just "the curve." I think this article has the potential to be useful, but it is currently in very bad shape. If I have the time in a few weeks I will return and spiff it up. 216.186.103.82 04:53, 3 May 2006 (UTC)Ventifact


I am in the process of fixing this article. It should hopefully be in much better shape soon. Ventifact

I have, I think, addressed the problems this article previously had.Ventifact

I've taken the liberty of removing the cleanup tag from the article. 216.186.101.226Ventifact

Thanks for this work. It seems it is a legitimate topic if people use the term and there are myths about what it actually means, which I imagine is the case. I think we should proceed with merging the articles asap. There should be a link from grade (education) when this is done. Thoughts? Holon 10:29, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

This should definitely get moved to Grading (education). 166.170.33.50 (talk) 11:22, 26 December 2013 (UTC)

Still needs work[edit]

This article needs to be fleshed out, and in particular needs citations. The only outside source cited (a website) actually contradicted the article text when I checked it. In particular, I changed "strict bell curve grading is pervasive at the elementary and secondary level" from "pervasive" to "unusual", per the outside source. Also, I have been involved in education for many years in the USA and have never seen strict bell curve grading anywhere except some university courses and law school. More outside sources need to be found, however.

I also don't see any mention of the relatively common practice of adding the difference between some predetermined average score (e.g. 70) and the observed mean among scores. That is, if the class takes an exam, and the average is 64, the instructor adds 6 points to everyone's score as a "fudge-factor" or correction to raise the mean to 70. 164.107.191.89 (talk) 18:06, 28 April 2008 (UTC)


The section on shortcomings does not go far enough. IMHO grading on a curve is an abomination and misuse of statistics. A classroom is not a collection of random events. What grading on a curve says is that regardless of actual performance, a teacher has decided in advance how many students will get an A and how many will get an F. And yes, in answer to the above question, this practice is widespread in american schools at least in High School and possibly in middle school -- although middle school was too long ago for me to remember clearly.

Copyright concerns[edit]

Several times, concerns have been raised over whether this article infringes on [1]. Evidence strongly suggests that infringement is the other way. See Wikipedia:Copyright problems/2009 March 18.

Also, please, note the evolution of material in this article bringing it closer to that external site. The opening sentence of the suspected source is "In education, grading on a bell curve is a method of assigning grades designed to yield a desired distribution of grades among the students in a class." In our article's foundational edit foundational edit, which is obviously very different otherwise from the source, we see the opening sentence, "Grading on a bell curve is to grade a group of examinations first using a numerical point system, then assigning the highest grade an 'A', regardless of its numerical grade (which can be failing)." A little over four hours after it was created, we see the addition of the words "In education". The article remained stable for months before the opening sentence was edited to the version in the suspected source, and, when it was, the article was aside from the opening paragraph and a few other phrases still very different. Although an hour later, text was added in line with the rest of the suspected source, it includes a number of typos and misspellings that are not in that source. While not definitive in itself, this evidence of natural evolution further adds to the impression that the text was on Wikipedia prior to its placement on that external site. --Moonriddengirl (talk) 12:33, 26 March 2009 (UTC)