Taylor: Law School Admissions Shouldn’t Hinge On Test Scores

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Law360 Op-Ed:  Law School Admissions Shouldn’t Hinge On Test Scores, by Aaron Taylor (AccessLex):

Law360 3People of color comprise 40% of the country’s population, but 33% of law students. The two largest underrepresented groups — Black students and Latino students — comprise 32% of the population and just 21% of law students.

Racial and ethnic disparities in admissions rates foster these enrollment disparities. In 2019, I found that it took 1,960 Black law school applicants to yield 1,000 offers of admission, compared to only 1,204 among white applicants and 1,333 overall.

These trends can be attributed in large part to how racial and ethnic LSAT score disparities interact with the outsized weight that law schools place on the test. Black applicants have the lowest average LSAT score and the lowest law school admission rate. Latino applicants have the second-lowest average score and the second-lowest admission rate.

Average scores are highest among white and Asian American applicants, and they enjoy the highest admission rates. These trends are not random, and they extend to scholarships as well. Higher LSAT scores are tied to both higher chances of receiving a scholarship and higher award amounts. …

The ABA is the only professional school accreditor that imposes an admissions test requirement on schools. Moreover, a review of standards for the six regional agencies that accredit entire universities found no encouragement of the use of admissions tests or any other specific tools for evaluating applicants.

So, the ABA’s requirement stands out not only among professional school accreditors but across the accrediting landscape overall. Standards tend to focus on the ethics, transparency and effectiveness of admissions processes, however designed. Accreditors commonly require that admissions processes be designed to ensure the admission of qualified applicants only, but they stop well short of mandating specifics.

The latitude given to schools in selecting students is commonly balanced by responsibilities to meet tangible student learning objectives and outcomes. In other words, accrediting agencies tend to focus on preidentified outcomes. The ABA standards include two outcomes measures that are used to assess the effectiveness of a school’s admissions policies: Standards 501 and 316. …

Legal education tends to embrace change slowly. So even if the test requirement is eliminated, the centrality of test scores would not diminish much anytime soon. And while I think a more profound deemphasis on scores is needed, a slow transition could allow schools to engage in smaller-scale experimentation that contributes profoundly to our limited knowledge of holistic admissions strategies.


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