Home Asides The grades remain the same

The grades remain the same

by Benjamin Kabak

Late yesterday, New York City Transit announced that the A train had received a C-, again, on its rider report card. Today, CityRoom explores how the grades have stayed constant in the second round of report cards. Interestingly, the MTA received nearly the same number of replies in 2008 as they did in 2007 for the A, but those results are the exception and not the norm. Now, I’ll have more on the rider report cards as some point, but I still have to question the utility of doing this exercise again. I understand Howard Roberts’ rationale; he wants to keep on top of improvement. But the subways are slow to change, and this second round just strikes me as overkill.

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9 comments

Duke87 January 21, 2009 - 7:31 pm

Problem is, there’s a normalizing effect to polling large groups on stuff like this and just taking the average. No matter how good your system is, some people will still be dissatisfied. No matter how bad it is, some people still won’t mind.

Whenever you average the results, they will tend towards the middle (In this case a C grade). So the grades aren’t as mediocre as they might appear. Any line that manages to pull down a B- is an exceptionally good one, and any line that manages to pull down a D+ is an exceptionally bad one. Any line that pulls down a C is, well, average.

Notice how, while there were no As, there were no Fs either. Because in order for the mean grade to be that high or that low, nearly everyone would have to vote on that end of the scale, which is unlikely to happen, statistically.

Do a similar poll like this on something that’s fairly popular and you still won’t be seeing too many As. Just more Bs and fewer Ds.

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Alon Levy January 21, 2009 - 7:50 pm

That’s not true. I can attest that student evaluations of teachers can cluster near A’s, when the teachers are good.

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Duke87 January 22, 2009 - 10:40 am

That’s a much smaller group, though. So the normalizing effect isn’t as great.

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Alon Levy January 22, 2009 - 2:56 pm

That’s for an individual class. I know teachers who’ve averaged something like 6.8 on a 7-point scale over hundreds of students.

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Mr. Eric January 21, 2009 - 8:34 pm

If they removed alot of the useless questions from the list the grades would be lower than c averages. Just rate the important things like on time performance, getting a seat, safety on trains and stations.

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Robert January 21, 2009 - 9:46 pm

He also wants people to feel like they’re being listened to. Even if nothing is done about what they say, it makes people feel better.

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ChickenUnderwear January 21, 2009 - 10:00 pm

It is a complete waist of money. If they really wanted feedback the MTA would put the survey on their website, or better yet put it on the screens of the vending machines.

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herenthere08 January 24, 2009 - 4:59 pm

Actually, the survey should have also been available online. But there is a reason for having paper surveys distributed at randomly-chosen stations. This allows the survey results to reflect a greater portion of the riding public, since not everyone has access to the internet. If the surveys were only posted online, they you could have biased results since the people who do have internet access may have differing opinions than the people who do not have internet access.

Oh, by the way, I just mailed my survey today hehe. oops.

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Benjamin Kabak January 24, 2009 - 5:01 pm

The surveys are available online. That’s one of the methodological problems with them in fact.

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