Paul L. Caron

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Deans Of 20 Of California's 21 ABA-Accredited Law Schools Ask State Supreme Court To Lower Bar Exam Pass Score

California (2016)The Recorder, California Law School Deans Want Bar Exam Pass Score Lowered:

The deans of 20 California law schools on Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to temporarily lower the bar exam’s minimum passing score to let the State Bar study whether the number is unjustifiably high. [Only UC-Davis Dean Kevin Johnson did not sign the letter.]

The request comes after the pass rate for the summer 2016 test plummeted to 43 percent, the lowest figure for a July sitting in 32 years. First-time test-takers among American Bar Association-accredited schools in California did better—62 percent passed—but still lagged significantly behind their counterparts in other states, including New York, Texas and Ohio.

The deans blame California’s “atypically high” passing score, or cut score, of 144 for the multistate bar exam portion of the test. Only Delaware requires a higher score [145] on its exam. And yet those who took the California exam scored almost three points higher on the multistate bar exam than the national average.

“California graduates of ABA-accredited schools are performing better than average, and yet many of them—graduates of our law schools who would have passed the bar with similar performance in virtually any other state—are failing it in our great state, simply because of where California has decided to draw the line between passing and failing,” the deans wrote in their letter.

The letter recommends that the high court, exercising its jurisdiction over the State Bar, reduce the cut score to between 133 and 136 “to bring our exam in line with the approach taken by other economically significant states. We believe this standard should be maintained until the state can complete a full study of the bar exam,” the letter said.

Wall Street Journal, California Law Deans Urge Court to Address Low Bar-Passage Rates

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Or the schools could just respond to the market pressure and cut enrollments. Alas, that would mean getting rid of some tenured faculty.

Posted by: Bob | Feb 3, 2017 6:24:03 AM

It is my understanding that the 144 MBE benchmark has been the threshold for some (many?) years, in which case the primary catalyst would certainly appear to be declining aptitude among CA law students of late.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 2, 2017 2:44:59 PM

For decades these schools could get the vast majority of their graduates to pass the "unreasonably hard" California bar exam. Mysteriously, at about the time they let their admissions standards got to pot, the exact same bar exam, which they never complained about previously, is too difficult.

If the ABA House of Delegates passes the new resolution, and the California bar is not made easier, then 50% of California's law school profs are out a job within 2 years, book it.

Posted by: JM | Feb 2, 2017 12:55:33 PM

One hopes someone from the reality crowd (LST?) will write a dissenting letter pointing out that the rate has dropped due to nothing other than admissions (revenue) choices law schools and/or their central university administrations have made. And it seems the Deans have already come to a conclusion that the rate is too high, so why the study? Crooks.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 2, 2017 12:21:32 PM