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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WSJ: MBE, Brooklyn Dean Debate Cause of Declining Bar Pass Rates: Students or the Test?

Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Decline in Bar Exam Scores Sparks War of Words:

A steep decline in bar exam scores on the most recent test has led to an outbreak of finger-pointing over who’s to blame for the downward swing.

In a sharply worded letter, the dean of Brooklyn Law School on Monday reproached the head of a national bar exam group for suggesting to law school leaders that their graduates who took the July exam were less prepared than students who sat for the test in previous years.

The dean’s letter came in response to an October memo by Erica Moeser, the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, addressed to law school deans across the country in which she defended the integrity of the group’s exam and raised concerns about the ability of the would-be lawyers who took it. ...

The passage rate for Brooklyn Law School graduates who took the bar for the first time in July was nearly 10 percentage points lower than last year’s rate, Mr. Allard told Law Blog. He said the median LSAT score for the 2013 and 2014 cohorts was 163 in both cases. ... “What is her basis for saying the students are less able? I think that’s offensive. I don’t believe it,” Mr. Allard, who is also a senior partner at Squire Patton Boggs, told Law Blog on Monday.

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Dean Allard claims that the median LSAT scores were the same at 163, but he neglects to mention that the 25% number dropped from 162 to 160. And God only knows the decline in quality below the bottom quartile, since it doesn't have to be published. My guess is that the vast majority of Brooklyn students that didn't pass the Bar in 2014 came from the bottom quartile of the class, so Allard's statement about the medians really means nothing.

Posted by: JM | Nov 11, 2014 4:55:45 AM

What was Brooklyn's pass rate this year?

Posted by: Hugh | Nov 11, 2014 6:06:14 AM

It's possible that the entering credentials might have been the same, but that the "ending credentials" of the people who actually took the exam were worse because higher ranked schools were pulling up more transfer students than before as admissions started to decline.

Posted by: BoredJD | Nov 11, 2014 7:04:19 AM

BoredJD, the more relevant decline in "ending credentials" at Brookly Law School would be at the bottom of the class due to the lesser qualified transfers that they pulled in.

Posted by: JM | Nov 11, 2014 7:17:18 AM

Good point about the 25th percentile. In casual browsing of the LST site, I've noticed that a lot - some slippage of the 75th, more in the median, and a lot in the 25th (God only knows what the 20th, 15th, 10th and 5th are doing).

And if the bottom-feeder schools tend to have a high transfer out rate for the top quartile, then these entering figures are an optimistic look at the grads.

Posted by: Barry | Nov 11, 2014 8:26:17 AM