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Friday, September 20, 2013

The Case For and Against Law School Grade Inflation

C GradeFollowing up on my previous post, Law Prof: Let's Scrap the 'Gentleman's C':

Joshua M. Silverstein (Arkansas-Little Rock), A Case for Grade Inflation in Legal Education, 47 U.S.F.L. Rev. 487 (2013):

This article contends that every American law school ought to substantially eliminate C grades by settings its good academic standing grade point average at the B- level. Grading systems that require or encourage law professors to award a significant number of C marks are flawed for two reasons. First, low grades damage students’ placement prospects. Employers frequently consider a job candidate’s absolute GPA in making hiring decisions. If a school systematically assigns inferior grades, its students are at an unfair disadvantage when competing for employment with students from institutions that award mostly A’s and B’s. Second, marks in the C range injure students psychologically. Students perceive C’s as a sign of failure. Accordingly, when they receive such grades, their stress level is exacerbated in unhealthy ways. This psychological harm is both intrinsically problematic and compromises the educational process. Substantially eliminating C grades will bring about critical improvements in both the fairness of the job market and the mental well-being of our students. These benefits outweigh any problems that might be caused or aggravated by inflated grades. C marks virtually always denote unsatisfactory work in American graduate education. Law schools are the primary exception to this convention. It is time we adopted the practice followed by the rest of the academy. 

 

75th Percentile

50th Percentile

25th Percentile

 

Undergrad

Law School

Undergrad

Law School

Undergrad

Law School

1st Tier

3.81

3.49

3.68

3.28

3.45

3.03

2d Tier

3.68

3.40

3.47

3.17

3.20

2.96

3rd Tier

3.61

3.34

3.38

3.06

3.11

2.83

4th Tier

3.45

3.20

3.17

2.91

2.88

2.66

Total

3.64

3.35

3.44

3.09

3.17

2.84

George Leef, Could Grade inflation Be Good?:

What are the consequences of adopting Silverstein’s “kinder and gentler” approach to grading?

On the plus side, a small number of students like Arnie who graduate from formerly traditional grading law schools might be able to find legal employment because their GPAs look better.  That benefit, however, would be offset by an equal number of law grads who will lose out to them. There aren’t enough law jobs for all the graduates. We have a zero-sum game here. Whatever injustice there is in the system is merely redistributed.

On the other side of the ledger, Silverstein’s approach would aggravate a problem that’s already widespread throughout our education system—giving students “good” grades to keep them happy, optimistic, and enrolled.

Grade inflation is a bad thing because it shields students from unpleasant realities. That is just as true for marginal law students as it is for academically weak and disengaged undergrads.

(Hat Tip: The Volokh Conspiracy.)

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/09/more-on-.html

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Comments

Silverstein's next piece will be about applying the "let's not keep a score" little league mentality to appellate work, who needs losers anyways?

Posted by: Eagle | Sep 20, 2013 8:12:32 AM