The St. John’s Law School faculty recently adopted a set of learning outcomes and performance indicators for the J.D. degree. They can be found on our newly-created Assessment page. The page includes an introduction that describes our outcomes and the process we used to create them.
This weekend, the Institute for Law Teaching will be holding a conference on assessment, “Responding to the New ABA Standards: Best Practices in Outcomes Assessment.” The conference will be held at BU on Saturday, April 2. Looks like a great lineup of speakers, and I look forward to attending.
An interesting paper by Fredrik deBoer, a lecturer at Purdue, writing for the think tank, New America, examines the rise of assessment in K-12 and higher education. He notes that K-12 education is populated with a plethora of standardized tests, while universities and colleges tend to operate as independent silos. He argues that higher education’s use of standardized tests, developed by outside testing firms, should be approached with caution. At the very least, the tests should be subjected to external validation. He writes, “Researchers must vet these instruments to determine how well they work, and what the potential unforeseen consequences are of these types of assessments, for the good of all involved.” More from InsideHigherEd.
Recently, the Standards Review Committee of the ABA announced that it will be proposing a change to ABA Standard 316, which governs the minimum bar exam passage rate that a law school must show in order to remain accredited. As has been reported elsewhere, the current rule provides law schools with a number of ways to demonstrate compliance. The proposed rule streamlines the path to compliance. Under the proposal, 75% of a school’s graduates who took a bar exam must pass within two years of graduation. First-time bar passage will still be reported on a school’s Standard 509 report.
It is important to put this proposal into a broader context:
- A declining applicant pool has led some schools to lower admissions standards.
- Critics have argued that some law schools are admitting students who have little to no hope of passing the bar exam, at least not on the first attempt.
- There has been public bickering between some deans and the National Conference of Bar Examiners about who is to blame for recent declines in bar passage nationwide, with the former blaming the test, and the latter blaming law schools for lowering admissions standards.
I argue that, along the way, there has been a silent rethinking of how we view the bar exam. Many schools take great pride in their bar passage rates, as they reflect well on their programs of legal education. In the past, a school’s bar exam passage rate was thought to be the measure of knowledge acquired in law school. But there are a few reasons why the bar exam does not fully assess the learning that goes on in law school: Continue reading