The dean of the Brooklyn Law School has jumped headfirst into the simmering controversy surrounding this year’s bar exam. As we reported previously, the passage rate for those who took the July 2014 Ohio bar exam was the lowest bar passage rate in years.
But Ohio was not the only state. The Wall Street Journal reports that the overall passage rate for the Texas exam was 11 percentage points lower than last year’s results, and that Idaho, Iowa, Oregon, and Washington were among other states reporting sharp drops.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) did little to calm the waters when its President sent a memo to law school deans in October, claiming that the NCBE was concerned about the “drop in test scores,” but that after rechecking its figures, the NCBE had concluded, “All [indicators] point to the fact that the group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.”
In response to that statement, Nicholas Allard, the Dean of the Brooklyn Law School, fired back a letter on November 10, 2014, demanding a “credible and accurate explanation for the drop in test scores which you report, and a sincere apology to all the law graduates you disparaged and described as ‘less able’ without meaningful, convincing evidence.”
Citing “quality control issues” he believes the NCBE itself raised in its October memo, Allard blasted the NCBE for failing to explain how it reached its conclusion. After sticking up for his students, and for law students across the country, Allard closed his letter by stating that the NCBE’s position that the bar exam is supposed to be difficult is not a satisfactory answer given this year’s results. “In your response,” he wrote, “please do not retreat behind that fig leaf and fail to answer the serious questions you yourself have raised about the integrity and fairness of the 2014 exam for every test taker.”
What do you think? Is the decline attributable to a decline in the quality or diligence of law students? Should the NCBE do more to explain the validity of its results? Tell us at @OhioLegalEthics.
Wall Street Journal coverage here.
NCBE Memo to Deans is here, also courtesy of Wall Street Journal.
Allard’s letter is here, also courtesy of Wall Street Journal.