Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peacemaking in Ferguson -- My Heart Goes to all St. Louisians

My Home Town's Journey

This recent communication from my mediation community touched me deeply.

From: Sandy Heierbacher [mailto:sandy@NCDD.ORG]
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 8:11 AM
Subject: [NCDD-UPDATES] What can the dialogue & deliberation community do after Ferguson?

Message to the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation community, from NCDD’s Director...

Hi, everyone. Many of us are reeling from the events in Ferguson. Some of you may be involved in protests in your own cities right now.

Last night, President Obama addressed the nation after it was announced that Darren Wilson would not be indicted. In his remarks, I couldn’t help but think he was talking about the work that many of you do. The juxtaposition on the split screen of Obama encouraging protestors to stay peaceful on one side, and tear gas canisters being thrown by police in riot fear [sic?] on the other side was bizarre. But what Obama talked about was not.

He talked about America’s long-standing struggle with race relations and racial inequity, and how despite considerable progress being made over the years, much more work [needs] to be done. He emphasized the need for criminal justice reform and for stronger police-community relations. He mentioned that there are communities that have been able to deal with this in an effective way.

Here is a quote that I’d like to draw your attention to:
But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible, that the vast majority of people in Ferguson, the St. Louis region, in Missouri and around the country are looking for. And I want to be partner with those folks, and we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.
We know one of his strategies is to work with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS), which has offices in 15 locations across the country. CRS provides mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation services for communities in crisis, and is interested in finding ways to partner with NCDD members who can potentially increase their effectiveness and reach.

NCDD has actually been working with the Community Relations Service to plan meetings in late January between NCDD members and CRS staff in as many of their offices as possible. If you are interested in participating, read the post at http://ncdd.org/16724 and then send an email to joy@ncdd.org and sandy@ncdd.org letting us know you’d like to join in. This opportunity is limited to supporting members of NCDD, so you may need to join or get your dues caught up. We’d also love your ideas about what you’d like to see happen at those meetings.

But there are things you can do immediately as well.

We’ve blogged about some of our members’ top resources for addressing racial conflict and inequity through dialogue and action at http://ncdd.org/15953. Please share this post widely so people will understand what Obama meant when he said “we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place.”

And please put these resources to use! If your community needs to have a conversation NOW, and you’re concerned that you don’t have enough time at this point to organize a dialogue-to-action project or a national issues forum quickly and effectively, I’d suggest you start by holding one or more Conversation Cafes.

Conversation Cafes are super-simple 90-minute dialogues that anyone can host. They are great tools to use for rapid response, and in organizing a Conversation Cafe you may very well be able to find more people interested in working with you to organize a more in-depth dialogue process that can lead to collaborative action.

Everything you need to host a Conversation Cafe can be found at http://ncdd.org/rc/item/92 or at www.conversationcafe.org.

Please share this message with others if you find it helpful. And good luck with all the important work you are doing! You all are so needed in this world.

Sandy Heierbacher

Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

sandy@ncdd.orgwww.ncdd.org • @ncdd & @heierbacher

The 2014 NCDD conference has been storified! Check it out at www.storify.com/ncdd/ncdd-2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Debate Begins on Reason for Drop in National Bar Passage Rates

Graduate Competence or 
Design and Scoring Problems?

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported the onset of a debate about the surprising drop in bar passage rates on a national basis.  It said: 
A steep decline in bar exam scores on the most recent test has led to an outbreak of finger-pointing over who’s to blame for the downward swing. 
In a sharply worded letter, the dean of Brooklyn Law School on Monday reproached the head of a national bar exam group for suggesting to law school leaders that their graduates who took the July exam were less prepared than students who sat for the test in previous years. 
The dean’s letter came in response to an October memo by Erica Moeser, the president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, addressed to law school deans across the country in which she defended the integrity of the group’s exam and raised concerns about the ability of the would-be lawyers who took it.
She continued: “While we always take quality control of MBE scoring very seriously, we redoubled our efforts to satisfy ourselves that no error occurred in scoring the examination or in equating the test with its predecessors. The results are correct. . . All point to the fact that the group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.” 
Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas W. Allard fired back on Monday with a letter to Ms. Moeser. He said he found her assertions unconvincing and demanded a “thorough investigation of the administration and scoring” of the July 2014 exam. 
“We don’t know what evidence you have to support this surprising (and surprisingly disparaging) claim, but we do have evidence about our own 2014 graduates, and it tells us precisely the opposite: their credentials were every bit as good as our 2013 graduates, if not even better,” he wrote. 
Ms. Moeser couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday. 
Ms. Moeser’s letter didn’t cite specific scoring data for the exam given in July. But it gels with figures released by states showing significant declines in the passage rates for many of them. 
The overall passage rate for the Texas exam given in July, for example, was 11 percentage points lower than last year’s results. Idaho, Iowa, Oregon and Washington were among other states reporting sharp drops. 
The passage rate for Brooklyn Law School graduates who took the bar for the first time in July was nearly 10 percentage points lower than last year’s rate, Mr. Allard told Law Blog. He said the median LSAT score for the 2013 and 2014 cohorts was 163 in both cases. A private institution in downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Allard’s law school enrolls about 1,000 full-time students.

“What is her basis for saying the students are less able? I think that’s offensive. I don’t believe it,” Mr. Allard, who is also a senior partner at Squire Patton Boggs, told Law Blog on Monday.

November 16, 2014 Update: Another point of view.  And, another.

November 20, 2014 Update:  Story about dip in bar pass rates at all Texas law schools. Chart in linked story.