May 1, 2011

"Law Schools Award Merit Scholarships to Goose U.S. News Ranking, Then Take Them Away With Rigid Grading Curves."

Says Instapundit, linking (indirectly) to a NYT article, which I read, but chose not to link to because I couldn't think of anything that spiffy to say.

IN THE COMMENTS: John said:
That hed is actually the work of TaxProf, whom Instapundit links to.
Oops. There were no quotes around it, but Glenn does that a lot. If it's a hot link, it somehow counts as quotation marks. I notice it, because he does that to me too. Apologies to TaxProf.

15 comments:

John said...

That hed is actually the work of TaxProf, whom Instapundit links to.

ironrailsironweights said...

Pointing out why going to law school is a bad idea is a complete exercise in futility. Applications are certain to keep rising at a dizzying pace. That's because law school is easy: no math, no science, no computers. Perfectly tailor-made for intelligent people who can't do math.

Peter

Texan99 said...

Law schools want the smartest students they can get their hands on. This is wrong?

They want to use a metric that correlates with high success in the students once they get there. This is wrong?

They grade on a curve. This is wrong?

The job market for JDs from middling schools who aren't at the top of their classes is dismal. The scholarships give students a shot at the brass ring, and lets them know quickly if they're wasting their time and the school's money. It's not supposed to be a guaranteed ticket on the gravy train.

t-man said...

Trooper could probably think of something spiffy to say.

somefeller said...

It's not a total bait and switch if that the GPA requirements are stated up front, but if the schools are using a hard grade curve to try and push people out of the scholarship range after pulling them in with a scholarship, it is a bait and switch.

But then again, a lot of law school and legal practice can be described that way. When I talk to prospective law students, I suggest the following - if your parents are paying the full ride for school, you can go wherever you want, but even in that case I wouldn't recommend going to a law school other than at a top 25 law school or a well-regarded school (public or private) in the state/region you want to practice in. If you aren't from a rich family and are having to rely on loans or scholarships to pay for school - T14 or the flagship state school in the state you live in. (And actually, I might just limit that to HYS or the flagship state school of the state you live in, if money is really an issue.) If you can't get into those schools and you don't have rich parents to help you - don't go to law school.

Sometimes people don't want to hear that they shouldn't go to law school, the market has always been a bear for a lot of students (sorry - it's never been great for students at schools like Golden Gate law school - the one cited in the article), but now it's much more competitive than it used to be. Buyer beware.

bagoh20 said...

It's good training for becoming a lawyer. This is how lawyers operate.

Joe said...

They grade on a curve. This is wrong?

Yes, because it's fraud. It misrepresents the actual capabilities of students not to benefit them, but to benefit the professor and law school.

Moreover, any teacher that grades on a curve is lazy. It's easier to just throw things together and adjust them later than to actually take the time to get it right. It helps that grading on a curve makes the professor look better.

Again, it's not about the student.

It's all the more crazy that a profession that insists on precision in language is so fucking lazy when it comes to precision in grades. The word hypocritical comes to mind. (We'll nit pick what the meaning of is is and then throw the argument out and slide the grades around. Whoo hoo, integrity!)

David said...

All these prospective lawyers had to do was ask a few simple questions:

"How likely am I to make this cut?"

"What is my plan if I do not make the grades to keep the scholarship?"

"Can I afford this alternate plan?"

Perhaps difficult to answer, but not to ask.

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for the students. They are grown ups now.

Terry said...

A scholarship of this type is what got Orwell into his somewhat-toney prep school. The school's operators needed enough sharp kids to bring their "rankings" up -- how many graduates went on to Eton.
Orwell went on to get his Eton degree, however.
The enforcement of the class system at his prep school was instrumental in forming his hatred of social distinction. The operators of the school made absolutely sure that the young Orwell knew his place as a "charity" case.

johnroberthenry said...

Ive been teaching in B-School for 25 years and have never understood this concept of grading on the curve.

For example, if on my exam, I pose a case and ask students to build an inventory model, they can either get it right or wrong.

If I were to grade on a curve, I would have to take off points from some who got it right.

I've never had a problem giving everyone in a class an A. Never had a problem giving everyone a C, either.

Never been questioned by the home office.

Is this forced grading on a curve a law school school thing? I had a similar discussion on curves with a lawyer (Yale grad) who said that because I didn't grade on a curve I was a lousy teacher.

Perhaps it is because I teach courses where the material is more objective and less touchy-feely. Though I had always though that law should be fairly objective.

John Henry

KLDAVIS said...

Overheard some folks talking about something like this at lunch the other day...schools give a free ride for an LSAT score over some moderate number, then insist that the student remain in the top 1/3 of the class to retain it. They take all the recipients of this largess and put them in the same class sections, thus making it very hard/impossible for the majority to retain their scholarship. The inflated tuition they collect for the remaining two years more than makes up for the cost of educating them gratis for the first year.

MarkW said...

It's not a total bait and switch if that the GPA requirements are stated up front.

Well -- only as long as average first year GPA is disclosed along with the fraction of students who lose their scholarships after the 1st year. And only as long as the schools don't pull anything like KLDAVIS mentioned -- sticking all the scholarship kids in the same sections so the curve will result in a predictable fraction of them being disqualified from the scholarship in the 2nd year.

Texan99 said...

I'm perplexed by the harm that's supposed to be suffered here. The students are free to finish law school with a "C" average, but they will have to take out student loans, which they will then have to pay back. They spend only one year finding out that they're not likely to graduate at the top of their classes, and therefore can expect a really tough time landing one of the higher-paying legal jobs. (That's what the curve is for -- to sort them out for future employers. Sorry if that seems harsh.) This is information that will come in very handy as they decide whether those student loans are a good bet. They've had one year of law school absolutely free, which doesn't necessarily disqualify them for a useful and fulfilling life on some other career path.

traditionalguy said...

It is BAIT AND SWITCH. The business called Schools keeps its eyes on the prize.

simon said...

Law is, for many students aspiring to become lawyers, an intriguing thing to study. If you don't have a passion for the law and how to use it to win in court, help people, or bring justice to your own ideals, then going to law school may not be for you.
Thanks
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