Curriculum

Grading

Anonymous Grading
Examinations are graded anonymously. Each student’s exams are identified by a number, which changes each semester. The registrar’s office very carefully protects students’ anonymity, and students are expected to refrain from disclosing information (such as marking an exam “graduating senior” or some other subtle identification) to professors that might identify their exams. A professor does not learn the student name associated with a grade until after the professor has turned in the grades. Professors are not given students’ anonymous numbers. After grades are determined, however, students are given opportunities to discuss examinations with professors.

The Law School Student Records Office safeguards the secrecy of the anonymous numbers by handling the mechanics of matching grades with names.

Grades are distributed to students by the Student Records Office on an announced day after all examinations have ended. Professors do not distribute grades.

Seminars, workshops, oral reports, papers and problems are not under the anonymous grading system, unless the professor so chooses.

Grading System
A student’s work in law school courses and seminars is graded on a numeric scale running from zero to 4.0, which corresponds to the letter grades in the chart below. An anonymous grading system is used.

Law School Grades Corresponding Letter Grades
4.0 (excellent) A
3.67 A-
3.33 B+
3.0 B
2.67 B-
2.33 C+
2.0 C
1.67 C-
1.33 D+
1.0 (unsatisfactory) D
0.0 (failure) F

 
Distribution of Grades
Starting Summer 2014, the faculty approved the following policy regarding distribution of grades:

Grades in required first-year classes must adhere to a mandatory mean of 3.2. (Any calculated mean between 3.1500 and 3.2500, inclusive, shall be deemed to satisfy this standard.) Example distributions are as follows:

Letter Grade GPA Example Distribution Percentages
A+ 4.33 1 0 1 0 1
A 4.00 10 11 14 14 10
A- 3.67 17 18 19 19 16
B+ 3.33 25 30 21 25 36
B 3.00 19 18 19 19 17
B- 2.67 16 12 14 12 14
C+ 2.33 8 6 8 8 4
C 2.00 2 3 2 2 1
C- 2.00 1 1 1 1 0
D+ 2.00 1 1 0 0 1
D 2.00 0 0 0 0 0
F 2.00 0 0 1 0 0
Mean   3.1633 3.1998 3.2101 3.2266 3.2463

 
Grades in other classes need not adhere to a mandatory mean. However, grades in those classes should adhere as close to a mean of 3.3 (the mandatory mean imposed on upper-level classes of more than 12 students from Fall 2009 to Spring 2014) as is consistent with fairness and common sense. Faculty members teaching classes of 13 students or more whose calculated mean falls outside the range of 3.2500 to 3.3500, inclusive, must provide a written justification for the discrepancy when they submit their grades.

As a rule, larger classes should adhere more closely to the target mean than smaller classes because the unusual circumstances that warrant non-standard grading are less likely to occur. As the size of the class diminishes, more flexibility in grading may be required. The students enrolled in a small class may, for example, be exceptionally skilled or exceptionally dedicated to the subject matter. However, students should not expect to receive higher grades in small classes as a matter of course, nor should they receive higher grades in a small class than similar effort and ability would produce in a large class. It is the responsibility of every faculty member to ensure that their grading reflects these principles.

Even in the smallest classes, the grades awarded should reflect genuine differences in student performance. In classes of twelve students or fewer, generally no more than one half of the class should be awarded a grade of A- or higher. Faculty members who deviate from that expectation must provide a written justification for the discrepancy when they submit their grades.

In the calculation of a class mean, grades of C and lower shall be counted as 2.00. This policy shall apply only to the calculation of a class mean; it does not affect the calculation of a particular student’s grade point average.

A+ grades should be awarded only in cases where the top student’s performance is clearly superior to the performance of other students receiving A grades.

If, after grades are reported to students, a grade must be changed due to a mathematical or clerical error, and the change results in a deviation from an otherwise mandatory grading standard, other grades need not be changed to compensate. Faculty members may not change a reported grade based on subjective considerations, such as a re-evaluation of the strength of an analysis. Subjective considerations should be addressed in the initial grading process, not in the context of an appeal.

In the calculation of a mandatory class mean or application of any other grading rule, only the grades of Law School students are counted. Grades of graduate students from other departments, undergraduate students, and international students not seeking a J.D. degree are not counted.

Under University of Alabama policy, the A+ is calculated as 4.33, except that a student’s overall gpa may not exceed 4.0.

Instructors in externships, trial advocacy classes, clinics, and other Pass/D/Fail classroom-based skills courses may award up to 1/3 of the students in the course a “High Pass” (HP).

A student’s academic average in the School of Law is computed by first multiplying the grade received in each course by the number of hours in the course, then totaling the figures thus produced for all courses, and dividing by the number of semester hours attempted.

Failing a Course
Should a student fail a course, the dean may require the student to repeat that course. Students must repeat and pass all required classes to graduate. The grade of “I” (incomplete) may be assigned at the law school’s discretion when, for acceptable and approved reasons, a student has been unable to complete the required work for a course or seminar. The award of the “I” instead of 0.0 may be contingent upon completion of the unfinished work, at which time another grade may be assigned, or upon other terms fixed by the School of Law.

Participation Grades
Although it is not the general practice to do so, in courses other than seminars, and after notification to students at the start of the semester, a professor may raise grades by .3 for class participation or lower grades by .3 for lack of participation. In seminars, class participation or lack thereof may not count for more than 50% of the final course grade. In workshops, class participation or lack thereof may be the sole determinant of the grade.

For serious failure on the part of the student to participate in class as required by the professor, the student may be dropped from the course.

Procedure for Appealing a Grade
A grade appeal is available only for review of claims that the grade was based on arbitrary or capricious grounds. There shall be no appeal to challenge the merits of a faculty member’s evaluation of the student’s performance. The following is the procedure used in such an appeal.

  1. Student reviews his or her exam.
  2. Student submits to the Records Office a request that the professor review the calculation of the student’s grade.*
  3. If the student remains dissatisfied with the accuracy of the grade, the student prepares a written statement on why he or she thinks the grade is arbitrary.
  4. Another professor, in the same or a related teaching area, is given the student’s statement, the student’s exam, and a copy of the exam. The professor may also have access to the exams of other students in the class.
  5. The reviewing professor makes a determination of whether the student’s grade was arbitrary.

*Please note that the student should keep her/his identity anonymous from the professor when seeking a grade recalculation. Following a grade recalculation, the student may discuss her/his exam with the professor, but only to receive feedback on the test and not to advocate for a higher grade.

Ranking
Beginning with Spring 2010 semester grades, the Top 15% of students will receive individual numeric rankings at the end of the Spring and Fall semesters. At the end of the Spring and Fall semesters, the Registrar will publish the GPA for the Top 10%, Top 20%, Top 25%, Top 33%, and Top 50% of each class. Students thus will know, and can indicate on their resumes, if and where their grades would place them within these “bands” within the top half of the class. Students outside the Top 15% will not receive individual ranks.

Limitation on Certain Credits
Students may not use more than 25 hours credit toward graduation from the following activities:

  • Independent Study
  • Externships
  • Journal Credit
  • Moot Court/Trial Advocacy Competition Credit
  • Classes taken in another department