Sunday, September 3, 2023

Another Low National MBE Mean

The NCBE released the national MBE mean on Thursday.  The press release is here.  The release highlights the improvement of .2 over last year, which is in a positive direction.  However, I fear too many state bar examiners continue to accept deflated MBE scores without questions.  From 2007-2015, 1 year had below a 142 national MBE mean on a July exam.  Since 2015, 1 year has a 142 or above, and that was 2020 when the NCBE contends the number of takers skewed the statistics.  As someone who taught bar preparation since 2008, I don't believe students now are significantly different than students pre-2015.  Even many of the "get off my lawn" aged professors think students are similar now to pre-2015.  What happened in 2015?  The NCBE added Civil Procedure to the MBE and scores haven't been the same.  With 8 years of deflated scores (with most schools increasing bar prep resources), the NCBE should probably start answering questions.  Bar examiners should step-up and ask questions when individuals' careers are impacted.  Here are a few questions I have (I tried to limit the list):

1.  How did the NCBE take cognitive load into account (ie - adding more material to study) when scaling the MBE in 2015?  (Their stock answer of students studied Civ Pro for essays is unacceptable because not all states tested Fed Civ Pro on essays and level of detail is different for MBE than essays).

2.  When more retakers took the July 2023 bar exam (press release indicates higher percentage), did that artificially decrease the scale for everyone?  

3.  How did the first-time takers compare to previous first-time takers (especially 2018 and 2019) on the anchor questions? 

4.  Is it possible this group of first-time takers performed as well as previous years but the NCBE's lack of accounting for a global pandemic continues to have residual effects on pass rates?

5.  Does the NCBE separate first-time takers and repeater takers performance on anchor questions to create the scale?

My questions may prove unhelpful or even misguided, but the NCBE's lack of transparency raises doubts about scoring.  I could be wrong that students now are just as qualified as previous years.  However, we don't have information to evaluate my questions.  State bar examiners also don't have information or aren't asking these questions.  Alumni lose tens of thousands of dollars in career earnings when not passing the first time.  With that much power over peoples' lives comes even greater responsibility to prove the process works.  We also  shouldn't be complacent waiting for NextGen.  Lets continually ask questions to protect our students and their dreams.

(Steven Foster)

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