Update: Harvard Law School also just announced changes to its grading system that will make it more like the Yale and Stanford systems. See here.
In May, we reported that the faculty of Stanford Law School voted to change their grading system. The school went from the traditional “A, B, C, Die” system to a Yale-esque pass/fail hybrid. From the May message of Dean Larry Kramer:
[T]he 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.
We noted then that the school was still working on the exact meaning of “honors.”
“Honors” has now been defined. “Watch that first step … it’s a doozy.” From Dean Kramer:
[W]e will no longer use or award Order of the Coif or “Graduation with Distinction,” honors we have in the past recognized and given out at or after graduation. Instead, prizes will be awarded in individual courses to recognize outstanding student performance. Tentatively called “book prizes” (after the fashion of some other schools that use this system), one book prize may be awarded for every 15 students, and this will be true in all classes, whether the basis of evaluation is an exam or a paper. In first-year required classes, 2 prizes will be available in small sections, and 4 in large sections. In advanced classes, professors have discretion about whether and how many prizes to award, though within the same maximum guideline of one per every 15 students (faculty may round up at 8). Discretion is meant to signal that faculty are recognizing genuinely outstanding performance, not just the event of receiving a high grade. Prizes will be registered on student transcripts when grades come out at the end of each term and you will be free to list them on your resumes. The policy is effective beginning this term….
[T]he faculty also concluded that we should award book prizes to students in the class of 2010 for their 1L classes last year, following the standard set forth above. (It will take some time for these retroactive prizes to be calculated and incorporated onto student transcripts.)
The full message is reprinted, and students weigh in, after the jump.