The Raising the Bar newsletter is dedicated to the exchange of evidence-based ideas about the bar exam, was launched in October 2018 and features distinguished commentaries, recent bar-related publications, information about research grant opportunities for scholars and bar scholarships for students, upcoming conferences with bar-related sessions, Academic Success Program (ASP) and organization program profiles. Please send information for possible inclusion in upcoming issues of Raising the Bar to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why do people fail the bar? Some graduates fail because they don’t study enough–plain and simple. Others study hard but nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, do not develop sufficient content mastery. Some do not possess requisite competencies in critical reading, effective writing, logical analysis and time management. And too many still fail because of financial challenges and/or psychological barriers, barriers that often may be prevented or mitigated.
No single magic wand can overcome all challenges, but solutions exist, and most law schools are exploring and implementing changes. Yes, more needs to be done to leverage learning science, place a higher value on the art of great teaching (teaching that both inspires and insists on great learning), and admit that teaching with an awareness of how and what is tested on the bar exam is not “teaching to the test” in any pejorative sense, but is simply good responsible teaching. But, thankfully, the legal academy is now engaged in thoughtful discussion about student success in law school and on the bar exam.
Legal educators, researchers, bar examiners, and the practicing bar are also thoughtfully discussing what we really want students to learn in law school. Are we content with bar exams that do not test empathy or listening skills, and do not emphasize problem solving (indispensable in law practice), but do require highly developed memorization skills (hardly needed in today’s smartphone age)?