Paul L. Caron

Thursday, November 27, 2014

WSJ: Law School Deans Question Sharp Drop in Bar Exam Scores

Following up on my previous posts:

Wall Street Journal, Law School Deans Question Sharp Drop in Bar Exam Scores:

Law schools are turning up the heat on the nation’s leading bar exam group over what they say is an inexplicable drop in student scores on the most recent test.

Dozens of law school deans across the country attached their names to a letter sent to the National Conference of Bar Examiners on Tuesday demanding a “thorough investigation of the administration and scoring” of the July 2014 bar exam. ...

The NCBE, the Wisconsin-based non-profit that prepares widely used standardized portions of the bar exam, says the results of the July test are troubling, but says the tests aren’t to blame. The group says students this year just didn’t do as well as previous years’ cohorts.

Law schools — many of which are straining to keep up enrollment in a time of sagging demand for law degrees — have bristled at the response.

The letter signed by roughly 80 deans hailing mostly from middle-ranked and public institutions, wants the NCBE to back up its claim with another review and disclosure of its methodology. ...

“We take this very seriously,” the longtime president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, Erica Moeser, told Law Blog on Wednesday. “It calls for an institutional response, which, of course, I’ll supply.” Ms. Moeser said her group has checked and rechecked its data and has found nothing awry on its end. ...

Deans from University of Connecticut, Case Western, Wake Forest, University of California-Hastings, and University of Washington were among those who added their names. [Although Deans of 40% of American law schools signed the letter, only 14% of the Deans at Top 50 law schools did so (BYU, Colorado, Fordham, Texas, and Utah, in addition to Washington and Wake Forest) -- none of the T14, and only one of the Top 20].

As Law Blog reported earlier, the controversy started brewing in October when Ms. Moeser sent a memo to deans 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.

Legal Education | Permalink


Perhaps more research and teaching on "torts and the law" "contracts and the law" and "property and the law" are in order. This may come at the expense of the sociology, polisci, and literature lectures, but it wouldn't hurt.

Posted by: Jojo | Nov 27, 2014 10:11:38 AM

It is telling that mostly Deans from TTTT schools signed this letter, who accepted students with dramatically lower LSAT scores to fill the bottom quartile of the class, knowing that they would have a difficult time passing the bar. Now the have the balls to complain about it? Unbelievable.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 28, 2014 11:35:50 AM

It is a poor workman who blames his tools. If these deans can't get their heads around their law school's performance and start blaming the Bar Exam, maybe the Exam is not the real problem.

Posted by: curmudgeoninchief | Nov 28, 2014 12:05:29 PM

I teach at an American style law school in S. Korea. Our graduates are able to sit for the D.C. bar exam. 95% of our students speak English as a second language. Nonetheless, our school's passage rate increased in 2014.

Posted by: Dave M. | Nov 30, 2014 1:23:49 AM

It strikes me that only law professors with blogs waste their time agonizing over scores that don't matter one bit. Either you prepare your law students for the exam or you don't. But don't try and slide it under the guise of "tier" of law school. Take personal responsibility as educators.

Posted by: Michael | Dec 1, 2014 8:23:42 PM