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 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 Registrar’s Office safeguards the secrecy of the anonymous numbers by handling the mechanics of matching grades with names.

Grades are distributed to students by the Registrar’s Office after an announced day after all examinations have ended.  Professors do not distribute grades.

Seminars, workshops, oral reports, papers, and problems are not graded anonymously, 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 4.33, which corresponds to the letter grades in the chart below.

Law School Grades Corresponding Letter Grades
4.33 A+
4.0 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 D
0.0 F

Distribution of Grades

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.)

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 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.

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. No more than one A+ grade may be awarded in any class.

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).

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.

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.

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.

Grade distributions, together with written justifications for deviations from the Faculty’s grading standards, shall be made available to the Dean before those grades are posted. If the Dean determines that the grading for a class exhibits a substantial and unwarranted deviation from the Faculty’s standards, the Dean should invite further explanation from the faculty member who submitted the grades. If the Dean still concludes that the deviation is substantial and unwarranted, and the faculty member declines to change the grades, the Dean may appoint a committee of faculty members to re-evaluate the grades. The committee shall review the graded materials and invite explanation for the deviation from the faculty member who taught the class. If the committee determines that the deviation from the Faculty’s standards is substantial and unwarranted, the committee shall award appropriate grades. If grades must be changed, the committee shall solicit the assistance of the faculty member who taught the class. Grade changes pursuant to this policy should be very rare, and undertaken only under extraordinary circumstances. If reasonable minds could conclude that a deviation from the Faculty’s grading standards is not unwarranted, grades should not be changed.

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

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 student may be required to repeat that course. Students must 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 .33 for class participation or lower grades by .33 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

The grade review and appeal policy approved by the faculty is the following:

A student may request that his or her grade be reviewed by the faculty member who assigned it. The faculty member should change the grade only if it is determined to be the product of a mathematical or clerical error. Faculty members may not change grades, after they have been reported to students, based on other considerations, such as a re-evaluation of the strength of an analysis. Such considerations should be addressed in the initial grading process. In circumstances of anonymous grading, review generally should be arranged through the Registrar’s Office so that the student’s anonymity can be maintained.

A student may appeal a grade solely on the ground that it was arbitrary or capricious. The student must submit to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs a written statement explaining why the student believes the grade to be arbitrary or capricious. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs shall ask another faculty member (whenever possible, a faculty member with some expertise in the subject matter) to review the graded material, together with the student’s written statement and (whenever possible) a sampling of other graded material from the same class sufficient to establish a context for the challenged grade. If the reviewing faculty member determines that the grade is not arbitrary or capricious, the process is concluded.

If the reviewing faculty member determines that the grade is arbitrary or capricious, the reviewing faculty member must suggest a grade, or a range of grades, that would be appropriate for the graded material. The Dean shall give the faculty member who awarded the original grade an opportunity to change it to conform to the findings of the reviewing faculty member. If the opportunity is declined, the Dean shall appoint a committee of faculty members to review the relevant materials. If the committee determines that the grade originally awarded was arbitrary or capricious, the committee shall award an appropriate grade. Grades should be changed by this procedure only on very rare occasions. In circumstances of anonymous grading, the identity of the student should not be revealed during the process of appeal to the faculty member who awarded the grade or to those who are reviewing it.

Requests that a faculty member review a grade must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the last day of classes of the semester following that for which the grade was awarded (the “semester following” not including Summer or Interim terms). Statements explaining why a student believes a grade to be arbitrary or capricious must be submitted to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs by the same deadline. Students should be encouraged to request review of a grade before initiating an appeal.

If, following review or appeal, a changed grade results in a deviation from an otherwise mandatory grading standard, other grades need not be changed to compensate.

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*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

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 of credit toward graduation from the following activities:

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