Civil Rights Commission Urges Law Schools To Release Data [This Post Has Been UPDATED … and UPDATED Again]

Writing today on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog, Peter Schmidt reports that tomorrow the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will release a report urging law schools to release data on the nature and success of their affirmative action policies. It will also urge the section of the American Bar Association that sets accreditation standards to reconsider its new “diversity” requirement, which has been criticized as an interference with academic freedom. (See here, here, here, here, and here, among others)

Among its other recommendations, the report will call for the National Academy of Sciences or some other entity to finance research on the impact of law schools’ affirmative-action policies, and it will urge state bar associations to cooperate with such research.

Perhaps this report will lead the State Bar of California to reconsider its heavy-handed decision to block access to the data it has collected on bar passage rates, a decision discussed here.

UPDATE [28 August]

An expanded version of Schmidt’s report appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education today.

The additional information that I found most interesting was reference to a letter written to the State Bar of California by Eileen Kaufman and Tayyab Mahmud, co-presidents of the Society of American Law Teachers. They urged the bar association not to release any data on bar passage rates to Prof. Sander and the two scholars working with him on this research project, Prof. Vikran Amar of the University of California at Davis, William Henderson of Indiana University, Doug Williams of Sewanee. Among other complaints about possible “misuse” of the data, Kaufman and Mahoud

argued that releasing such data could have a “potential negative impact upon minority bar applicants and attorneys,” by fueling “misperceptions that they simply are not as smart or qualified as their white counterparts.”

I wonder if the Society of Law Teachers similarly objects to the Law School Admission Council publishing data revealing LSAT scores by race, gender,and ethnicity, data which is widely avaliable. Here, for example, is a summary of data from one of its longitudinal bar passage studies:

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study was undertaken primarily in response to rumors and anecdotal reports suggesting that bar passage rates were so low among examinees of color that potential applicants were questioning the wisdom of investing the time and resources necessary to obtain a legal education. There were no reliable sources of national empirical data to support or refute those claims. When the LSAC committed to conducting this study, it was done with the conviction that the information was vital to legal education regardless of the outcome. If the dismal failure rates being reported in whispers were accurate, legal education would need to rethink both its admission and educational policy and practice. If they were false, they needed to be replaced with accurate information.


The eventual passage rates for racial and ethnic groups were: American Indian, 82.2 percent (88 of 107); Asian American, 91.9 percent (883 of 961); black, 77.6 percent (1062 of 1368); Mexican American, 88.4 percent (352 of 398); Puerto Rican, 79.7 percent (102 of 128); Hispanic, 89.0 percent (463 of 520), white, 96.7 percent (18,664 of 19,285); and other, 91.5 percent (292 of 319).

It would appear that the Society of Law Teachers does not agree with the Law School Admission Council’s “conviction that the information was vital to legal education regardless of the outcome.”

Has the Society of Law Teachers informed the LSAC of its objection to the release of data on bar passage rates? Has it informed the College Board that no data revealing SAT scores by race should be published? Has it informed law schools that graduation rates by race should be kept secret?

If not, why not?

UPDATE II [28 August]

For those of you without access to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Peter Schmidt has a working link to his article on his blog, here. He also has a link to the full report of the Civil Rights Commission, which is not yet available on the Commission’s web site.

Say What? (6)

  1. Anita August 28, 2007 at 9:49 am | | Reply

    the issue is always the same. when they say more diversity what they mean is lower standards. why not just go ahead and do it then for everyone – and deal with the consequences.

  2. Dom August 28, 2007 at 3:19 pm | | Reply

    Anita, I don’t know if you are being sarcastic here, but I have always thought the same, and I truly believe it is a workabble solution. Vocational schools don’t have AA. There is no need for it. Everyone who applies gets in. We just assume that if one does not have the talent or drive to be, say, an electrician, then one won’t apply, or will apply and change courses later. IT depends heavily on “vocational-like” schools. They lay out the qualifications they feel you need to take a course; if you have it, or if you feel you can fake it, or catch up, then you just take the course. No SATs, no recommendations, no racial quotas. And it works. IT is a thriving area.

    I have been trying to find out why the supply of education — schools, teachers, etc — never rises to meet its demand. That seems to be the problem.

  3. Chetly Zarko August 29, 2007 at 5:25 pm | | Reply

    The issue of science and secrecy, which do not blend, is something we should focus. Whether either side is right or wrong about diversity, we should be able to agree on neither side having exclusive control over studying it.

  4. E August 30, 2007 at 7:46 am | | Reply


    Affirmative Action in American Law Schools

    The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights yesterday released a report echoing a controversial theory — minority students who gain special admission to better-regarded law schools based on their race end up in academic settings for which they aren’t qualified, leading to lower grades and bar passage rates than if they had been admitted to a school that doesn’t use racial preferences.

  5. E August 30, 2007 at 9:20 am | | Reply

    FYI, if you have not already read this. The racial gaps in all testing still exist, even though this report is from March 2000. Nothing much has changed since with race preferences in admissions to elite schools.


    Need a Lawyer?

    In 1988, New York State’s Chief Judge established a committee, The New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities. Its purpose was to study the presence and effects of racism in the state’s courts. Buried in its final 2000-page report was the finding that minorities passed the New York bar exam at significantly lower rates than whites. The commission found that for the period spanning 1985 through 1988, first-attempt pass rates were 31.1 percent for blacks and 73.1 percent for whites. Applying the methods of Appendix A, we translated these pass rates to a corresponding black-white mean difference of 1.11 SD.

    Several years later, commenting on the Commission’s findings, Edna Wells Handy wrote in The New York Law Journal of April 1996, “Determining whether those pass rates have remained constant since the Commission’s report must await the completion and dissemination of the national bar exam study presently being conducted by the Law School Admission Council.” Ms. Handy was referring to the most ambitious study of law students ever attempted. The Law School Admission Council is the organization that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). At the time Handy’s article appeared, it was tracking 27,000 students who enrolled in U.S. law schools in the fall of 1991. The students were followed from law school entry to the bar exam. The Council issued its report in 1998, finding that 92 percent of white law-school graduates passed the bar exam on the first attempt, as did 61 percent of black graduates. This implies a black-white mean difference of 1.13 SD.

    The Council also reported the results of repeated attempts at the bar exam. It found that eventually 97 percent of white and 78 percent of black law graduates passed, corresponding to a black-white mean difference of 1.11 SD.

    The one-plus SD gap between black and white lawyers stubbornly refused to go away. Others, however, viewed the Council’s findings differently. “This study strongly refutes the myth that affirmative action policies tend to set students up for failure on the bar exam,” hallucinated Henry Ramsey Jr., a retired California state judge and member of the committee that oversaw the study.

    Tamar Lewin, covering the Council’s report for the New York Times, characterized the Commission’s findings as “likely to provide important support for advocates of affirmative action.” Her column appeared under the headline: “Minorities Achieve High Success Rate in Bar Exams, Study Says.”

    The fact is that affirmative action has stratified the bar by race and ability. Black lawyers lag behind their white colleagues in measured ability by about 1.1 SD. Affirmative action creates a racial gap at law-school entry that never goes away. When entrance credentials are controlled, racial differences mostly vanish. More than 20,000 adult blacks in the U.S. have an IQ of 130 or more, but because of affirmative action, the chance that your black lawyer will be one of them is vanishingly small.

  6. E August 30, 2007 at 10:06 am | | Reply






    White Black Hispanic Asian Other Minority

    Pass Rates:

    Whites- 69.1%

    Blacks- 33.8%

    Hispanics- 48.8%

    Asians- 61.7%

    Other Minorities- 53.3%



    White Black Hispanic Asian Other Minority

    Pass Rates:

    Whites- 13.6%

    Blacks- 6.3%

    Hispanics- 13.1%

    Asians- 15.5%

    Other Minorities- 11.5%

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