Power Curve Problems, Bell Curve Solutions

This Malcolm Gladwell New Yorker article (Homeless the Hard Way) is the second time in a week I've read about a "power-curve" distribution and I feel like I'm back in grad school. (Except I wasn't paying that much attention and so I only remember ye olde bell-shaped distribution curve.) The other time was the blogging article (below) in New York.

From what little I understand, a power curve describes things like chronic homelessness whose frequentcy doesn't occur evenly. A small subset of the homeless make repeated and long-term use of shelters, while the vast majority don't.

Why should you care? Well, because if it happens in the worlds of homelessness and the Internet, it probably happens in education, too. Are there power curves when it comes to low-performing schools, or high-performing teachers? I'm guessing there are -- and yet most education policy is applied evenly across the whole system, as if everything fit the bell curve.


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