TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Retroactive Grade Inflation

Seriously.   From the New York Times:

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average. But it’s not because they are all working harder.  The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

Thanks to Kate Schaffzin for the tip.


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It's an irresistible gag line (Lake Wobegone Days, etc.) But it's logical. If there is an enforced curve a change should be retroactive to maintain consistency. For example - it would retain class rank and awards based on average.

There is an arbitrariness to the curve. There really was something known as a Gentleman's C. John Kerry was a national college debate champion and graduated with a 77 average from Yale. Today's students would weep at such an average. I would be shocked to learn that a national moot court champion had a C plus average at any law school.

The basic screening is done, with all its flaws, by the LSAT (just check the LSAT averages against the US News rankings). So grades in law school represent relative class rank, with the letter grades set privately by faculty and administrators.

Let's say that B minus is the lowest grade actually given. Reserving A plus for the "rare" case, that leaves five grades actually awarded for all those who complete the test. Do you really think that you can fine-tune the quality of exams much more than that? I don't. So B is today's Gentleman's C. Back in the day a 77 (C plus) average was just fine for a presidential contender. To actually get the job you needed a 78, as George W. Bush demonstrated.

Posted by: George Conk | Jun 29, 2010 6:08:06 AM

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