University of Arkansas Law Professor quoted in Wall Street Journal Concerning Grading Standards

I found this article in the Wall Street Journal and several other publications.

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Law schools should embrace grade inflation, says Professor Joshua Silverstein of the William H. Bowen School of Law.

In a forthcoming paper in the University of San Francisco Law Review, Mr Silverstein makes the case for why law schools should substantially eliminate C grades and raise the minimum cumulative GPA for good academic standing to a B minus.

Under such a system, says Mr. Silverstein, law professors would probably award C’s about as often as they currently award D’s.

So what’s the benefit in that?

Silverstein’s argument for grade inflation is more subtle than a “grades-are-bad” argument.

He makes two main points: First, he says that the inconsistent use of C grades puts students “at an unfair disadvantage when competing for employment with students from institutions that award mostly A’s and B’s.”

Second, he says there’s nothing gentle about the “Gentleman’s C.” Law students actually dread C’s, he says. Grade inflation would improve their “psychological well-being” by easing stress. He writes:

Why do C grades cause such distress among law students? Why is it so difficult for law professors to convince their students that C’s are acceptable under the grading systems generally in operation in legal education? Because our students are raised in an “A and B world.” More specifically, they receive mostly A’s and B’s in high school and college. As a result, they are conditioned to expect marks above the C level.

Mr. Silverstein says he’s not arguing that law schools should stop distinguishing between differences in achievement.

In fact, he thinks law schools should add more layers of distinction between a 2.7, or B minus, and a 4.0. They could do this by adopting “a fine grade scale with a large number of intervals, such as a four-point or 100-point scale that uses number grades instead of letters.”

But if they didn’t fear getting a C, wouldn’t students slack off?

Mr. Silverstein concedes that substantially eliminating C grades “will cause some students to cut back on the amount of work they do,” particularly among average students. But he says weaker students would have more incentive to work. Those who would otherwise feel “crushed” by a C would be less likely to tune out and give up, he argues.

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