Monday, June 28, 2010

Opp Choice: To Inflate, or Not to Inflate

I was just going to skip June entirely, what with the Africa trip, the post-trip recovery session, and the pageant that is celebrating a birthday when friends and family are far-flung, but then a fellow grad student dropped this on my desk, which snapped me back to grad student reality.

Law School's Employment-Boosting Strategy: Grade Inflation

At first, I wasn't shocked, because I don't think this is particularly new, even leaving aside UofC's bucket of oddness. But then I thought about it again, because this article isn't just about grade inflation; it is about a variety of institutional coping mechanisms in the midst of rising debt and unemployment among recent graduates.

I'll tell you that I have never been ordered to raise or lower a grade based on an agreed-upon standard designed to boost students' post-education job opportunities. But I'll also tell you that I've seen graduate students, professors, and students themselves have radically different opinions on what a B paper looks like, let alone if any Ds or Fs should be handed out. We've all had instructors who love to give B-minuses on every assignment, and we've also probably had instructors who dole out the As for simply showing up and staying awake. Getting these instructors to agree on a grade scale based on the actual work would seem futile, but rallying them behind a "cause" to inflate might work.

I have to wonder if law schools have been doing this for awhile, and now the trend is just strong enough that more schools have to jump on the bandwagon just to keep up. I imagine that in law schools, where rankings are important and students often burden themselves with debt, managing expectations is important. In some academic positions where 6 spots open a year, a program can throw their hands up in the air and blame the hiring process, which is shrouded in much mystery. Law firm hiring may also be shrouded in mystery, but if you go to a school that will pay a firm to hire you, things might be a bit clearer.

Does this vary between programs, or between schools? Is grade inflation, at any level, becoming a problem? What do you think of some of these solutions to increased job competition? And, what will this mean for those of us who missed this mass inflation?

**For those waiting on an update on the trip, it will come after the 4th of July, once I can upload the billion pictures of elephants we took! Stay tuned.

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