Georgia State Law is developing a program using data analytics to identify early warning signs for bar failure and to target interventions for at-risk students, which will further improve the college’s good bar passage rate.
“Since the university is the leader in this area, we decided to take advantage of that institutional knowledge,” said Jessica Gabel Cino, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of law.
Georgia State University has been lauded for its successful use of predictive analytics in student retention and improving grades. The College of Law is taking a similar approach and will examine data such as the grades, classes taken and bar passage rates of its roughly 1,750 students enrolled during 2009 to 2017.
Cino and a team of student researchers are entering the information into a database, and Georgia State’s Office of Institutional Research is designing the algorithms that will measure and help interpret the data, determining which factors correlate to bar passage and/or student academic success.
“The students’ first-year grade point average (GPA) is often a big indicator, also what courses they took, whether those classes cover bar subjects and how they studied for the bar,” Cino said.
Qualitative data, such as how many pro bono hours a student had, whether they participated in clinics or took experiential classes and if they had full- or part-time jobs, also will be examined. “It’s difficult to say definitively how those things may factor in, especially given the number of variables,” Cino said.
After an analysis provides some insight, the college’s administration will consider curriculum changes as well as ways to tweak existing programs or develop new programs to facilitate better outcomes for students.
“For example, we could find that a substantial number of students who failed the bar exam did not take Constitutional Law or Corporations and also have a GPA of 2.8. So, with that information, I could approach second-year students with GPAs below 2.8 and advise them to take those classes because statistics suggest they are in danger of failing the bar,” Cino said.
Kim D’Haene, the college’s new director of academic success, will assist in developing programming and individual action plans for students.
“Data analytics can help us to identify skills, challenges and attributional factors that impact our students’ academic success," D’Haene said. "From a programming and curriculum standpoint, it allows us to more precisely target specific academic skills and to more effectively utilize student strengths.”
The academic success team is also implementing and expanding programs that help students self-assess, identifying their strengths and weaknesses so they can employ the study techniques that are most effective for them. That alone can have a huge impact on their success, D’Haene said.
Emphasizing academic success in the first year of law school is key, Cino said.
“We don’t want to wait until students are ready to take the bar to say, ‘You’re in danger of failing the bar,’" she said. "We want to identify those students after the first year, and then help them make changes to ensure they are on the right track.”
D’Haene, a former grader for the Georgia Board of Examiners and a Kaplan lecturer on writing for the exam, is already working to strengthen the college’s bar-prep programming.
“In the bar exam, the amount of work that you do tends to correlate closely to outcome,” D’Haene said. “Students who complete all the assignments in the bar review course and are purposeful and strategic in their preparation have a much higher success rate.”
In addition to this analytic endeavor, Cino and Andrea Curcio, professor of law, received an AccessLex Institute/AIR grant in February to assess whether LSAT scores are a predictor of success in law school and on the bar exam. They will use the data compiled for their yearlong study.