Paul L. Caron

Monday, July 25, 2022

WSJ Op-Ed: The LSAT And Other Standardized Tests Are Good For Diversity

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  The LSAT and Other Standardized Tests Are Good for Diversity, by Paul Sracic (Director, Rigelhaupt Pre-Law Center, Youngstown State University; Google Scholar):

LSAT 2Objective measures of ability give my working-class students a shot at going to a top law school. ...

I attended a conference a few years ago for undergraduate “prelaw advisers”—academics, usually professors or deans, who guide undergraduates through the law-school admissions process. An admissions official from a prestigious law school used a file from a past applicant (with identifying information removed) to illustrate the review process. She began by noting the student’s high grade point average from “a good school.” That bothered me, because I knew she’d never call my regional state institution a “good school.”

I thought: Thank goodness for the Law School Admissions Test. Only the LSAT gives the mostly working-class, first-generation college students I teach a shot at the top law schools.

The Journal reported in May that the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, is considering a proposal to abandon its requirement that applicants take a “valid and reliable admissions test.”...

By excusing favored students from the LSAT, schools would make their preferences more opaque and challenges to them harder to prove. An LSAT-optional policy would also cause average scores to rise by eliminating lower ones from the pool. That would push the school’s average score up, creating competitive pressure on top schools to adopt such policies.

Writing for the majority in Grutter, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor affirmed the need “to assemble a student body that is not just racially diverse, but diverse along all the qualities valued by the university.” The experience of my working-class students demonstrates that the LSAT furthers that goal.

Among the biases concealed by subjective measures is class bias. I don’t recall which “good school” was in the file the admissions officer showed at the conference, but I remember it was a very selective private university. Her words weren’t as benign as they might have sounded. She was talking about how she would evaluate the many applications she had to review each year. Whether or not a GPA was earned at a “good school” was clearly part of her internal algorithm for winnowing them down. ...

For those who can and want to go to law school, how, without a “valid and reliable admissions test,” will my students demonstrate that they are as bright and capable of doing well in law school as students from privileged backgrounds? That’s precisely what the LSAT accomplishes. ...

Bias can come in many forms, and the most effective way to counteract it—and to promote diversity—is through objective measures such as the LSAT.

(Hat Tip: Steven Sholk)

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