Grade inflation at Georgetown Law meant to help students
The revised grading curve, which retroactively applied to the fall 2009 semester, makes it easier for law students to receive higher grades. For example, 31 percent of each class share is now allocated for A and A-minus grades, as opposed to 25 percent under the old curve.
In a December 2009 memo to the Georgetown Law Student Bar Association, Patrick Hughes (L’10), William Broderick-Villa (L’11), and Rachel Fersh (L’10) argued that the adjustment was long overdue.
“[T]he grading curve had not been adjusted to reflect the rising quality of our students since 1994,” they wrote. “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.”
According to New York Times reporter Catherine Rampell, many law schools recently enacted lenient grading systems in order to make students appear attractive to potential employers.
“Law schools seem to view higher grades as one way to rescue their students from the tough economic climate — and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings,” Rampell wrote.
Too bad the inflated grades didn’t seem to help the Class of 2010’s job prospects.
After the jump, we’ve got the entire memo about the grading curve.
To: Georgetown Law Student Bar Association
From: Patrick Hughes, William Broderick-Villa & Rachel Fersh
Student members, Curriculum & Academic Standards Committee
Date: December 2, 2009
Re: Equalizing the Grading Curve
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.
Below is a summary of the new grading curve in comparison with the former curve.
Current Curve (12/2/09) Grade Class Share A 12% A- 19% B+ 28% B 31%-36% B- and below 5%-10%
Previous Curve Grade Class Share A 10% A- 15% B+ 25% B 30% B- 15% C+ and below 5%
There will also be a new, optional A+ grade that faculty members have the discretion (but are not required) to give for truly outstanding performance. Faculty members are not expected to give out an “A+” in each class (in other words, it likely will be rarer than a “best exam” award). The current 4.0 grading scale will not change, however, and the A+ will be worth a weight of 4.0. The committee decided not to follow the practice of our peer institutions, most of which grade on a 4.3 scale. Transcripts now will include a notation that GPAs are calculated on a 4.0 scale, in order to prevent confusion.
We would especially like to express gratitude to Professor Lazarus, the Chair of the Curriculum and Academic Standards Committee, and Dean O’Neil for all of their sensitivity to student interests and hard work in ensuring the new policy was passed expediently. We would also like to thank the rest of the members of the committee: Professors Chris Brummer, Michael Cedrone, Craig Hoffman, and Jane Stromseth for their hard work and significant input.
Photo from Flickr user umjanedoan used under a Creative Commons license.