If law students want one thing in their grading system, it’s clarity. This is especially true for first-year law students; 1L grades are too important for future job prospects to have a confusing and muddled set of rules.
Well, maybe not Yale law students. Famously, Yale doesn’t have traditional letter grading. A few top schools have followed Yale’s lead in recent years, but Yale is the OG of meaningless grading systems. (Berkeley students to start bitching in 3, 2, 1….) The meaningless of Yale’s Honors/Pass grading system doesn’t matter because all Yale students get jobs. No grades + Good jobs = “I don’t understand why humans cry.”
Yale students have such good job prospects that they can get jobs as law professors at other Ivy League law schools right after they graduate from Yale. But bringing happy-clappy Yale concepts of grading to “normal” law schools is not without its problems….
Despite my consistent exhortations that people should do as well as possible on the LSAT, I don’t think the LSAT is a particularly useful test. The LSAT, like all other standardized tests, is really an examination of past performance and learned ability to take the test. It doesn’t measure “raw” intelligence, however you want to define that term. It measures your ability to take the LSAT.
I had thought that your ability to do well on the LSAT would be predict your ability to do well on the bar exam. Again, not because of any intelligence measuring, but just because people who are good at standardized tests tend to continue to be good at standardized tests.
But perhaps I’ve been wrong. A new study suggests that LSAT performance isn’t the best indicator of future bar passage. Instead, passing the bar has a more direct correlation with your law school grades…
Suing a school for giving you bad grades seems ludicrous. On the other hand, there’s something respectable about filing a 60-paragraph complaint in response to a law school telling you that you’ve failed Legal Writing and Civil Procedure. It’s kind of meta when you think about it.
The crux of the story is that a the law school demanded that a 3L retake CivPro II: Electric Boogaloo because he got a D the first time around. This interfered with his plans for his 3L year, so he decided to take them to court. In the process, every complaint he has about the school worked its way into the filing.
Whenever we talk about law school grading around here, it usually involves a law professor being incredibly lazy when it comes time to perform his or her most important function regarding a student’s likely job prospects. Or it involves a law school trying to arbitrarily inflate its grades in a desperate attempt to enhance its employment stats.
Sadly, these stories don’t reflect any effort on the part of legal academia to actually come up with a grading system that is fundamentally fair and useful to the students who rely on it. That law school grades are somewhat arbitrary is just a feature of the system that we all kind of accept, even as we know that employers place significant weight on law school grades when handing out scarce legal jobs.
Given all that, I wanted to take some time on a Friday afternoon to consider the proposals of one law professor who has actually thought through some modest ways to make grading exams something less of a random crapshoot…
* As we noted last week (third item), Judge Rosenbaum recognized that the government was bound to have phone records of the defendant since they were dragnetting the whole friggin’ country. Now the government has responded and predictably claims that this is all classified. [Southern District of Florida Blog]
* Speaking of follow-ups, remember how NYU Law was using non-profit slush funds to pay for housing for professors? Well, they also provided sweetheart loans for summer houses. [New York Times]
* The battle rages over the admissibility of audio expert witness testimony in the George Zimmerman trial. At least Howard Greenberg isn’t going to be there to call them all whores. [The Expert Institute]
* With the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy about to get smacked down in federal court, it’s important to remember there’s nothing wrong with “stop and frisk” — just every single way that it’s been applied for over a decade. [Vocativ]
* For our law professor readers, cognitive psychology says you get more fair results if you grade exams by question rather than grading the whole exam at once. It also means you’re not as likely to find 15 whole exams missing and fail to grade one student’s exam for weeks on end (in fairness, I ran into Professor Winkler and he assures me he eventually graded that exam). [Concurring Opinions]
* Communications between Superman and a minister in Man of Steel would likely be shielded by Kansas law. A better question is what law are we going to use to prosecute Superman for wontonly demolishing a city? [The Legal Geeks]
* If you’re living the Bitcoin lifestyle, you’re probably about to get taxed. [TaxProf Blog]
* Maker’s Mark will not get diluted after all — likely causing a shortage. Start hoarding mediocre bourbon, folks! [Wonkblog]
* If you’ve ever wondered what the Supreme Court feels like to a pro se petitioner, here’s your answer. “Simply put, the Supreme Court uses its desktop publishing and printing guidelines as a weapon against the American public.” So much for “the least dangerous branch.” [Aaron Greenspan]
* “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Russia’s taking that phrase to a whole new level by pushing forward with a criminal tax evasion trial against a dead man. This is the first case of its kind since United States v. Bernie Lomax. [Reuters]
* Computer science students realize that taking collective action to intentionally fail the test was better than trying to pass it. It’s like The Producers of education. And if this grading policy applied to 1Ls, there’d be at least one jerk who defected to ruin everyone else’s curve. [Volokh Conspiracy]
* Ten points to Gryffindor if you know what “tumid” means. Because you’re going to have to know before you pass through Ohio again. [Legal Juice]
I’ve repeatedly said that law school faculty members need to do a better job of taking exams as seriously as their students. Every semester, we have a spate of stories about law professors who are too lazy to write novel exams for their students. And then, weeks later, we have to start doing stories about professors who are too lazy to grade their exams in a timely manner.
And you’ll note that I don’t think we’ve done a story on a law school giving anybody a refund because it couldn’t get its act together to provide deliverables to students.
Well, one law school seems to be willing to hold their faculty to a standard of basic competence. And they’re doing it the only way that it can be done. The school is willing to punish faculty — publicly — for late submission of grades….
How hard is it to write an exam for a course you’ve taught all semester? Seriously, tell me, how hard is it? On a scale of one to ten — ten involving programing a rocket ship, one somewhere around putting on pants in the morning — where does formulating a law school exam rate? A two? Maybe three if you are teaching the course for the first time?
It cannot possibly be so hard that you have to use the same exam over and over again, in the digital age. We’re not talking about something as complicated as the wheel. A law school exam can be reinvented, every year, with subtle and simple changes.
Using the exact same exam is just lazy. There’s no other word for it. LAZY. The high cost of law school is largely attributed to the hefty salaries of law school faculty. The least these people can do is write a novel exam each and every semester that they teach.
And yet during this finals period alone, we’ve got students from three law schools, including two law schools in the top ten, alleging that their professors couldn’t be bothered to come up with fresh exams for this year’s students….
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