Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lake Wobegon in Palo Alto: Stanford Switches to Honors/Pass Grading System

From an email sent today by Stanford Dean Larry Kramer (via Above the Law):

Yesterday afternoon, the faculty voted to adopt a grade reform proposal which will change our grading system to an honors, pass, restricted credit, no credit system for all semesters/quarters. The new system includes a shared norm for the proportion of honors to be awarded in both exam and paper courses. No grading system is perfect, but the consensus is that the reform will have significant pedagogical benefits, including that it encourages greater flexibility and innovation in the classroom and in designing metrics for evaluating student work.

David Lat writes:

[T]his may be a case of "be careful for what you wish for, you might just get it." The disadvantage of what we'd call an "under-articulated" grading system, like the one used by our alma mater, is that there are fewer opportunities to distinguish yourself academically. If you're a Rhodes Scholar, this "reform" is great; a barebones grading system allows you to "lock in" your pre-law-school record (and land a Supreme Court clerkship with relative ease). But if you're not a Rhodes Scholar, think hard about whether this is actually a good thing.

Another possible downside: an Honors-Pass grading system may dilute the academic environment. To be sure, some people are hyper-competitive tools in law school (we were). But grades do cause people to bring their "A game" (pun intended) to exams, papers, class discussion, and academic endeavors generally. If Stanford law students can land solid law-firm jobs with P-filled transcripts -- and we have every confidence that they can, since Yalies already do -- will they bother doing any work? Especially living in northern California, which has much nicer weather than New Haven?

Law School | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Lake Wobegon in Palo Alto: Stanford Switches to Honors/Pass Grading System: