October 1, 2011

A Completely Different Use For The BCS

     For the last 13 years, the BCS has been determining the top 2 teams in NCAA football.  And by most accounts, it's been doing a terrible job.  Undefeated teams get left out of the championship game while one-loss teams get in.  Sometimes it has to choose between four or five teams with the same record, which is always going to anger somebody.  It's been so bad that the formula has been changed at least twice.  The BCS has basically become the transition from total chaos to playoffs.  At some point, it will be removed from college football.

     So what is it going to do once that moment comes?  I love the BCS.  I don't want to see it wandering around without a purpose for the rest of its life while everyone tells it what a failure it was.  Luckily, I think I've found a place where it would work perfectly.  Instead of sorting out college athletics, I suggest using the BCS to sort out college academics.

     That's right.  I'd like to see GPA's get the BCS treatment.

     I remember reading an article once that said something like 90% of Harvard graduates finished with high honors.  Professors are giving out A's and B's at higher rates than ever before.  I know of a high school that has about 10 valedictorians every year.  It's getting harder and harder to tell which students are really the best.  We need something like the BCS to fix that mess.

     The formula would be based on two categories:

Grade Compared to Class:

     This would be calculated by assigning a number value to each letter or using straight percentage, and then finding the average and standard deviation of the grades.  The GCtC would be the number of standard deviations away the student is from the average.
     What does this all mean?  Well, some teachers don't give out as many A's as others.  Sometimes, a class is just harder.  So instead of using the actual grade, I would compare it to the rest of the grades given out in the class.  A B in a class full of B's, C's, and D's would be about the same as an A in a class full of A's, B's, and C's.  A C+ in the first class would be roughly equivalent to a B or B- in a class with a wide variety of grades.

Strength of Classmates:

     Sort of like Strength of Schedule in the BCS, this number would keep an A in Algebra from counting as much as an A in Calculus.  Obviously the students in Calculus are smarter, so it's harder to do well in comparison to them.  The SoC calculation would somehow adjust the GCtC to fix that.
     How would we figure out how good a certain student is?  Use their grades in core classes, which almost all the students have taken and can be compared in.  If a student has tested out of one or more of the classes, they receive a "grade" that is slightly above the top performers in that class.

     I think this would be a really cool addition to the education system.  That is, until somebody starts sabotaging other students to make themselves look better.  If that happens, I had nothing to do with this.

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