Pass Fail

Harvard Law School will be moving to a pass-fail grading system in the fall of 2009, joining peer institutions such as Yale and Stanford, Dean Elena Kagan announced in an e-mail to students this afternoon.

The move, which in lieu of the traditional system of letter grades will allow four levels of assessment—honors pass, pass, low pass, and fail—is intended, according to Kagan’s e-mail, to “promote pedagogical excellence and innovation and further strengthen the intellectual community.”

According to the e-mail, there will be more discussion about whether any current students will be allowed to switch over to the pass-fail system. Kagan said she would hold a “town hall” meeting in early October to consider the issue further.

Harvard’s grading system will now resemble that of rivals Stanford, whose faculty voted in May to discontinue letter grades, and Yale, which has had a pass-fail system since the 1960s. Proponents of broader grade categories typically point to decreased competitiveness and enhanced freedom to explore intellectually without concern for academic penalty in their justifications of the system.

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