Friday, January 18, 2013

Grade Normalization

ASP has received many questions regarding the bell-curve, normalization, and how the process works.  In an effort to give you the most accurate information possible, ASP has recruited Assistant Registrar Ivan Noe to set the record straight:

Normalization is the process of standardizing grades. Depending on the format of a course, an instructor must maintain a distribution, a mean (or median), or both.  If an instructor submits grades that are not normalized, they are “kicked back” by the Registrar’s Office with an explanation of what changes need to be made.The following information will assist you in understanding exactly how final grades are determined at Whittier Law School.


Grade Range
First Year Courses
Upper Level Courses
(21 or more students)
3.6 – 4.0 (A)
3.0 – 3.5 (B)
3.0 – 4.0 (A-B)
2.3 – 2.9 (C)
1.8 – 2.2 (D)
1.7 (F)
2.3 – 1.7 (D-F)

The table above illustrates what the distribution for both first year and upper level (with 21 or more students) courses entails.

According to the distribution rules, for any given first year course a professor may assign a grade of 3.6 or higher to no more than 10% of the class. For example, if a Torts class consists of 100 students no more than 10 students will receive an A as their final grade. Keep in mind that with the distribution rules for first year courses, a professor does not have to assign any A’s at all (the interval is 0-10%). An upper level course of 100 students, however, will reward at least 15 (but no more than 30) students a grade of 3.6 or higher (assuming the course has more than 21 students). It is very important to understand that the number of students in a class will affect the distribution. Also please be aware that within the distribution exist two additional distributions (highlighted above in the illustration). A professor can only assign a certain number of A and B grades (as well as D and F grades): no less than 15 but no more than 30% of a first year course and no less than 50 but no more than 70% of an upper level course (with 21 or more students). Because of this additional distribution, a professor of a first year course cannot assign 10 A’s and 25 B’s; although they fall within their individual ranges, they do not meet the additional distribution.

Course Mean (and Median)

The mean for a first year course must fall between 2.50 and 2.75 points (although instructors may raise the mean to 2.85 if necessary for his/her course). For an upper level course that is not a seminar and has more than ten students the mean must fall within the range of 3.10 to 3.30 points. This mean also applies to Lawyering Process Courses (including Legal Writing). Seminars and classes with ten or fewer students are not required to maintain a standardized mean. Instead, Instructors are required to maintain a median between 3.20 and 3.50 points.

Course Format
Normalization Rules
First Year Course
Distribution, Mean of 2.50-2.75 points (or 2.85 if necessary)
Upper Division Course (10 or fewer Students)
Median of 3.20 – 3.50 points
Upper Division Course (11-21 Students)
Mean of 3.10 – 3.30 points
Upper Division Course (21 or more Students)
Distribution, Mean of 3.10 – 3.30 points
Lawyering Process
Mean of 3.10 – 3.30 points
Median of 3.20 – 3.50 points

Ivan Noe
Assistant Registrar
(714) 444-4141 ext. 206

With that in mind, ASP Graduate Teaching Fellow Heather Seigler created this "very official" chart as a visual aid:

"Very Official" Normalization Chart


If you have any questions please come to our Spring Office Hours (listed in the previous post)!