Law in Contemporary Society

Statement on Interim Grades

As you know, the Law School is being swept by a furore over timing of grades. This has been presented as a response to student demand. As the discussion here on TimelySubmissionOfGrades shows, this may not be the entire story.

Colleagues who have been involved in Teach For America have written powerfully and elegantly about the harm done to learning by insistence on prioritizing summary evaluation above more important aspects of teaching. See, for example, AjGarciaSecondPaper. People who have been through both sides of this experience will recognize how stupid and harmful to serious educational effort the forces of occupation are.

I have been working, with great interest and satisfaction, on editing your writing. You have been writing, actively, and to the purpose. Over the last ten days alone, more than 30% of you have done some editing of your work.

Nonetheless, the schedule of law review selection, preparations for EIP, and other completely non-educational activity, joined to the current madness for avoiding real engagement with student work by substituting prompt grading of true/false and multiple-choice exams, imperatively demands that I turn in a grade, summarizing your performance in the course so far. For almost a quarter of you, that means turning in a grade before I have published the first edit on your second essay. In order to submit grades now, I have spent most of this week rereading every essay in the wiki, to provide a snapshot evaluation of how matters stood as of Thursday night, June 21.

These grades should not, in my professional opinion, be coming out now. Your collective engagement with this work remains high. In my view, at least another three weeks of commenting and revision should now occur. They will occur, at least on my side, but some peoples' motivation will inevitably slacken once they have received what they consider either a "good enough" or an "unfairly bad" grade.

The grades you are receiving are likely to change. I don't mean that every grade will change. But in many cases they will. No one's grade will fall. I have left room "under the curve" for anticipated improvements, so no one will be deprived by the grading mechanism of the value of her or his additional work. For the next three weeks I will be loading further edits to second essays as opportunity offers. I will be in an intensive round of meetings in Seoul, South Korea, from June 24 to June 30, and little will change in the wiki from my side during that time. I will be in northern Europe from June 30 to July 12, working partly on academic matters: by the end of that time, all second essays will have been edited once. I expect to submit a comprehensive round of grade changes reflecting all the work done in the wiki through July 10, on or by July 25. Work done after that will be reflected in independent study credits for those who choose to sign up for independent work with me in the fall.

Should you wish not to receive an interim grade—regardless of the effect on such matters as law review selection—until you yourself consider it time for a grade to be entered, please send email to, with "LCS extension" in the subject line, not later than 5pm EDT on Sunday, June 24. I will release all interim grades for students who have not requested an extension in writing at 10am EDT, Monday, June 25.

All grades should be ignored. These interim grades should be even more ignored than most. I'm going to keep reading and commenting, and I hope you will keep thinking, reading and writing. Fools out there in the world who keep score, thinking this is a game you are either winning or losing, will do what they do. For those of us trying to learn how to be the best lawyers we can be, this is mere noise, and we should interact with it as little as possible.

Because this statement reflects policy, it is not subject to editing. Please use StatementOnInterimGradesTalk? for comments.


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r5 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:05:09 - IanSullivan
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