Tiger Woods Gets a C- in Golf

Tiger FrustratedMy district is seriously looking into standards-based grading. I have dabbled in it and see both the value and the pitfalls. Interestingly, I wrote the article below in 2002, long before SBG came into vogue and before the Common Core started flirting with Performance Tasks. While Tiger may not be the top golfer in the world anymore, it speaks directly to my hopes and concerns. I invite some push back here from the SBG gurus.

Earl Woods? Hello sir, thank you for coming to my classroom to speak with me about your son Tiger. Yes sir, I know that he appears to be doing well at home, but Mr. Woods, to be honest with you, Tiger is in danger of failing golf.

Currently his grade is a C-. I can show you the grade breakdown if you like. Certainly. As you know, there are approximately two hundred professional golfers. Each is ranked in various skill categories. Your son, Tiger, ranks as follows.

Driving Distance 2nd
Driving Accuracy 72nd
Greens in Regulation 1st
Putting Avg. 159th
Eagles 132nd
Birdies 2nd
Scoring Avg. 1st
Sand Save Avg. 4th

As you can see, Tiger does very well in most skill categories, but appears to perform poorly in two. Now, failing in two out of the eight leaves him with a score of 75%. There is a third category in which he is only slightly above average; therefore, he only gets partial credit. This diminishes his seventy-five percent to a 70%, and thus, he gets a C-.

My concern is that if Tiger were to falter in any one of these eight categories, he would surely fail golf. However, there is plenty of room for him to improve in these problem areas. He has an excellent work ethic, so I am confident that with a little more effort, Tiger will succeed. Mr. Woods, thank you for your support in this matter.

Can you imagine ever having this conversation regarding Tiger Wood’s ability as a golfer? How does the best golfer in the world get a near failing grade in golf? The answer is in the assessment.

The rankings given in the previous scenario are true. Furthermore, from this list, the All-Around Rankings of each professional golfer is determined by adding the golfer’s relative rank in each category. The lower the score, the better. Adding Tiger’s categorical rankings places him 10th in the “All-Around Rankings.”

In other words, there supposedly are  nine other golfers in the world better skilled than Tiger Woods. Being in the top five percent of all golfers in the overall skill category would certainly raise his grade in golf to at least a B, if not an A. However, he still does not rank as the top All-Around player in the world.

If we change the assessment, though, Tiger fares much better. For instance, Tiger is the richest golfer in the world. He is number on in season earnings and is the all-time career money winner. His is also number one in the World Rankings. The World Rankings are based on how well a golfer finishes in tournament play in comparison with the strength of the field. In other words, how well does the golfer compete?

Tiger Trophy

Tiger wins the most tournaments and wins the most money. In my mind, and that of many others, that makes Tiger the bets golfer n the world. Yet, I am basing my opinion on his performance as a golfer rather than his skill as a golfer. Analyzing two other golfers can show the difference between the value of skill and that of performance. Do the names Cameron Beckman or John Huston ring a bell to you? No? Me, neither, and I am an avid golf fan. The reason that you do not know these names is that these two people are average golfers in the World Rankings. (They don’t win much.)  Yet, they both outrank Tiger in the All-Around (2nd and 9th respectively). According to certain forms of assessment, Beckman and Huston are better than Tiger Woods.

Beckman Q2

We can see this scenario being played out in our classrooms. The Beckmans and Hustons get higher grades than the Tiger Woods, because too much of our assessment is based on individual skill rather than on mathematical ability. The Tigers excel in the performance assessments that we occasionally offer, but these are so out weighed by itemized tests that the All-Around Ranking (skill) wins out over the World Ranking (performance),

A more appropriate balance of skills, testing and performance assessment in our classes may send our most underachieving mathematicians to the head of the class.

6 thoughts on “Tiger Woods Gets a C- in Golf”

  1. Since most of the assessments I see in high school math classes measure how well students can follow and/or memorize procedures, in my opinion, we are already doing what you are afraid would happen in SBG. The issue is the type of assessments used, not the way we grade. Both SBG and traditional grading are poor if the assessments are poor. We have to develop assessments that insure students are thinking conceptually. If that is done then the grading, SBG or traditional is irrelevant.

  2. Chris, The thing I like about Standards Based Grading is that it gives the teacher a way to deviate from the almighty average. If a student completely understands a concept he should get an A in that concept no matter how long it took to reach that point.
    Btw, incredible website. I am transitioning from an Assistant Principal job (mostly suspending kids) back to a department head. I was an AP for 8 years and I cant believe how much the internet has helped good teaching! We were always looking for , and trying to create our own performance assessments. You have made it much easier! Thanks.

  3. Mike, Thank you and you are welcome. Do keep us posted on how our materials help you and your peeps.
    As far as the article goes, it was written originally as a critique on assessments, which is why I appreciated your original comment so much. The reason my district is moving towards SBG is that we need a way for students to make up failed classes without repeating an entire course, and the use of rubrics help keep low-end students in the game by eliminating the one-shot, 70%-chance of failing routine.

  4. Chris, On a completely different subject do you know of any websites that have performance tasks similar to the ones on your site that are specifically for Middle School (meaning pre-algebra). I can find plenty of Algebra examples.

  5. Try Yummy Math and Mathalicious. Marcy Cook and Marilyn Burns are also good, but they lean towards elementary grade levels. This coming year, you will see more Pre-Algebra from us, since my new Math Coaching duties will include Middle Schools.

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