A dean at Illinois Valley Community College helps judge student projects for the regional history fair.

He's not happy with the performance ratings.
When the Social Studies teacher gave me the grading rubric, I saw only three categories: Superior, Excellent, and Good.

I asked the teacher what I was supposed to do if a presentation was bad or poor. She looked at me and said, with a straight face, "Good means poor." "How so?" I asked. "What kind of semantic gymnastics is that? Does that mean that superior is above average, and excellent is average?" She didn't answer the question, but said that the students worked really hard on their projects and the school didn't want any of them to feel discouraged. If they scored in the 70s, then their presentation was considered bad. "But you're telling them that it is good," I said.
The instructions clearly imply that a project earning a "good" rating is a superficial project. As long as the rankings are ordinal and applied consistently, the tail-enders will be tail-enders.

He's right, though, to suggest that the absence of a strict evaluation system might be evidence of a deeper rot.
This is why so many of our students come to us unprepared. They go through grade school and high school and are told that they are doing a superior, excellent, or very good job when in reality their academic performance is average, bad, or very bad indeed. Of course I can't blame the students. I blame the system that perpetuates this kind of fraud and the Social Studies teacher for not holding her students accountable for the quality of their work. But then, her supervisor probably assures her that she is doing a very good job.
Since participation in the history fair is, as far as I know, not mandatory, it's possible that Illinois Valley, or Northern Illinois University, the host of the regional fair as well as participant in an articulation agreement, do not see the students who don't even submit projects.

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