[eDebate] 50 speaker point scale at Wake

Ross Smith smithr
Thu Nov 1 13:10:03 CDT 2007

I promised in the invitation that I would share thoughts and encourage 
discussion. That'e the purpose of this.

1) The current system is broken. No doubt. Multi-way ties are now broken 
by judge variance ( a meaningless stat no better than random number. 
People are sensing that 28.5 is too many points for a given speaker 
while 28 is too few. The standard deviation (a measure of menaingful 
differences) is now smaller than 0.5, whiich means there judeges 
"exagerate" in either direction when they assign points.

2) Going to decimals or quarter points is one alternative, but does not 
require people to rethink.

3) When grading papers for classes we are able to make a wider range of 
disinctions than only good, real good, and great (28, 28.5, 29).

4) How I suggest the 50 point scale be used.

NOT as a different digit in front -- 28.5 does NOT equate to 48.5. 

Think of grades. 90% and above is an A. 80-90 is a B. Assume you are a 
very kind professor who will give mostly A's and B's and does not want 
to buck the grade inflation trend (it is unfair to do so since it 
punishes students relative to their peers merely for having you as the 
prof., not for the quality of their work).

So, 45 points is an A-. 44 is B+. 50 is A+. 40 is B-. There are poins in 
between. 47 is a solid A. 48 a higher A. 49 is GREAT. 43 is a solid B.

We have a national tournament with a limited field, so most of the 
students will be A and B students. Somebody who, in the entire nation of 
debate is just average might "deserve" a C (35-39). Probably does not 
matter much.

I suspect there are more B students than there are A students (bell 
curves beiing what they are). You might usefully think of the A students 
as the ones that debate well enough that they are likely in the top 
third of the field.

It should be no source of shame to a student to get a B. A B+ might be 
saying you are close to getting there.

For those who like to think in other terms, maybe this will help:

49-50: Brilliant. Hard to imagine a better performance.
47-48: NDT elim worthy performance.
45-47: Powerful but not extraordinary. Workmanlike break round or early 
43-44: Good stuff, but missing what it takes to break into the top 
national level.
40-42: Decent. More than one area needs improvement.

Ross K. Smith
Director of Debate
Wake Forest University

336-251-2076 (c)
336-758-5268 (o)


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