November 3, 2010
On Student Learning Outcomes: Legal Writing Profs Give ABA Standards Review Committee Lesson in Drafting
On September 30, 2010, the Association of Legal Writing Directors submitted a letter to the ABA Section of Legal Education & Admissions as a comment on the May 5, 2010 draft of proposed revisions to the ABA Accreditation Standards with respect to Student Learning Outcomes.
ALWD urges the [Student Learning Outcomes] Subcommittee to recommend standards with sufficient rigor to drive meaningful change in legal education, and more specifically to address the longstanding concerns in the Carnegie Report regarding the quality and relevance of legal education.
One might say the ALWD provided the ABA Committee with an illustration in how to draft with specificity by several of its recommended revisions, including Draft Interpretation 302-1 for Standard 302: Learning Outcomes and Standard 304: Assessment of Student Learning. This after the ABA watered down earlier drafted language. Two examples displayed below.
On October 18, 2010, The Legal Writing Institute submitted a letter to the ABA Accredition Standards supporting the ALWD's September 30, 2010 recommendations, noting "we specifically endorse the language proposed by ALWD that modifies the May 5, 2010 draft on outcome measure, and the rationale provided to support those changes." And explaining:
We join with ALWD in recommending improvements to the May 5, 2010 draft that restores some of the more specific, and therefore guided and transparent, standards reflected in the October, 2009 draft.
It appears that the chief objection to the various proposals that the Standards Review Committee has considered is cost. For example, the Board of Directors of the American Law Deans Association, in its July 14, 2010 memorandum to the Consultant, claims that an outcome measures regime that requires a school to rigorously assess its effectiveness would “necessarily” require a school to “spend a tremendous amount of time and resources assessing its progress.” We believe that this statement reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what “outcome measures” are, and how schools could go about creating them and assessing achievement of them.