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ABA panel strikes on test selection


A quick dive:

  • The political body of the American Bar Association rejected the plan On Monday, it will eliminate the requirement that ABA-accredited law schools use a law school entrance test or other standardized assessment for admission.
  • The ABA’s House of Delegates has voted against changes to the organization’s policy to require entrance exams — which detractors of the exams say promotes the average diversity of legal education. About 600 officials make up the House of Delegates, who conducted the vote on the plan, meaning an exact tally was not available.
  • However, the proposal did not die. It can be renewed and approved unilaterally Council of the Legal Education and Bar Admissions Section, another control panel which An optional testing policy is fine in November. That’s because while the House of Delegates approves the new policy, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the Board as the division of the ABA that accredits law schools.

Dive Insight:

Over the years, the ABA has periodically considered whether to pursue a policy requiring law schools to rely on the entrance exam. This was usually the LSAT, but in recent years some institutions have also allowed the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

ABA formally authorized use GRE as an entrance exam in November 2021.

The organization last discussed eliminating all testing requirements about five years ago. In 2018, the proposal did not even reach the House of Delegates. It was withdrawn amid concerns that disadvantaged law school applicants will not be able to prove their academic skills without an objective measure such as a standardized test. Opposition arose from such sources as The Law School Admissions Council, or LSAC, which administers the LSAT.

Proponents of the test-optional movement were more optimistic last year when the ABA took up the question again. The optional testing policy rose to prominence in 2020, when many colleges relaxed entrance exam requirements for undergraduate students as the coronavirus shut down common exam sites.

Most colleges have not reverted to their pre-pandemic policies and are either still experimenting with test-optional rules or adopting them permanently.

Opponents of the ABA proposal, however, like some law school deans, say the grades provide an accurate picture of students’ academic talents. They say that loosening the testing requirements will degrade the quality of legal education.

ETS, the company that runs the GRE, was satisfied with the vote against, AIlberto Aceredo, Associate Vice President for Global Higher Education, said in an emailed statement on Monday.

And Kelly Testy, president and CEO of LSAC, said in a statement Monday that the LSAT “is an important tool for promoting diversity.” Testi said the House of Delegates’ move would allow more time to study the impact of elective policies on student diversity.

“We are committed to working with the ABA and the entire legal education community to revisit these issues and find common ways to continue to expand access and diversity,” Testy said.

Proponents of optional testing cite the same equity-oriented reasons for rolling back college and law school testing requirements. They argue that the tests harm applicants who cannot afford the intensive training.

These are disproportionately promising students who are black or members of other racial minority groups. Thus, test mandates contribute to a lack of diversity in legal education, observers say.

A Florida International University Law Review study in 2019 showed that the average LSAT score for black students was 142, compared to 153 for whites and Asians. The maximum score is 180.

The House of Delegates debated the ABA admissions standard change for about an hour. Several representatives said during the discussion that the organization should wait until law schools learn more about how optional exam policies affect admissions.

The proposal would not make law schools optional. It also wouldn’t start until 2025.

Bill Adams, ABA Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education, The Section’s Council on Legal Education and Bar Admissions is disappointed by Monday’s vote, according to an emailed statement.

The board will consider next steps at its February 17 meeting, Adams said.

It is clear that the rule change did not advance, given the impact it would have on law school admissions and on aspiring lawyers. Amit Schlesinger, executive director of legal programs at test preparation company Kaplan, said in an email.

Schlesinger said that of the 82 law schools Kaplan spoke with in a survey of law school admissions offices in 2022, half said they would keep standardized testing requirements even if the ABA repealed them.

“If the rule change were to pass, we believe that many, if not most, applicants would continue to take the LSAT or GRE scores even if they were not required by a particular law school,” Schlesinger said.

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