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Stanford Law School drops grades

Publication Date: 
June 10, 2008
San Jose Mercury News
Lisa M. Krieger

The San Jose Mercury News carried this story about grade reform and quotes Dean Larry Kramer as well as alumnus Andrew Bruck '08:

Stanford Law School is dropping letter grades, a move intended to allow professors to be more experimental in the classroom and save student sanity in one of academia's most rigorous settings.

Stanford will switch to a system of honors, pass, restricted credit and no credit instead of A+ through F, said School of Law Dean Larry Kramer. He hopes the shift will cut the stressful jockeying for status among classmates and encourage students to take more challenging courses.

"It reduces the pursuit of grades as the chief concern of students - they're learning for the sake of learning, without choosing courses based on worries whether a professor is a tough grader or not," he said. "Students were too focused on grades, and choosing courses based on grades."

Without a traditional point system, professors are freed from uniformity such as giving the identical writing assignment to every student. They can also assign more team projects.


The reform is the latest in a series of reforms to Stanford's legal education, including skills-based seminars, new legal clinics and and the ability to combine a traditional law degree with other disciplines from business to bioengineering.

"Many felt that the old system, which forced grades to fit a bell curve distribution, created false distinctions between classmates," said Andrew Bruck, 24, a member of the class of 2008.

"A simplified evaluation system will allow students to focus on what matters - learning the law - without the pressures and distractions created by numerical grades," he said.


"I doubt that the change will make Stanford Law students any less competitive in the job market," said Bruck.

"If anything, the new grading system will help the law school produce the kind of well-rounded, well-educated graduates that employers find appealing," he said.