To put it bluntly, we did not make the top ten. I am so saddened for them and for Gretchen. They had high hopes and worked so hard to achieve this very difficult goal. I am also struggling to know what to say and to do. I know that these kids will bounce back, but for many the pain is very visible at this moment.
I also believe that the process has some flaws. As an example, yesterday I shared that there are 72 judges from various backgrounds that come together to judge this event. The potential for inter-rater reliability is not high in the absence of some opportunity for the group to view and rate a presentation followed by sharing and conversation to reach agreement on using the rubric effectively. To do it well, it would take multiple opportunities and considerable time, something that these judges would find difficult to do.
How is this a problem? Yesterday, unit six had two judges who shared that this was their first time and that the presentation was the first that they would hear at nationals. Following the presentation, one of the judges when sharing his comments said that they did a very good job, but he wouldn't know how good until he saw other presentations. I believe that they turn their ratings in following the presentation. If this is true I believe that our unit could have been unfairly judged because in new situations where we have little context, most of us would not rate the presentation at the highest level because of concern that there might be even a better presentation later.
Also, judges are aware of the "good" teams, those that constantly make the top ten. They form mental models based upon what they see and hear about them even if they have never judged the team. We know how strong these mental models can be by filtering out things that don't support what we believe and focusing our lens on those that do support our mental model. I believe that this mental process is even stronger in an environment such as this, where there isn't common understanding of what the components of the rubric look and sound like.
I need to stop because I don't want to demean this wonderful event and the opportunity that it has given our young people. They did an awesome job and we need to take pride in that and thank them for representing us so well.