Grade Reform, Law Schools

Harvard Law and Georgetown Law Make Grading Easier

Given the state of the legal economy, I don’t have a problem with grade inflation at top law schools. The job market is terrible enough as it is. If an extra (inflated and totally BS) third of a grade helps a student get a job right now, I think that is fine. Whatever, sometimes you have to “juke the stats,” and I understand that.

But it’s not cool when schools institute grade inflation secretly and hope nobody will notice. It’s not cool when schools try to pass off grade inflation as something other than grade inflation. Law schools have to do what they have to do, but there is no reason to pretend that everybody is stupid.

At Harvard Law School and at Georgetown University Law Center, the administrations have decided that their students need things to be a little easier. But neither law school seems willing to admit that the economy played a role in their sudden embrace of grade reform….

As many of you know, HLS recently changed from a letter grade system to a modified pass/fail system. Now the grades are High Pass/Pass/Low Pass/Fail.

Pretty sweet if you are looking to float on.

When the new grading system was implemented, however, there was a mandate that 8% of the class had to receive a “low pass.” This is Harvard, after all.

But not anymore. Multiple tipsters echoed this news:

Just learned that HLS faculty voted to dump mandatory LPs. Huge relief.

And it’s true. The HLS faculty decided they didn’t want to put up with students bitching, crying, and threatening their lives over receiving low passes, so they changed the mandatory requirement. Hey, why uphold a standard that is hard when having no standards is so much easier?

Of course, professors still have the discretion to give out low passes, but now the LP can just be reserved for students who totally blow off the class or who get into a personal grudge match with their professors. You know, the kind of student an old-school professor would have the stones to fail.

There’s not anything wrong with HLS turning into a Kumbaya-singing circle jerk of grade stroking — I just wish they had it when I was there.

And you know who really wishes this “vote” had come a little bit sooner? Every 2L who received a mandatory low pass last semester and just finished trying to interview with a rock of kryptonite hanging around his or herc neck.

Which brings us to Georegetown Law. Today, GULC announced that it too is making a fundamental change to its grading system. Here’s the pertinent part of the press release that Above the Law received from approximately 5,000,000 Georgetown 3Ls:

The Georgetown Law faculty today unanimously passed an updated grading curve for the Law Center. This curve will go into effect immediately and will affect the grades students will receive for this semester in addition to future ones. This change only impacts classes with exams (not seminars, clinics, etc.).

Over the past 20 years, LSAT scores for entering GULC students have jumped from 165 to 170, and the undergraduate GPA has risen from 3.54 to 3.68. However, the grading curve had not been adjusted to reflect the rising quality of our students since 1994. The Curriculum & Academic Standards student-faculty committee recommended these changes to the faculty based in part on the curves from other schools and also based on faculty members’ feelings about the rising level of student performance.

I love it when law schools argue that grades need to be made easier because their students have gotten better. I mean, can you imagine any other institution making the same suggestion? “Well, Commissioner Stern, the Wizards are now so good that I believe we should get four points for every basket. We are so good that getting extra points is really the only way we can fairly compete against the Lakers and the Celtics.”

While 1Ls and 2Ls seem elated by the change, 3Ls — especially 3Ls without jobs — are pissed:

Graduating form Georgetown this spring. Thanks for absolutely nothing you a$$holes.

Please print this!

For a slightly more eloquent explanation, listen to this guy:

Horrible horrible horrible timing.

While I can certainly understand how this change will help 1Ls and incoming students, this is my very last semester at GULC. So this is awful for me, and for other people on the verge of graduating. We worked hard for the grades we got, and now those grades will look worse when compared to younger students who are being graded under the new system. I have had an almost impossible time getting a job, and this will make my job prospects even lower because when compared with other GULC students, my GPA will appear lower.

Again, I don’t have a problem with a little grade inflation. It’s the least law schools — especially top law schools — can do for their students, given their inability to secure jobs for their graduates.

But just be honest about what you are doing. Give those who didn’t benefit from the inflation a chance to say: “My school just officially inflated grades. Here, read this. My grade inflation adjusted GPA is [X], if you must know.”

The full Georgetown announcement appears on the next page.

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