Three Thomas Jefferson Law School grads walk in to a bar.
Two of them fail.
You may recall reading about Thomas Jefferson's abysmal 2011 bar passage rate, but there hasn't been too close of a look at just what that means in terms of ABA accreditation. The ABA requires school maintain a satisfactory bar passage rate, and this criteria can be met by any of three tests.
The first test looks at the cumulative bar passage rate for the last 5 years, counting anyone who passed a bar exam, not just first time takers. If that number is above 75%, you're good. Thomas Jefferson squeezes by with a 77.4% rate.
The second test looks at the individual rates for the past five years. If three of those years are above 75%, you're good.
These are also students who passed at any time, not just first time takers, which is how the 2007 and 2008 numbers are so high. The initial numbers were 65% and 75%. 2007, 2008, and 2009 are over the 75% mark, so TJ keeps accreditation.
The third test compares your weighted average first time passage rage to the weighted average of all ABA accredited schools. If three of those years do better than -15% below the ABA average, you're good.
2006: 70.3%, -13.5%
2007: 65.26%, -8.67%
2008: 75.08%, -4.69%
2009: 48.15%, -26.44%
2010: 55.93%, -18.21%
Again, 2006, 2007, and 2008 are all high enough for TJ to keep accreditation.
But wait, this is 2012 and your most recent year is 2010, what gives? ...We don't know. Let's get looking at what the new numbers will mean for TJ though.
The low 2011 passage rate will mean that for the third test, TJ fails. Only 2007 and 2008 are within 15% of the overall passage rate. TJ only has two tests left that can save it.
Let's assume 2012 continues the downward trend, or at least holds steady. For the second test of having any 3 years over the 75% mark, will Thomas Jefferson pass?
2008 and 2009 are already over that mark. 2010 is at 70.8%. If enough 2010 grads retake the bar, they can move that number up. It's not too far to go, though TJ will be hampered by the non-persisters, students who have given up trying to pass the bar. With the economy in the stinker, and these students being 2 years out of school, there might not be enough people retaking the exam, though you can bet the TJ alumni office is blowing up their phones.
For the last test, having a cumulative 5 year rate over 75%, TJ is probably out of luck. It's just barely over the mark, and will be trading a 90%+ rate with a number quite possibly below the 50% mark. That's enough for a 2.4% drop in their cumulative rate.
So, it all comes down to the 2010 persisters. Thomas Jefferson needs 14% of its 2010 grads who have never passed to finally make it. The pass rate for repeat takers is in the low 20s. It's going to be close.
But, only kinda.
Under the ABA accreditation standards, any school that falls out of compliance is granted 2 years to turn things around. Becoming out of compliance on bar passage rates takes at least 3 years, so it takes a total of 5 years to get your accreditation yanked, and even then the ABA isn't required to yank it, they're just given the option of doing so.
So, what about these two years to turn things around?
If you have 3 consecutive bad years, you're sunk. You cannot turn them around. If 2013 and 2014 are great, 2010, 2011 and 2012 will still probably be too bad for the school to keep its accreditation. The two-year turn around period will be spent doing nothing more than circling the drain, and grabbing every last penny it can from new students who don't understand that the school won't be keeping its accreditation.