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February 19, 2010

Well, here is a new twist: the world of sports is now emulating education policy.  Last night, U.S. figure skater, Evan Lysacek, won the gold medal in an upset over the heavily favored Russian skater, Evgeni Plushenko.  Despite having a much higher level of difficulty in his performance, Plushenko didn’t perform his moves perfectly.  In his routine, Lysacek executed lower level skills more perfectly than Plusenko. You can read the story here.

Hmmm, sound familiar to anyone?  Ah, yes, weighted grades.  In Ohio, accelerated students who push themselves to take Advanced Placement courses or courses at universities through the Post Secondary Enrollment Options program, often find themselves short changed in class rankings.  Many districts do not weight Advanced Placement credit and very few districts will weight university courses, even when the content is at a graduate level. Students taking lower level classes are essentially rewarded with higher grades for easier work.  Students who challenge themselves are often knocked out of awards, valedictorian races and, most importantly, scholarship opportunities for the crime of doing more challenging work rather than playing the GPA game.

Advocates for high ability students often compare academics to athletics.  They argue that in sports, highly able students are rewarded with accelerated opportunities and scholarships whereas in academics, students are often rewarded for doing less.  Is the world of sports now taking a cue from education?  Is “playing it safe” a new trend to be rewarded on the playing fields (or ice)?  I sincerely doubt it.  But as a mom who has personally experienced the sting of encouraging her kids to go for it academically knowing they would ultimately be punished by their schools, I can’t help but smile just a teensy bit at the irony of this ice skating “controversy.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lainie Levin permalink
    February 19, 2010 7:51 pm

    Bravo to you! Enjoyed the post, and I couldn’t agree more.

  2. Mary Collier permalink
    February 21, 2010 3:25 am

    Large institutions, whether sports or academics, tend to adapt to serve the needs of those who run the show, have the power, and want to maintain status quo. I suppose having this system makes it easier for the ice skating judges and allows them more control or power. These types of institutional situations were also discussed in my masters program in systems management. It is characteristic of long-existing institutions to become stale, senile, and dysfunctional. Ice skating competitions are not just about ice skating, they are also about making life easy or powerful for ice skating judges and other parties in the ice skating business. The ice skating judging system has been a source of controversy for quite a few years. The Olympics movement seems to be having issues, as well, in revenue sharing. The United States gets roughly 25%? of the total Olympic broadcasting revenues while the rest of the world splits what is left. The USOC also wants to maintain status quo.

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