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Grading Policies Get A Tweaking

Publication Date: 
February 23, 2009
The National Law Journal
Vesna Jaksic

Dean Larry Kramer is quoted in The National Law Journal in a story about new grading policies in law schools:

Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School, for example, are switching from the traditional grade and letter policies to pass/fail systems. At the same time, New York University School of Law now allows professors to give more A's. And some institutions, such as Columbia Law School, are reviewing their grading systems to see whether they need updating.

The schools initiating changes said that they did so to create fairer evaluation systems and to better convey their students' accomplishments to employers.


Stanford Law Dean Larry Kramer said that it's too early to draw conclusions about the new system but that it seems to be working well. The old numerical system suggested to employers that a big difference existed between a student earning a 3.42 vs. a 3.48, for example, even though the difference could be negligible, he said.

"One, [the new system] conveys more accurate information to employers without diminishing student incentive to work; two, it reduces needless grading anxiety; and three, it encourages faculty to experiment more with evaluative things they do in their classes," Kramer said.

For example, the system allows faculty to use a combination of short-term papers with exams for evaluation, Kramer said. The new grading policy will be evaluated after three years, he said.