J curve

n.
A curve representing the theoretical distribution of grades in an education system that believes most students are capable of doing well in school (cf. bell curve).
Example Citation:
Interested? Sorry, you'll have to join the waiting list. There are 3,500 kids on it. ... Why is this place so hot? I asked the principal, Henry Zondervon, who is an enthusiastic dynamo in his early 40s.
'We don't believe in the bell curve,' he told me. 'We believe in the J-curve. Seventy-five or 80 per cent of our students should be able to get an A grade.'
— Margaret Wente, "The school with Canada's longest waiting list," The Globe and Mail, May 29, 2001
Earliest Citation:
The principal said the old view of the bell curve and testing 'to sort people out' is becoming less important. Educators now lean toward a 'J' curve philosophy that strives to move all students to the high end of the curve, based on the belief that all children can learn.
— Sharon Henson Pope, "District Uses Test Scores to Help Shape Curriculum, Principal Says," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 1994
Notes:
In education, the classic bell curve represents the distribution of grades that occurs given a relatively large sample of students: a small proportion will get very low and very high marks and most students will get average marks. A J curve (or J-curve) distribution implies that most students can occupy the rising part of the "J," which means most students can get above-average marks. This theory seems to have come about based on research presented at various "Outcome-Based Education" conferences in the mid-90s. (The forerunner is "mastery learning theory," which hails from the 1970s.)
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