National Jurist to Correct Rankings, But Keep

National Jurist will revise its much-maligned law school rankings, according to an announcement from NJ editor Jack Crittenden on the publication’s website.  Although NJ defends its decision to rely upon for 20 percent of each school’s rating (for those schools for which sufficient data is available), it has acknowledged some data disparities and is going to revisit the ratings for all schools in which the score deviates from the school’s Princeton Review score.  According to Crittenden:

We still believe that the voice of students is essential to any ranking that is designed to identify the best schools for students, and we feel we have put together a thoughtful and important ranking. But we recongize that poor quality data would leave the ranking marred. Our primary goal is to help students and prospecitve law with useful and accurate data. At the end of this review, we have all confidence that this study will meet our goal.

I certainly agree with those who think the US News ranking is flawed. I also agree that it would be valuable to measure the quality of instruction at law schools.  But there is no credible argument that does this.  The data is haphazard and unreliable and, in my experience, does not correlate with student evaluations.  There’s even an argument that Ratemyprofessors may select for things (e.g. easiness) that may inversely correlate with the quality of instruction. While this is not true for every subject, there are plenty of subjects that cannot be taught well without seriously challenging students.

I am also not convinced that current students are the best judge of the value of what they are learning in the classroom.  I am contacted quite often by former students who say they did not appreciate certain aspects of my classes until once they were in practice.  Surveys of recent graduates might be a good way to measure the quality of instruction, but such data would be costly to collect.

Measuring the quality of law school instruction across institutions is certainly difficult.  but that doesn’t justify reliance on a seriously flawed metric, let alone using it for one-fifth of each school’s score.

UPDATE: Leiter has more here.