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6. A competent scholar with a working knowledge of:
(a) Educational foundations

The Poisoned Apple Online Discussion

by Betty Wallace

My Contributions and Responses Received

Preamble

Question 1

The subtitle of the book is "The Bell Curve Crisis."
1. What is that crisis?
2. How did it come about?
3. What makes Vance County, N. Carolina, an example of the crisis?

Question 2

What, if anything, did Dr. Wallace do wrong in her attempts to change the system in Vance Co. N.C.?

Preamble

Date From To Subject

Monday, October 12, 1998 10:21 AM

Debi Robertson leadsem@andrews.edu Issues in Educ Foundations
Monday, October 12, 1998 10:46 PM James Tucker leadsem@andrews.edu Re: Issues in Educ Foundations
Tuesday, October 27, 1998 9:22 AM Debi Robertson leadsem@andrews.edu start of issues class
Wednesday, November 25, 1998 6:27 PM James Tucker Lead97 Leadership; Lead98@andrews.edu EDUC632 Issues in Education Foundations
Friday, November 27, 1998 11:13 AM David Heise James Tucker RE: EDUC632 Issues in Education Foundations

From: Debi Robertson [debir@andrews.edu]
Sent: Monday, October 12, 1998 10:21 AM
To: leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: Issues in Educ Foundations

This is being sent to a new alias called:
leadsem@andrews.edu

All participants in the 97 and 98 cohorts, plus Drs. Freed and Tucker, should receive this message.

This class, EDUC632 Issues in Educ Foundations for 2 cr is team taught by Jim Tucker and Shirley Freed. The textbook is Poison Apple, which you should all have.

The class is expected to take 2-3 quarters to complete. Jim Tucker will be leading out in the first half and Shirley Freed in the last half. The class is listed in the computer under Shirley, though both are teaching.

This is a test run on the leadsem email alias. You should next hear from Jim Tucker regarding the start of the class.

dr

The list receiving this should be:

dapplegate@ns1.sbcsc.k12.in.us (Dan Applegate)
Alison.Brown@spectrum-health.org (Alison Brown)
74617.1243@compuserve.com (Richard Carey)
HLTP@aol.com (Ellen Crosby)
styrkaar.dramstad@adventist.no (Styrkar Dramstad)
midge@southern.edu (Midge Dunzweiler)
jalomino@southern.edu (Jean Lomino)
glongfel@freeway.net (Gary Longfellow)
nmendez@bps.k12.ma.us (Nydia Mendez)
74532.323@compuserve.com (Ron Whitehead)
wengerg@k2.kirtland.cc.mi.us (Ginna Wenger)
twiseman@saa.net (Tom Wiseman)
gersonpi@correionet.com.br (Gerson Araujo)
JJarrais@yahoo.com (Josmar Arrais)
leslieb@bmi.net (Leslie Bumgardner)
104474.506@compuserve.com (Ted Brown)
chadmb@admin.hilconet.com (Chad Barrett)
osec@pop.unisys.com.br (Sidney Dutra)
follette@andrews.edu (Joe Follette)
troyfitz@bmi.net (Troy Fitzgerald)
henning@bmi.net (Henning Guldhammer)
mrgamblin2@aol.com (Rose Gamblin)
gozar@cc.tacom.army.mil (Rogenia Goza)
karlhaffner@hotmail.com (Karl Haffner)
dorihal@juno.com (Dorisann Halvorsen)
mrhay@smc.cc.mi.us (Mickey Hay)
dheise@andrews.edu (David Heise)
stephi@mindspring.com (Stephanie Howard)
yjacobs@ivy.tec.in.us (Tracie Jacobs)
dkittle@compuserve.com (Dan Kittle)
macquar@andrews.edu (Lara MacQuarrie)
perkinsjen@hotmail.com (Jennifer Perkins)
74617.2615@compuserve.com (Garry Sudds)
sssmith@southern.edu (Sheila Smith)
stylus@sbcsc.k12.in.us (Sharon Tylus)
JoseM.Dir.IAE@thomas.iae-sp.br (Jose Miguel)
freed@andrews.edu (Shirley Freed)
tuckerj@andrews.edu (Jim Tucker)
debir@andrews.edu (Debi for Lon Gruesbeck)

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Monday, October 12, 1998 10:46 PM
To: Debi Robertson
Cc: leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Issues in Educ Foundations

All of you who are in the EDUC632 course described below will receive information on the course in due course (puns intended!) Right now, I am in the throes of beginning the Internet course on learning theories, and as soon as we have launched that one, I will get EDUC 632 on course.
Thanks for your patience.

Jim Tucker

On Mon, 12 Oct 1998, you wrote:

> This is being sent to a new alias called
>
> leadsem@andrews.edu
>...

From: Debi Robertson [debir@andrews.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 1998 9:22 AM
To: leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: start of issues class

All members of the 97 and 98 cohorts are enrolled in the required email class EDUC632 Issues in Educ Foundations for 2 cr. This class will span 2-3 quarters, with the first half being led by Jim Tucker and the second half led by Shirley Freed. 

You will be assigned a grade of DG (deferred grade) at the end of the quarter. Shirley is the teacher of record, which means she will change the grades in the Records Office upon completion of all assignments for both halves.

The textbook for this class is Poisoned Apple. I'm sure many of you have already been able to read most of the book. 

You should be hearing from Jim Tucker sometime next week, so prepare to begin the class assignments and discussion at that time.

If you have any questions you should email Jim Tucker for the first half and Shirley Freed for the second half. Questions about obtaining textbooks or about registration should be addressed to Debi.

Class discussion items can be emailed to "leadsem@andrews.edu"

dr

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 1998 6:27 PM
To: Lead97 Leadership; Lead98@andrews.edu
Subject: EDUC632 Issues in Education Foundations

It is time to address the Issues in Education Foundations course. This is one of the two followup courses to the orientation. Perhaps you remember that there are two such courses, and that we conduct each of these courses in alternate years.

During the 1997-98 academic year, we provided the EDUC633: Issues in Education Research course. This is the year for Issues in Education Foundations.

This is a required course, and it is conducted via the Internet. It is presented in two sections. The first one is a discussion of The Poisoned Apple by Betty Wallace, a book which all of you should have obtained when you were here. The second part of the course is a discussion of a number of readings that will be sent to you. I will be coordinating the discussion during the first part, and Shirley will be coordinating the discussion during the second part.

We don't need a specific list for communicating about the course since everyone in the 97 and 98 cohorts have to take the course. To communicate with all of the participants involved I only have to address the message to lead97 and lead98. That is what I have done to begin the process.

If perchance you don't have the book, you can get it from Debi. It is out of print, but we purchased plenty of copies to make sure we had it available for a long time to come. It is an incredible story of attempted change in a real social system.

By the way, even though this course is listed as a course in "education foundations" I think you will quickly see the global ramifications of the material that we will be studying and discussing. The story that Betty Wallace tells in The Poisoned Apple is a story about a school system, but it is really about life, about social systems, about learning, about technology, about instruction, about communication, about organization, and very much about change.

SO! Let's get started.

First, check in to let me know that you have the book!!!!!! That is all you have to do to let me know that you are up and running. I would like to hear from all of you as soon as possible, but I will set December 4 as a deadline after which, we will begin discussing the book, chapter by chapter and issue by issue.

The organization of the course will be as follows: I will set forth one or more key discussion questions for each chapter. I expect to see 100% participation. That means I expect to see responses in the discussion from every member of the two cohorts, even if that participation is "Sorry, folks, I read the chapter, but I don't have any thoughts at all as a result." I can't imagine that, but once in a while brains do shut down, and we want to accommodate the learning needs of even temporarily out-of-commission brains. Of course, I will then take it upon myself to wake up your brain and engage it.

I am now expecting 38 responses about THE BOOK.

Go!

Jim

From: David Heise [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Friday, November 27, 1998 11:13 AM
To: James Tucker
Subject: RE: EDUC632 Issues in Education Foundations

Hello Jim,

My responses are below.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: James Tucker [mailto:tuckerj@andrews.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, 25 November, 1998 6:27 PM
> To: Lead97 Leadership; Lead98@andrews.edu
> Subject: EDUC632 Issues in Education Foundations
>
> First, check in to let me know that you have the book!!!!!! That is all
> you have to do to let me know that you are up and running. I would like
> to hear from all of you as soon as possible, but I will set December 4 as
> a deadline after which, we will begin discussing the book, chapter by
> chapter and issue by issue.

I have the book, and have read some portions of it. I think there are issues there that will generate heaps of interesting comment.

I hope to be able to participate fully in this course but this December is going to be a real squeeze for time. I have a 2-week course on IT Management to finish preparations for and teach in Singapore from December 10-24. And I have a 90 minute presentation on Data Warehousing to deliver at the SCT Summit (International Banner User's Conference) in March next year, that is due by December 30. My IDP is very close to finished. This is all great Leadership stuff, but January is going to be a lot better for me than December when it comes to extra reading and writing for EDUC632. I *will* participate, but not to the extent that I will want to during December.

Regards
David

Question 1

The subtitle of the book is "The Bell Curve Crisis."
1. What is that crisis?
2. How did it come about?
3. What makes Vance County, N. Carolina, an example of the crisis?

Date From To Subject
Friday, December 11, 1998 3:30 PM James Tucker EDUC632 Foundations; lead98 Question #1.
Sunday, December 20, 1998 8:48 AM David Heise leadsem RE: Question #1.
Sunday, December 20, 1998 10:08 AM James Tucker David Heise; leadsem Question #1.

Sunday, December 20, 1998 10:30 AM

James Tucker David Heise; leadsem RE: EDUC 632 Question #1., Part 2
Sunday, December 20, 1998 7:47 PM David Heise James Tucker RE: Question #1.
Monday, December 21, 1998 12:50 AM Joseph Follette David Heise; James Tucker; leadsem Re: Question #1.
Thursday, December 24, 1998 9:38 PM David Heise Nate Higgs; Ted Brown; James Tucker; leadall RE: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"
Monday, December 28, 1998 9:30 AM Beverly Cobb David Heise Re: RE: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"
Monday, December 28, 1998 5:24 PM Nate Higgs  David Heise; Ted Brown; James Tucker;  leadall Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"
Wednesday, December 30, 1998 5:46 PM David Heise Nate Higgs; leadall Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"
Saturday, January 02, 1999 8:19 PM Shirley Freed David Heise; Nate Higgs; leadall Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"
Sunday, January 03, 1999 6:35 PM David Heise James Tucker; Rose Gamblin; leadsem Re: Poisoned Apple assignment #1
Sunday, January 03, 1999 6:56 PM James Tucker David Heise; Rose Gamblin; leadsem Re: Poisoned Apple assignment #1
Monday, January 04, 1999 9:01 PM Rose Gamblin David Heise Re: Poisoned Apple assignment #1
Tuesday, January 05, 1999 10:13 PM David Heise James Tucker RE: Group 1 report
Tuesday, January 05, 1999 10:34 PM James Tucker David Heise RE: Group 1 report

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Friday, December 11, 1998 3:30 PM
To: EDUC632 Foundations; lead98@andrews.edu
Subject: 

A large thank you to the 30 of you that have checked in and let me know that you have the Poisoned Apple and are ready to eat of it. I will have to assume that the remaining 7 of you also are ready to move on.

And with that, here is the question that we will address first, relative to this book and what it sets forth:

The subtitle of the book is "The Bell Curve Crisis."
1. What is that crisis?
2. How did it come about?
3. What makes Vance County, N. Carolina, an example of the crisis?

I expect to hear from everyone in some substantive way. Let me hear YOUR thoughts based on what you read.

I intend to have concluded discussion of this set of questions by December 21--the winter solstice--allegedly the year's darkest day.

Talk to me.

Jim

From: David Heise [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Sunday, December 20, 1998 8:48 AM
To: James Tucker; leadsem
Subject: RE: Question #1.

"The Bell Curve Crisis"
Betty Wallace

----------------------------------------------------------
1. What is the "Bell Curve Crisis"?
----------------------------------------------------------

Students *do* have different learning capacities, and they probably do fit into a normal distribution if statistically significant populations are measured. That certainly creates a challenge for teaching, but it is only one of the ways in which humans differ from one another. The emotion loaded label "bell curve crisis" cannot be describing this natural phenomenon. (I include learning speed as well as complexity of concepts learned when I used the expression "learning capacity". Having no training in education, this could all be phooey. And I know that it would be an oversimplification to say that academic performance is an entirely natural phenomenon, because of the influence of will and effort and motivation, etc.)

But what is the bell curve crisis? The sub-subtitle of the book is "How our schools create mediocrity and failure".

What I want to know is, are we talking about teaching or grading when we talk about the bell curve? In terms grading, should not students be given the grade they earned, whatever it does to the distribution? But when it comes to teaching, then teaching to the apex of the bell curve means ignoring the special needs of both tails of the curve, which is definitely a bad thing.

On page 18, Wallace says, "instruction and expectation are geared to students performing at average levels, which tend to be mediocre." However, I believe that there is some semantic confusion over the word average. There is nothing wrong with being average in a class that has a mean of 95%. The word "average" has two meanings in English. It is often used as a synonym for the word "mean" in a normal distribution, and it also has the connotation of okay, mediocre, not good and not bad. The bell curve, as a natural phenomenon, says nothing about good, bad or mediocre. Students performing "below average" in a given class could *all* be performing at an excellent level. This "bell curve crisis" comes from the crazy notion that "we have a system in which 50 percent of the kids experience failure" (Walter Hathaway, page 27). This is not an attribute of bell curves, but of making comparisons amongst students.

Confusing average with mean is not helpful in trying to find the cause of mediocrity. I think the bell curve is being made the scapegoat here. Wallace refers to "educators using norms in a prescriptive rather than a descriptive way" on page 37. This suggests to me that misuse of the bell curve is the villain, not the bell curve itself.

I think that mediocrity is caused by lowering standards to avoid having to give students Fs (page 42). Giving higher grades than what are deserved or earned creates mediocrity. The tendency to do this is the "crisis".

----------------------------------------------------------
2. How did it come about?
----------------------------------------------------------

The crisis that I see is lowering standards, giving higher grades when they are not earned. This is being done to compensate for the lower standards being achieved in schools today. Why are standards lower? I don't know. Today's children face all manner of enticing distractions that did not exist a generation ago. Parents of today's children are far more permissive. Teaching methods that worked well for centuries will come up short with today's children.

Actually, while I seem to be arguing against everything Wallace is saying, I do in fact think she makes many good points, for example:

. using grades to make comparison amongst students
. the effect of blandly written textbooks
. the misuse of normalized tests, and the way in which questions are chosen

----------------------------------------------------------
3. What makes Vance County, N. Carolina, an example of the crisis?
----------------------------------------------------------

Wallace was a missionary, and there is a chance that what happened in Vance County might have happened wherever she took her zeal for change.

However, Vance County was a pretty mean and nasty place, with political grandstanding, sexual harassment, racism, cultural and economic conflicts, and being one of the 10 worst counties in the state for children on a range of measures. I think all of this disqualifies it from being a representative example of this "crisis".

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Sunday, December 20, 1998 10:08 AM
To: David Heise
Cc: leadsem
Subject: RE: Question #1.

David, my comments follow your points below:

Jim

On Sun, 20 Dec 1998, you wrote:

> Students *do* have different learning capacities, and they probably do fit
> into a normal distribution if statistically significant populations are
> measured. That certainly creates a challenge for teaching, but it is only
> one of the ways in which humans differ from one another. The emotion loaded
> label "bell curve crisis" cannot be describing this natural phenomenon.

I like your term "learning capacity." It DOES reflect the real differences in learning ability between individuals. And you are quite right that the "bell curve crisis" is not addressing those real differences. See my response to Midge earlier today.

> (I include learning speed as well as complexity of concepts learned
> when I used the expression "learning capacity". Having no training in
> education, this could all be phooey. And I know that it would be an
> oversimplification to say that academic performance is an entirely
> natural phenomenon, because of the influence of will and effort and
> motivation, etc.)

Actually, your comments are quite insightful--not phooey at all. Learning speed is part of the natural innate ability, but it can be at least measurably altered by some environmental conditions.

> What I want to know is, are we talking about teaching or grading when we
> talk about the bell curve? In terms grading, should not students be given
> the grade they earned, whatever it does to the distribution? But when it
> comes to teaching, then teaching to the apex of the bell curve means
> ignoring the special needs of both tails of the curve, which is definitely a
> bad thing.

Here again, I would refer to my earlier comments to Midge's question about physicians and dentists. the problems with grading are complex, and cannot be dismissed so easily as "giving students what they earned." The reason for this is that no one has standardized what "earned" means. One teacher may give credit for attendance; another teacher, teaching the same subject, may give credit for memorizing facts; still another teacher may believe that it is more important to be able to apply the principles involved. Each teacher will focus differently and grade differently. So what is earned? And how can what is earned by used to indicate real differences between students?

> On page 18, Wallace says, "instruction and expectation are geared to
> students performing at average levels, which tend to be mediocre."
> However, I believe that there is some semantic confusion over the word
> average. There is nothing wrong with being average in a class that has a
> mean of 95%. The word "average" has two meanings in English. It is often
> used as a synonym for the word "mean" in a normal distribution, and it also
> has the connotation of okay, mediocre, not good and not bad. The bell
> curve, as a natural phenomenon, says nothing about good, bad or mediocre.
> Students performing "below average" in a given class could *all* be
> performing at an excellent level. This "bell curve crisis" comes from the
> crazy notion that "we have a system in which 50 percent of the kids
> experience failure" (Walter Hathaway, page 27). This is not an attribute of
> bell curves, but of making comparisons amongst students.

You are absolutely right, and it would be more helpful in any of these discussions to differentiate between the statistical term (mean) and the sociological term (normal). The bell-curve is also called the "normal" curve. I am going to follow this response with a separate transmission about the concept of normal as I see it from a sociological perspective.

> Confusing average with mean is not helpful in trying to find the cause of
> mediocrity. I think the bell curve is being made the scapegoat here.
> Wallace refers to "educators using norms in a prescriptive rather than a
> descriptive way" on page 37. This suggests to me that misuse of the bell
> curve is the villain, not the bell curve itself.

You are right again, but we do have to accept the fact that the term is used in this way and that it has had the indicated effects. The fact that the bell curve may have been made the scapegoat, doesn't make its use in the offensive manner any less egregious.

> I think that mediocrity is caused by lowering standards to avoid having to
> give students Fs (page 42). Giving higher grades than what are deserved or
> earned creates mediocrity. The tendency to do this is the "crisis".

OK. But why do we have to give grades at all. Since the grades are not meaningful except to set up arbitrary and capricious comparisons, why not use something that is tied directly to the standards to which we aspire?

I am going to respond to the rest of your thoughtful analysis in another message.

Jim

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Sunday, December 20, 1998 10:30 AM
To: David Heise
Cc: leadsem
Subject: RE: EDUC 632 Question #1., Part 2

David and all, these are my comments relating to the rest of your response to Question #1:

On Sun, 20 Dec 1998, you wrote:

> ----------------------------------------------------------
> 2. How did it come about?
> ----------------------------------------------------------
>
> The crisis that I see is lowering standards, giving higher grades when they
> are not earned. This is being done to compensate for the lower standards
> being achieved in schools today. Why are standards lower? I don't know.
> Today's children face all manner of enticing distractions that did not exist
> a generation ago. Parents of today's children are far more permissive.
> Teaching methods that worked well for centuries will come up short with
> today's children.

Could it be, David, that we have replaced REAL standards with fake ones that are meaningless, and therefore can be manipulated for socio-political benefit. Grades DO NOT reflect standards. I don't know if they ever did, but they certainly don't today. And if the public assumes that they do, then it is very easy to see why there would be pressure on the educational establishment for grade inflation and then the resulting assumption that the standards are being lowered. It has nothing to do with standards. It has to do with our having replaced standards with meaningless criteria.

> Actually, while I seem to be arguing against everything Wallace is saying, I
> do in fact think she makes many good points, for example:

I don't think you are arguing against Wallace at all. You may misunderstand the application of her central point, but your view of reality is equally valid in my opinion.

> ----------------------------------------------------------
> 3. What makes Vance County, N. Carolina, an example of the crisis?
> ----------------------------------------------------------
>
> Wallace was a missionary, and there is a chance that what happened in Vance
> County might have happened wherever she took her zeal for change.
>
> However, Vance County was a pretty mean and nasty place, with political
> grandstanding, sexual harassment, racism, cultural and economic conflicts,
> and being one of the 10 worst counties in the state for children on a range
> of measures. I think all of this disqualifies it from being a
> representative example of this "crisis".

So you don't think Vance County is a "normal" place at all. I wonder whether others in our group share that perception.

This is turning into the kind of discussion that I hoped that it would, and I appreciate your perspectives very much.. This book never fails to bring us into difficult waters. I like that.

Jim

From: David Heise [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Sunday, December 20, 1998 7:47 PM
To: James Tucker
Subject: RE: Question #1.

Hello Jim,

I am sitting here in a very small hotel room in Singapore as I write this.

Thank you for your very kind and helpful comments. I started my response about a week ago, by writing 3 or 4 one-line points into a draft email message. I chose to make comments that I felt may be out of line with the comments of many others, at least partly just to be different. I have had a busy first week in Singapore, and more I read other students responses, the more I feared that someone might steal my thunder if I did not finish my response soon. In fact, the thrust of some of the things Tom and Midge were saying came very close.

One of the points in my draft was about two meanings of word normal - one used to describe a frequently occurring statistical distribution, and another used to mean not abnormal. But I took that out because my response it was too long already.

Anyhow, I truly want to thank you for the value of your comments and making this more than just a fun discussion but a learning experience. I especially appreciated your lifting the scales off my eyes about some of the deeper issues in grading.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: James Tucker [mailto:tuckerj@andrews.edu]
> Sent: Sunday, December 20, 1998 11:08 PM

Regards
David

From: Joseph L. Follette, Jr. [jfollette@oakwood.edu]
Sent: Monday, December 21, 1998 12:50 AM
To: dheise@andrews.edu
Cc: James Tucker; leadsem
Subject: Re: Question #1.

David you raise some interesting points.

>Students *do* have different learning capacities, and they probably do fit
>into a normal distribution if statistically significant populations are
>measured.

What would this normal distribution be based upon? What would be your independent variables used to group these students tested? The problem is the grouping. When you go to statistically compare what people "know", what are your assumptions about the variables that link these groups together. Could there be inherent fault in the methods of grouping that leads to a bell-curve normal distribution? I believe this is what this is all about.

>In terms grading, should not students be given
>the grade they earned, whatever it does to the distribution?

Once again, is the grade based upon what a student that *age* *race* *county* *country* should know or have learned from that teacher or textbook?

>Confusing average with mean is not helpful in trying to find the cause of
>mediocrity. I think the bell curve is being made the scapegoat here.

I agree!! Is the bell-curve the culprit?

David Heise wrote:

> "The Bell Curve Crisis"
> Betty Wallace
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> 1. What is the "Bell Curve Crisis"?
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> ...

--
Joe

JFollette@oakwood.edu

"The world does not so much need men of great intellect as of noble character. It needs men in whom ability is controlled by steadfast principle." Education p. 225

From: David Heise [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Thursday, December 24, 1998 9:38 PM
To: natehiggs; Tbrownq45@AOL.COM; tuckerj@andrews.edu
Cc: leadall@andrews.edu
Subject: RE: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"

Nate,

The bell curve is a mathematical model for certain classes of observable facts. It is not a theory that you choose to subscribe to or not. But it's the application of the bell curve to the classroom, and particularly to how teaching is done, that is the problem. Calling this "The Bell Curve Crisis" is emotive, and masks the real issue. Blaming it all on the bell curve is tossing out the baby with the bath water. Grading on the bell curve is very different from teaching to the "average" student and ignoring those "above" or "below".

But certainly there is room for variation when grading this way. The standard deviation or variance is a measure of that variation (in a statistically significant population). The difficulty with regard to grading is in finding an answer to the question, "what are we measuring when we assign a grade". What do we imply that grade to mean, and how do we use it?

David

> -----Original Message-----
> From: natehiggs [mailto:natehiggs@cwix.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 23, 1998 1:27 AM
> To: Tbrownq45@AOL.COM; tuckerj@andrews.edu
> Cc: leadall@andrews.edu
> Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"
>
>
> Ted,
> Subscribing to the theory of the bell curve is like believing in
> pre-destination. There is no room for unconformed variation or
> non-conventional tolerance. Nate
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tbrownq45@aol.com <Tbrownq45@aol.com>
> To: tuckerj@andrews.edu <tuckerj@andrews.edu>
> Cc: leadall@andrews.edu <leadall@andrews.edu>
> Date: Sunday, December 20, 1998 9:07 PM
> Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"

From: Beverly Cobb [Beverly_Cobb@ketthealth.com]
Sent: Monday, December 28, 1998 9:30 AM
To: dheise@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: RE: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"

Great response. Very thoughtful and provocative. Thanks.

>>> "David Heise" <dheise@andrews.edu> 12/24 9:37 PM >>>
>Nate,
>
>The bell curve is a mathematical model for certain classes of observable facts.
>It is not a theory that you choose to subscribe to or not. But it's the
>application of the bell curve to the classroom, and particularly to how teaching
>is done, that is the problem. Calling this "The Bell Curve Crisis" is emotive,
>and masks the real issue. Blaming it all on the bell curve is tossing out the
>baby with the bath water. Grading on the bell curve is very different from
>teaching to the "average" student and ignoring those "above" or "below"....

From: natehiggs [natehiggs@cwix.com]
Sent: Monday, December 28, 1998 5:24 PM
To: dheise@andrews.edu; Tbrownq45@AOL.COM; tuckerj@andrews.edu
Cc: leadall@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"

David,
I understand the concepts of the bell curve and it mathematical contingencies. The concept of the bell curve is that a certain percentage of a given number will fall within the categories of the curve. The mean of the curve is called average and encompasses the largest category. Therefore, when we grade on the curve or use the curve to evaluate your own teaching performance, we grade and teach on mediocrity. Why not have a standard to have all strive to achieve the highest rather than the mean. There are other faults with the curve that can be addressed later. I once agreed with you. But experience has taught me to differ with it. Nate

-----Original Message-----
>From: David Heise <dheise@andrews.edu>
>To: natehiggs <natehiggs@cwix.com>; Tbrownq45@AOL.COM <Tbrownq45@AOL.COM>;
>tuckerj@andrews.edu <tuckerj@andrews.edu>
>Cc: leadall@andrews.edu <leadall@andrews.edu>
>Date: Friday, December 25, 1998 2:36 AM
>Subject: RE: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"
>
>>Nate,
>>
>>The bell curve is a mathematical model for certain classes of observable
>>facts. It is not a theory that you choose to subscribe to or not. But it's
>>the application of the bell curve to the classroom, and particularly to how
>>teaching is done, that is the problem. Calling this "The Bell Curve Crisis"
>>is emotive, and masks the real issue. Blaming it all on the bell curve is
>>tossing out the baby with the bath water. Grading on the bell curve is very
>>different from teaching to the "average" student and ignoring those "above"
>>or "below"....

From: David Heise [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, December 30, 1998 5:46 PM
To: natehiggs
Cc: leadall@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"

On Mon, 28 Dec 1998, you wrote:
The statistical mean of a normal distribution is not a statement about mediocrity. The bell curve does not imply anything at all about aiming for a low mean, a mediocre mean, or the highest mean.

The bell curve is defined by two attributes, one is the mean, and the other is the variance or standard variation. Accommodating variability is one of the twenty competencies. Variations in ability do exist, whether we believe in the bell curve or not, and this is acknowledged in competency 1b. Now, I believe 100% that it is wrong to teach with the objective of achieving results that fit a bell curve. Accommodating variability means adapting teaching styles so that all may achieve their best.

David

> David,
> I understand the concepts of the bell curve and it mathematical
> contingencies. The concept of the bell curve is that a certain percentage
> of a given number will fall within the categories of the curve. The mean of
> the curve is called average and encompasses the largest category.
> Therefore, when we grade on the curve or use the curve to evaluate your own
> teaching performance, we grade and teach on mediocrity. Why not have a
> standard to have all strive to achieve the highest rather than the mean.
> There are other faults with the curve that can be addressed later. I once
> agreed with you. But experience has taught me to differ with it. Nate

From: Shirley Freed [freed@andrews.edu]
Sent: Saturday, January 02, 1999 8:19 PM
To: David Heise
Cc: natehiggs; leadall@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple "The Bell Curve Crisis"

I need to share some personal stories around the bell curve and mediocrity!! A long time ago I was attending the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada - working on some certification requirements for that province. One of the courses I was taking was a Secondary Math Methods class - I loved the class and was finding lots of opportunity to apply the principles as I tutored two females in grade nine who were totally flunking! One day the prof came to me and said, "I hate to see you working so hard -- you need to know that if I give you an "A" in this class I'll have to give someone a "D" - now you wouldn't want that to happen would you?" The years have passed - today I'd like to believe that I loved the learning so much that I kept working hard -- but I have an unsetttling feeling that that didn't happen -- my hunch is that a high level of mediocrity settled in!!

#2 incident - our kids were in high school and getting PSAT and SAT testing done - they would come bragging about being in the 90+ percentile - we kept saying to them - this doesn't mean anything - you're being compared to a bunch of other kids - how do you know you're not all achieving below what you could and should be doing? They didn't care! They knew they didn't have to study hard and ended up causing some rather severe trouble for themselves and others! I remember one teacher in particular complaining because one child (we have three so let's try to keep some anonymity here :>:>:>) sat in the back of his algebra class reading a calculus book!! And that was an irritation!!

One child just graduated from medical school - if you have ever seen students obsessed over grades - it's in medical school - and if you've never seen the results of the bell curve - sabotage and severe competition - you might still believe this is a wonderful way to sort out the incompetents - in reality - the tests have to be made to cover small inconsequential bits of data - to do the separating - in the mean time - are the attitudes engendered worthy of a profession supposedly built on a caring ethic?

All the best in 1999 - wow are we ever having a great winter storm!!
shirley

On Wed, 30 Dec 1998, David Heise wrote:

> On Mon, 28 Dec 1998, you wrote:
> The statistical mean of a normal distribution is not a statement about
> mediocrity. The bell curve does not imply anything at all about
> aiming for a low mean, a mediocre mean, or the highest mean.
>
> The bell curve is defined by two attributes, one is the mean, and the other
> is the variance or standard variation. Accommodating variability is
> one of the twenty compentencies. Variations in ability do exist, whether
> we believe in the bell curve or not, and this is acknowledged in
> competency 1b. Now, I believe 100% that it is wrong to teach with the
> objective of achieving results that fit a bell curve. Accomodating
> variability means adapting teaching styles so that all may achieve their
> best.
>
> David

From: David Heise [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Sunday, January 03, 1999 6:35 PM
To: James Tucker
Cc: MRGamblin2@aol.com; leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple assignment #1

I think I know why I seem to have a disagreement with this book, and with what many of my classmates are writing about it. I think I am getting hung up on semantics.

Variations do exist between students, and that is one of the challenges of teaching, but it is not the "crisis". However, failing to acknowledge those differences by appropriately adapting teaching methods is certainly a problem. Rose says "the Bell Curve is a measure of that phenomenon [the assembly line approach]." I agree that an assembly line approach is wrong, but I understand bell curve to mean nothing more than variation around a mean.

Now, here is where I have a problem with semantics. "Bell Curve" means something different to me from what it must mean to most others. I realize that I agree entirely with what others are saying about the Bell Curve Syndrome, but not with the use of that label. Digging under the label, and with insight from Shirley's couple of stories, I think the problem being labelled "Bell Curve" is even bigger than Wallace's representation, and I think that the word "comparison" captures the essential meaning better than "bell curve". I think that it is wrong to measure a student's grasp of certain material with a score of how many other students he/she is better than. I think it is wrong for students to feel satisfied with their mastery of the material if they score better than 90% of their class.

But hey! Labelling this the Bell Curve Crisis is not helpful. We are dealing with something that is fundamental to human nature here. We all get some comfort, when we are reminded of some weakness or failing, when we can point to someone else who is worse than we are. We all compare ourselves with others. We build little rankings or pecking orders in our minds. Merely changing from a Bell Curve to some other distribution would not solve the problem at all. You could have a linear forced ranking, a bimodal or a skewed distribution, but the crisis would be the same. Unless everyone is given an identical assessment, comparisons will be made.

Unhealthy attention is placed on the comparative aspect of number or letter grading. Solve that, and you may just have solved the "bell curve crisis".

David

On Sun, 3 Jan 1999, you wrote:

> Rose has raised some interesting points.
>
> > I am looking at this book, like a supermarket, picking the things I need from
> > its pages and leaving others, not to say I might not find the information
> > useful in the future.
>
> I like that idea. In fact, I suspect that is what we all do, but some of
> us may be a bit more compulsive about it--reading every word whether we
> need to or not.>
> >
> > WHAT IS THE BELL CURVE, AND HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?
> >
> > As we became pressed for time, overworked, and over crowded not only with
> > normal students but students with special needs, we began to form the
> > assembly line approach. The Bell Curve is a measure of that phenomena.
> >
> I like the idea, but the Bell Curve was alive and well in place long
> before we were faced with students with special needs. How would you
> apply that concept given that fact?
>
> Jim

--

David Heise

email: dheise@andrews.edu

Chief Information Officer

phone: (616) 471-6124

Andrews University

fax: (616) 471-6900

http://dheise.andrews.edu

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Sunday, January 03, 1999 6:56 PM
To: David Heise
Cc: MRGamblin2@aol.com; leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple assignment #1

BRAVO! David, you have captured the essence and the potency of what the book is all about. Thanks to a really healthy discussion of pros and cons, we can now focus on "the crisis."

It brings readily to mind a text: "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." II Corinthians 10:12

With a Biblical directive as plain as that one, how can we continue current practice?

Jim

On Sun, 3 Jan 1999, you wrote:

> I think I know why I seem to have a disagreement with this book, and with
> what many of my classmates are writing about it. I think I am getting
> hung up on semantics.
>
> Variations do exist between students, and that is
> one of the challenges of teaching, but it is not the "crisis".
> However, failing to acknowledge those differences by appropriately
> adapting teaching methods is certainly a problem. Rose says "the Bell
> Curve is a measure of that phenomenon [the assembly line approach]." I
> agree that an assembly line approach is wrong, but I understand bell
> curve to mean nothing more than variation around a mean.
>
> Now, here is where I have a problem with semantics. "Bell Curve" means
> something different to me from what it must mean to most others. I
> realize that I agree entirely with what others are saying about the Bell
> Curve Syndrome, but not with the use of that label. Digging under the
> label, and with insight from Shirley's couple of stories, I think the
> problem being labelled "Bell Curve" is even bigger than Wallace's
> representation, and I think that the word "comparison" captures the
> essential meaning better than "bell curve". I think that it is wrong to
> measure a student's grasp of certain material with a score of how many
> other students he/she is better than. I think it is wrong for students
> to feel satisfied with their mastery of the material if they score better
> than 90% of their class.
>
> But hey! Labelling this the Bell Curve Crisis is not helpful. We are
> dealing with something that is fundamental to human nature here. We all
> get some comfort, when we are reminded of some weakness or failing, when
> we can point to someone else who is worse than we are. We all compare
> ourselves with others. We build little rankings or pecking orders in our
> minds. Merely changing from a Bell Curve to some other distribution
> would not solve the problem at all. You could have a linear forced
> ranking, a bimodal or a skewed distribution, but the crisis would be the
> same. Unless everyone is given an identical assessment, comparisons will
> be made.
>
> Unhealthy attention is placed on the comparative aspect of number or
> letter grading. Solve that, and you may just have solved the "bell curve
> crisis".
>
> David

From: MRGamblin2@aol.com
Sent: Monday, January 04, 1999 9:01 PM
To: dheise@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Poisoned Apple assignment #1

Dear David,

You're a genius.

Rose

From: David [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, January 05, 1999 10:13 PM
To: James Tucker
Subject: RE: Group 1 report

Hello Jim,

My email is in a hazardous state, and has been since the network slot in my laptop died before I went to Singapore (I borrowed a machine for that trip). I am working on a replacement for my office machine, and in the meantime, I have transferred email to my home machine.

QUESTION: I saw Assignment 1 on Poisoned Apple, and responded to it. HAVE THERE BEEN ANY FURTHER ASSIGNMENTS OR QUESTIONS SINCE THEN? If there were, I must have missed them. I downloaded 140-150 messages to my home computer last night, and there have been Group Reports on Learning Theory, addressed to leadall. The message I am replying to here is referred to as "the report for assignment 3 [ch2] from group one", addressed to leadsem. But I don't seem to have any email from you with instructions to EDUC632 Issues in Educ Foundations students.

Have I missed any further assignments, and would you email them to me again if I have?

Thanks
David

> -----Original Message-----
> From: James Tucker [mailto:tuckerj@andrews.edu]
> Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 1998 9:22 PM
> To: leadsem@andrews.edu
> Subject: Re: Group 1 report
>
> I am simply circulating the Group 1 report, because I don't have evidence
> that it went to everyone. I will respond to specific points in the next
> message.
>
> On Mon, 21 Dec 1998, you wrote:
>
> > Here is the report for assignment 3 [ch2] from group one. We trust that
> > you will get a well deserved rest from the email trail. Garry
> >
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Overview:
> >
> > -Behavior is guided by consequences
> > -Behavior can be understood [observed] in terms of

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, January 05, 1999 10:34 PM
To: David
Subject: RE: Group 1 report

David, you are NOT seeing things. There have been no assignments beyond #1, but there have been a number of transmissions from folks in the "learning theory" course that have been sent to the whole list, and in that course, we are on assignment #4, so worry not. Assignment #2 is coming up this week, but not yet.

I am typing this on my NEW Mac PowerBook G3, which I received TODAY. Wow will my life change now. I am sorry that you have had laptop problems.

Jim

Question 2

What, if anything, did Dr. Wallace do wrong in her attempts to change the system in Vance Co. N.C.?

Date From To Subject
Thursday, January 07, 1999 11:25 PM James Tucker leadsem Last question for the Poisoned Apple discussion
Saturday, January 23, 1999 10:38 PM David Heise James Tucker; leadsem RE: Last question for the Poisoned Apple discussion
Monday, January 25, 1999 2:27 AM Joseph Follette David Heise; James Tucker; leadsem Last question for the Poisoned Apple discussion
Monday, January 25, 1999 5:31 PM James Tucker David Heise; leadsem RE: Last question for the Poisoned Apple discussion

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Thursday, January 07, 1999 11:25 PM
To: leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: 

OK, it's time to wind up our discussion on the Poisoned Apple. I have one more question for our thoughtful consideration, and then I turn you over to Shirley Freed for the remaining portion of the course: EDUC632.

The final question has to do with the whole process of change that was attempted by Dr. Wallace in Vance Co., N.C.

Question: What, if anything, did Dr. Wallace do wrong in her attempts to change the system in Vance Co. N.C.? While you are answering the questing, feel free to give Dr. Wallace credit for all the things that she did right. But what I am interested in here, from each of your perspectives, is now that we know the story AFTER THE FACT, what should Dr. Wallace have done differently, in your opinion.

I expect to hear from everyone on this, but please don't feel like you have to produce a dissertation on the subject. Just consider what happened from a "change" perspective and respond to the question.

The deadline for these responses to be in and for the discussion to move to Shirley's agenda will be January 22--two weeks from tomorrow.

Jim

From: David Heise [dheise@andrews.edu]
Sent: Saturday, January 23, 1999 10:38 PM
To: James Tucker; leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: RE: Last question for the Poisoned Apple discussion

I apologize for the lateness of this response. But just this past Friday, I began the 6th machine setup I have had to do since early December, when I lost modem and network capability on my laptop. The sequence of machines (temporary loans) went like this: my Sager, Scott's Sager, Brad's Sager, my Sager, Dan's Dell, Dan's Sager and now my (hopefully) reliable Dell.

QUESTION: What, if anything, did Dr. Wallace do wrong in her attempts to change the system in Vance Co. N.C.?

A cursory reading of the chronology suggests that her biggest mistake was to pull out when success was within grasp.

"August 23, 1993--Vance County school system has smoothest and most enthusiastic opening in years as teachers grow comfortable with change and reform. The district seems to be finding its stride.

"August 31, 1993--Wallace resigns..."

Of course, the situation was vastly more complex than this simplistic view suggests.

However, even with the benefit of hindsight, this question remains a difficult one. How about if we try to imagine ourselves as Dr. Wallace reviewing this period of her life. What might *she* have done differently if she knew ahead what she afterwards learned?

Firstly, she might have decided never to make the attempt!

But certainly, she would have wanted to do more homework and make better preparations in several areas. For instance, Vance County was riddled with racial, cultural and economic conflicts and had all sorts of juvenile problems. Solving all these needed a multi-pronged attack. To attempt to bring about the necessary changes through teaching reform alone never had a high probability of success. Nevertheless, the record shows that positive changes were achieved, and that her reforms were beginning to be successful. The failure cannot be attributed to her work in the classroom, but to opposing political, personal and racial forces.

That being the case, there are two things Wallace might have done differently:
1. Be better prepared to deal with those opposing forces, or
2. Take the program where the strength of opposition would be less forceful.

David

From: Joseph L. Follette, Jr. [jfollette@oakwood.edu]
Sent: Monday, January 25, 1999 2:27 AM
To: David Heise
Cc: James Tucker; leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: Re: Last question for the Poisoned Apple discussion

David what about this hypothetical reason why Wallace resigned? As the political arena had heated up some enemy had found some dirt in Wallace's history or present that revealed would threaten Wallace's authority as the expert and her image as change agent. Thus she resigned to save face. Wouldn't this contrived unwritten side of the story be a more reasonable reason for quitting just before the tree fell?

David Heise wrote:

> ...
> That being the case, there are two things Wallace might have done
> differently:
> 1. Be better prepared to deal with those opposing forces, or
> 2. Take the program where the strength of opposition would be less forceful.
>
> David

--
Joe

JFollette@oakwood.edu

"The world does not so much need men of great intellect as of noble character. It needs men in whom ability is controlled by steadfast principle." Education p. 225

From: James Tucker [tuckerj@andrews.edu]
Sent: Monday, January 25, 1999 5:31 PM
To: David Heise
Cc: leadsem@andrews.edu
Subject: RE: Last question for the Poisoned Apple discussion

David, I have learned to expect the cut-to-the-chase response, and this one is just that. How about this for the headline: WALLACE SNATCHES FAILURE FROM THE JAWS OF SUCCESS.

Your follow-up points were most appropriate as well.

JIM

On Sat, 23 Jan 1999, you wrote:

> ...
> That being the case, there are two things Wallace might have done
> differently:
> 1. Be better prepared to deal with those opposing forces, or
> 2. Take the program where the strength of opposition would be less forceful.
>
> David

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