V. Academic Standards

A. Grading

1. Instructors shall assess the scholastic achievements of their students.  (revised 5/12/17)

2. The law school gives each instructor the option to allow students to type their exams.  If an instructor allows typing, students must use a software program approved for this use by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  This policy does not apply to courses with take-home exams or papers.

3. The following standards apply to the grading of student work:

a) When practicable and in the students’ best interests, written work must be graded according to procedures designed to assure that during the grading, the identity of the student writer remains unknown to the grader. Courses where the students’ written work may not be anonymous include skills courses, clinic courses, seminars, and supervised research. In other courses, the procedures described below allow for an adjustment of final grades to take into account class attendance and/or performance in the following manner:

1. The Office of Admissions and Records will provide each instructor with a list of the student exam numbers for each course.

2. Instructors will grade examinations by exam numbers.

i. Instructors will submit grades to the Office of Admissions and Records by exam number.

ii. Faculty assistants will then adjust grades where student identification for an adjustment is necessary.

iii. The Office of Admissions and Records will enter the grades on the students’ records.

b) When practicable, work should be graded with a rubric or other equivalent written guidance setting forth for students the instructor’s substantive expectations for the work.

c) Class participation alone must not make up more than 10% of a student’s final grade in a course. However, in seminar courses an instructor may increase the allocation of class participation to as much as 30% of a student’s final grade if that instructor provides written guidance to students on how both the quality and quantity of class participation is scored. (revised 5/12/2017)

4. For classes completed in the summer of 2011 or earlier the numerical value to each letter grade per hour credit for purposes of computing grade point average (GPA) is as follows: A=4.00, B+=3.50, B=3.25, B-=3.00, C+=2.50, C=2.25, C-=2.00, D+=1.50, D=1.00, and F=0.00.

5. For classes completed after summer 2011, the following grade scale shall apply. Grades are to be assigned by numerical value and numerical values shall be used in computing GPA. Letter grades are listed only so that faculty, students, and employers will know the approximate letter value of each numerical grade

4.0 = A

3.9

3.8

3.7 = A-

3.6

3.5

3.4

3.3 = B+

3.2

3.1

3.0 = B

2.9

2.8

2.7 = B-

2.6

2.5

2.4

2.3 = C+

2.2

2.1

2.0 = C

1.9

1.8

1.7 = C-

1.6 = F

1.5 = F

1.4 = F

1.3 = F

1.2 = F

Adopted 4/14/2011)

6. An instructor shall not change a student’s grade after submitting his or her final grades to the registrar except for a computational error or for a clerical error in recording the grade or to change a grade of Incomplete to a final letter grade.  (Revised 12/14/04.)

7. Minimum Required GPA to Remain in Good Standing. To remain in good standing, a student must maintain a GPA of at least 2.30. (Adopted 4/14/2011)

8. Good Standing. To determine whether a 2L or 3L remains in good standing when the student has earned grades under both the previous and current grading systems, the student’s grades under the old system will be averaged against the student’s grades under the new system. (Adopted 4/14/2011)

Note: The averaging mechanism that applies to students who earned grades under both the previous system and the system adopted on April 14, 2011 is set forth in Appendix D.

9. Grades Below 2.3.  All grades below 2.3 reflect performance that falls below minimum competency.  However, students shall receive credit for the course if they earn a 1.7 to 2.2.  Grades from 1.2 to 1.6 constitute failing grades.  The student will not receive credit for the course.  If the course is required, the student must retake the class. (Adopted 4/14/2011)

10. Pass/Fail Courses.  Courses taught on a pass/fail basis are exempt from the mandatory and recommended means. (Adopted 4/14/2011)

B. Mandatory Grade Curve (Adopted 4/14/2011)

1. Mandatory Mean in Required Courses with 9 or More Students and Elective Courses with 30 or More Students.

a) For all required courses with 9 or more students and all elective courses with 30 or more students, the mean GPA of final grades for the course must fall between 9 and 3.1, with a target GPA of 3.0.

b) The grades of students who receive an incomplete are not included in calculating the mean GPA for a course.

c) The mean GPA shall be calculated based upon the final grade for the course, including mid-terms, class participation, and any other graded assignments; it is not calculated using just the final exam, final paper, or other final project, unless that is the only manner in which the students are evaluated.

d) The Legal Externship program is exempt from the mandatory mean. (effective fall 2014).

2. Mandatory mean in Elective Courses with 9 to 29 Students.

a) For all elective courses with 9 to 29 students, the mean GPA for the course must fall between 9 and 3.1, with a target GPA of 3.0, subject to the following proviso.

1. If the mean GPA of all students enrolled in the course – based on prior course work at the law school – is lower than 2.9 or higher than 3.1, the permissible grade range for the course shall expand to encompass the students’ incoming mean GPA average, plus 0.1 GPA points. If the incoming mean GPA average is greater than 3.1, and minus 0.1 GPA points if the incoming mean GPA average is lower than 2.9.

2. The grades of students who receive an incomplete are not included in calculating the mean GPA for a course.

3. The Legal Externship course is exempt from the mandatory mean. (effective fall 2014).

3. Recommended Mean in Courses with 1 to 8 Students (Required or Elective) and Clinical Courses (Including Externships).

a) For all courses with 1 to 8 students (required or elective) and all clinical courses (including externships), the mean GPA for the course should fall between 9 and 3.1, with a target GPA of 3.0, subject to the same proviso applicable in elective courses with 9 to 29 students.

1. The grades of students who receive an incomplete are not included in calculating the mean GPA for a course.

4. For all courses otherwise required to comply with the mandatory mean, the instructor teaching the course may petition the Assessment Committee, the Curriculum Committee, and the Associate Dean for an exemption from the mandatory mean. The exemption is only available if all of the following requirements are met:

a) The instructor exclusively uses criterion-referenced assessments to determine students’ final grades in the course. Criterion-referenced assessment measures student performance against a fixed set of written descriptions of what students should be expected to know and do, and it articulates levels of performance. It requires detailed rubrics and is therefore distinguished from grading keys that are used to assign scores to exams.

b) The instructor uses at least three criterion-referenced assessments in the course. In addition, assessment through multiple choice quizzes or exams cannot count for more than 45% of the final grade.

c) An instructor seeking an exemption from the mandatory mean must be able to justify each rubric and each of the descriptions of levels of performance. This justification must point to specific data, most often drawn from past grading experiences compliant with the mandatory mean.

If all three bodies approve the petition for an exemption from the mandatory mean, the exemption is valid beginning in the following semester.

Each exemption granted to an instructor for a particular course must be renewed by a majority vote of the Curriculum Committee before the exemption may be used a third time. After this initial review, each exemption must be renewed by a majority vote of the Curriculum Committee every two years, though the Committee may designate a shorter period. The Curriculum Committee shall, at or before the February 2018 regular faculty meeting, propose criteria upon which renewal shall be based. Criteria for renewal must be approved by a vote of the faculty before any exemptions may be renewed.

This foregoing process for exemptions from the mean (V.B.4) shall be reviewed by the Curriculum Committee and the Assessment Committee Fall 2020, with results reported to the faculty during the academic year of 2020-2021. (revised 5/12/2017)

5. The registrar shall distribute the total mean GPA of each class with enrollment of 29 or less to the professor teaching the class by the last day of final exams.

6. Multiple Sections of the Same Course. When a professor teaches multiple sections of the same course and administers the same assessment tool (or tools) in each section – e.g., the same final exam – the professor must apply the mandatory curve across both sections as if the two sections together constitute a single course.  Thus, for example, professors teaching two sections of RWA are required to treat the two sections as if they are a single class.  There are five courses excepted in part from this policy.  If the professor is teaching both the day and night sections of Property I, Property II, Civil Procedure I, Civil Procedure II, Constitutional Law, or Legal Profession, the professor need not treat the day and night Sections as if they are a single course. (revised 5/12/2017)

7. Enforcement Mechanism. If a professor turns in non-complying grades, the grades are to be returned to the professor.  The professor must then re-curve the class. If the professor chooses not to comply, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs shall act in his or her discretion to bring the grades into compliance, such as by setting the curve based on the professor’s raw scores.

8. Turning in non-complying grades constitutes failure to turn in grades for purposes of the Late Grade Policy.

9. Transcript and Website Notation.

a) A short description of the law school grading system and curve shall be conspicuously placed on the back of all official transcripts. (Revised 9/12/2011) The full grading system shall be available on the website. A link to that location shall be included in the transcript notation.