By Corinne Murdock |
The University of Arizona (UArizona) doesn’t believe that traditional law school entry tests are equitable enough, bolstering their push for an LSAT alternative.
UArizona James E. Rogers College of Law wants law school applicants to take JD-Next, an online prep course that concludes with an exam. UArizona issued a study in defense of their proposed LSAT replacement, claiming that it wouldn’t be “picking winners and losers through testing” but rather providing a way to “recognize and produce capability” — namely, for racial minorities.
“Especially for underrepresented students, the goal is to measure not just the accumulated knowledge and skills that they would bring to a new academic program, but also their ability to grow and learn through the program,” read the study. “[T]he JD-Next exam holds promise as a new law school admissions pathway, both to better predict success in law school and to help diversify the populations of students in law school.
The study tracked incoming students across dozens of law schools to determine whether the JD-Next exam was predictive of student performance. The study included data from two separate cohorts in 2019 and 2020.
The 2019 cohort tweaked its representation of students by oversampling minorities: 60 percent of nearly 11,600 invited participants were a minority. 24 percent were Black or African American, 21 percent were Hispanic, 14 percent were Asian, and one percent were Native American or Native Hawaiian. As a result of the oversampling, only 43.5 percent of participants were white.
The study also disclosed that students who identified as both White and Asian were coded as multi-race, but not classified as “underrepresented groups,” or “URG.”
However, the 2020 cohort more similarly reflected the makeup of law schools across the country: 61 percent white.
The study noted that it focused on race as a factor in testing in order to determine diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in higher education. It claimed that the JD-Next exams resulted in smaller disparities in test results between different races than the LSAT.
“These questions about score disparities are important because admissions tests can impact efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in law schools,” stated the study. “If admissions officers rely on these tests to decide which applicants to reject, and lower test scores are associated with some races or ethnicities, then students with those identities are more likely to be rejected, and overall representation in law school and the legal profession is thereby reduced.”
This wouldn’t be UArizona’s first foray into modifying admissions test standards. The university successfully pushed for the acceptance of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test for law school admissions in 2021. Prior to that, the GRE General Test was used for admission to graduate schools.
The American Bar Association (ABA) mandates that law schools require an admission test in order to be accredited. However, the ABA Council voted last November to abolish this requirement beginning in the fall semester of 2025.
Authors of the UArizona study included Jessica Findley, a research scholar with UArizona Office of Diversity & Inclusion and an assistant clinical professor at the law school; Adriana Cimetta, associate educational psychology research professor in UArizona College of Education; Heidi Legg Burross, interim department head, educational psychology professor, and research assistant professor in the College of Education; Katherine C. Cheng, assistant educational psychology research professor in the College of Education; Matt Charles, designer of curriculum for the law school; Cayley Balser, Innovation for Justice post-graduate fellow; Ran Li, graduate student in educational psychology; Christopher Robertson, adjunct law professor.