April 24, 2018

Law school bar passage rates above Illinois, Missouri averages

CARBONDALE, Ill. — New results from February 2018 bar exams in Illinois and Missouri show a higher percentage of recent SIU School of Law graduates are passing than state averages.

  • In Missouri, all five SIU School of Law graduates who took the exam for the first time passed for a 100 percent mark. This was the highest passing rate of any law schools in Missouri or Kansas. The state’s average was 75.9 percent for first-time takers.
  • In Illinois, nine of 12 law school graduates taking the test for the first time passed. SIU’s 75 percent average is above the 69 percent state average.

Changes in law school culture, devoting additional resources to academic support, and a recently implemented Bar Improvement Project contributed to the increase, said Christopher W. Behan, acting law school dean. Increased faculty and staff resources include a dedicated bar preparation specialist, an academic support specialist and a legal writing specialist.

“Our faculty, staff and students have all worked very hard to identify and implement best practices for teaching, assessment and bar preparation itself,” he said. “We’re proud of the good work everyone has done and pleased that we’ve shown improvement in our bar passage rates for July 2017 and February 2018.”

In late 2016, the faculty passed a comprehensive Bar Improvement Project designed to improve bar passage outcomes. This initiative includes curricular changes and a greater focus on formative assessment, including bar-style questions in most classes. The school pilot-tested some aspects of the program during the spring of 2017, with full implementation beginning in fall 2017.

The project implemented various teaching, assessment and grading requirements. The requirements included:

  • In virtually all classes, faculty must administer at least one developmentally appropriate bar exam-type assignment where students receive individual feedback and an opportunity to redo the assignment until proficiency is achieved.
  • An assessment week during the first year in which students are given mid-term exams to practice their skills and receive feedback.
  • A requirement that some second- and third-year students take additional upper level courses on bar topics.
  • All graduating students attend a meeting during fall of their graduating year to be briefed about bar preparation.