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December 5, 2008

What should we make of all the (not-always-so?) innovative grading changes?

Though law school grading and modern grade inflation are hardly an innovative topic, the news of more big schools altering or raising their grading system seems worthy of bloggy reflection.  This week the news of revised (and inflated) grading curvescome from NYU (as reported here and here) and USC (as reported here and here).

Lots of folks surely have lots of thoughts about lots of different factors that can influences and justify changes to lots of different kinds of law school grading schemes.  And I would like to hear some of those thoughts in the comments. 

I would also love to hear reactions to what I think makes the most sense as a law school grading system.  Specifically, were I creating a law school grading system from scratch, I would use a completely opaque numbering scheme to define/grade performance in individual classes (say 12 through 27) combined with a very student-friendly class rank system that reports on which student make the top 5%, top 10%, top 25%, top 33%, top 50% and top 67% of the class. 

Part of my suggestion for a student-friendly class rank system class rank system would be to include a "best in ____" or "top 10% in ____" profile for every student.  That is, I think a school could create a computer system that would figure out a name/category for whatever sets of courses each particular student has done especially well.  So, even if a student is only ranked in the top half of her class, or even ends up in the bottom third of his class, the student's official transcript might still say "best in business courses" or "top 10% in public law course" or "best in legal writing courses."

Some related LSI posts:

Posted by DAB

December 5, 2008 in Grading systems | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 2, 2008

The Quandary of the Beautiful Tangent

It is something most law teachers have come across at least once:  You are working your way through some kind of a doctrine or point of legal history, and a student comes up with a brilliant and compelling question.  It may not be what you wanted to talk about that day, but it is within the subject matter of the course, and the students are eager for further the discussion.  Perhaps it is a question of race, class, or gender, or relating to the economic underpinnings of the aspect of law under consideration.  For many of us, our best memories of law school are from those times we headed off down an unforeseen path.  There is a cost to the teacher, though-- If you allow that discussion to develop, you will fall a day behind.

That's the quandary of the beautiful tangent.  Some think of them as distractions, other as wonderful teaching moments, but it does raise a tough question.  Basically, the instructor has three options:  (1)  To haul the class back to the trajectory you have planned; (2)  allow the tangent, but make the class up later; or (3) allow the tangent and skip over the material you planned to cover that day. 

One creative option I have come across is to build in room for a beautiful tangent when creating a syllabus.  That is, a professor might schedule in a "blank day" late in the quarter, and use that in case a beautiful tangent comes along.  Of course, that raises questions, too-- what if you don't come across such a tangent?  What if there is more than one beautiful tangent.  Still, it may be an option worth considering if you are comfortable with planning for the unplanned.

-- Mark Osler


December 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 1, 2008

An exciting honor from the ABA for LSI

 Blawg100_2008I was both extraordinarily excited and quite surprised to discover that LSI has won a place on the ABA's latest and greatest list of the best legal blogs.  This post on the ABA's blog, titled "50 New Sites Make 2nd Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100," provides the basic back story:

On our second annual list of the best legal blogs, just half of last year’s honorees make a return appearance.

What explains the high turnover? For one thing, every day new legal blogs are started, and some existing blogs—including some that appeared on last year’s list—cease to be updated regularly. Plus, some of the upstart blogs are just plain better than some that made the cut last year.

This year, blogs that aren’t updated at least weekly—no matter how interesting—often didn’t make the grade. We put a premium on blogs that broke news in 2008, or were among the first to provide trenchant analysis of one or more breaking legal news stories.

Speaking for the whole LSI team, I feel comfortable saying we are all grateful and honored that the folks at ABA put this blog on its Top 100 list.  We are in some impressive company as one of 15 blogs nominated in the Professors category of the ABA Journal Blawg 100.

Posted by DAB

December 1, 2008 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack