Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Namby-pamby ABA gives dispensation to non-compliant Cooley

Two years ago, when the ABA supposedly tightened its so-called Standard 316 for accredition of law schools, we pointed out the weaknesses in the new standard and predicted that the ABA would allow non-compliant schools to remain accredited. We were right.

Odious "Western Michigan University's" Thomas M. Cooley Law School, an erstwhile chain now shrunken to two outlets, has received a three-year "extension" of time to come into compliance. The standard requires that at least 75% of those who take a bar exam pass it within two years of graduation. Cooley's rates for 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively, were 66.01%, 62.31%, and 59.51%. 

As we pointed out in the article cited above, law schools and their administrative enablers have resorted to various stratagems for temporarily bolstering bar-passage rates without improving quality. One popular old ruse was to cajole or bribe inferior students out of taking the exam, so that their predicted failure would not affect the bar-passage rate. Schools have been known to pay quite a few thousand dollars just to keep one student away from the exams. Another trick is to pare enrollment down artificially just long enough to make the school more "selective", with better students more likely to pass the exams—only to return to open admission as soon as the school achieved compliance with the norm. Unabashed pursuit of compliance has turned a number of ├╝ber-toilets into glorified test-prep courses. And of course there is boundless potential for special pleading, flim-flam excuses, and other bullshit reasons to get "extensions" that amount to indefinitely renewable licenses for shameful non-compliances.

The scam-enabling ABA reassures us that Cooley's extension comes with strings attached:

They include working with faculty to improve teaching and learning, reviewing the effects of more rigorous grading policies, and making a “significant financial investment” in a “reliable plan” to ensure that the law school has resources to operate in compliance with the standards.

Also, the law school must adhere to a revised admissions policy, so entering classes have stronger success predictors for graduating and passing a bar exam.

What exactly is meant by "working with faculty to improve teaching and learning"? How will that be measured? Not at all, Old Guy imagines. What good will "reviewing the effects of more rigorous grading policies" do, especially if those "effects" turn out to be nil or negligible (or even negative)? Just what will the "reliable plan", the "resources to operate in compliance with the standards", and the "revised admissions policy" entail?

Note too that the ABA gave Cooley a three-year extension to a period of compliance that by default lasts only two years. One does not ordinarily think of an "extension" as being longer than the original period. Furthermore, with a bar-passage rate that shows a rapidly declining trend, Cooley is hardly the ideal candidate for an "extension". If Cooley gets a three-year extension for such dreadful results, would any school be denied?

When will the ABA cut the crap and admit that it is not serious about standards for accreditation?