Thursday, June 24, 2004

Rabble Rousing and 1L DRAMA...

Email from my CrimLaw Prof yesterday (for background...we were in a class that was supposed to earn grades based on reaching a certain point level. Points were earned through writing papers, answering book questions, and various forms of participation...we were assured NUMEROUS times that if we achieved the cutoff levels for certain grades, that is what we would make...that he would "fight" to ensure that any students who earned an 'A' got an 'A'...):

I have just received the grades in Criminal Law (they were determined anonymously, based on adding up the numbers), and I am extremely frustrated! Although I gave the maximum allowable grades in every category (A, A-, B+), almost all students received grades lower than they deserved.

The categories I stated at the beginning of the course for the various grade levels were based on past experience and the point levels I thought students needed to reach to demonstrate proficiency at that level.

Based on my stated criteria and standards, every student in Criminal Law who received an A- (and even a number who received a B+) *deserved* an A. Most people who received a B+ deserved an A-.

Even worse, I was required by Law School rules to give a minimum of 16 grades of B or lower. That means that even those who should have received an A- would get a B or lower, if their total fell in that group of 16.

Adding to the unfairness is the fact that, because I graded the papers "on their merit," rather than on some curve, the total points students earned were not only high, but very tightly bunched -- just a few points could end up making the difference between A and B+.

Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about the unfairness this year. I will be continuing to try to find a way to improve the situation in the future. If any of you can think of a creative way to produce a fairer result within the strictures of the first-year mandatory curve, please let me know.

In the meantime, please be assured that, in my mind, the grade you *earned* by virtue of the point totals you achieved is the grade that indicates your performance in the class. I know that is small compensation if you received a B+ that should have been an A, but please feel free to use me as a reference. If you let me know your point total, I would be more than willing to tell any potential employer about the quality of your work based on your overall performance and not the Law School's grading system.

Also, I don't like being a "rabble-rouser," but if I were a first-year student, I would be organizing an effort to convince the faculty that requiring that at least 25% of every class must receive a B or lower is not fair, given the quality of our students and the amount of effort they put into their courses.

But, in the end, it is summer, you survived your first year, law school gets much better after the first year, and hopefully what you will retain from Criminal Law is what your learned and the skills you developed -- rather than any particular grade.

This is what happens when a Prof who is very vocally opposed to the "mandatory curve" and our school's current grading system uses his 1L class as test subjects and in the end most,if not all of us, get screwed over. My grade when down almost a full letter from what I was led to believe I had earned. Yeah...I'm kinda pissed.
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