Sunday, January 6, 2013

What Do College Grades Tell Law School Admissions Officers

The answer: not much when As represent 43% of all letter grades across a wide range of schools.  Here is the summary of an extensive survey of grading practices published in the Teachers College Record:

Findings/Results: Contemporary data indicate that, on average across a wide range of schools, A’s represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. D’s and F’s total typically less than 10% of all letter grades. Private colleges and universities give, on average, significantly more A’s and B’s combined than public institutions with equal student selectivity. Southern schools grade more harshly than those in other regions, and science and engineering-focused schools grade more stringently than those emphasizing the liberal arts. At schools with modest selectivity, grading is as generous as it was in the mid-1980s at highly selective schools. These prestigious schools have, in turn, continued to ramp up their grades. It is likely that at many selective and highly selective schools, undergraduate GPAs are now so saturated at the high end that they have little use as a motivator of students and as an evaluation tool for graduate and professional schools and employers.

Conclusions/Recommendations: As a result of instructors gradually lowering their standards, A has become the most common grade on American college campuses. Without regulation, or at least strong grading guidelines, grades at American institutions of higher learning likely will continue to have less and less meaning.

Of course, law school grading has experienced its own inflation. Some schools have tried to control grading with extremely rigid “iron curves.” I doubt these curves are fair to students, since there’s no proof that the curve necessarily accurately grades every class.


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I think this represents further evidence for abolishing grades in law school entirely. Either one knows the material, or they do not. This would, in my view, necessitate raising the threshold level for "Adequate." But overall, what difference does it make if someone gets an A or a B on a one-time exam at the close of the semester? Shouldn't what really matters is that they KNOW the material such that they can competently advise a client when they are a lawyer?

Posted by: Michael Lopez | Mar 1, 2013 4:11:28 PM

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