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US News:

In case you missed it in the NY Times, eye-opening article on US News Law School Rankings methodology.

Cal Lanier (mail) (www):
Eye opening? There's at least 10-20 stories a year written on the gaming that goes on at both grad and undergrad levels, so it can hardly be a shock by this point.
7.31.2005 5:52pm
Kristen Chopra (mail):
I agree, it's hardly a shock, but students still fall for it. But is ranking necessarily a bad thing? I don't think so. They can be a helpful guide for students beginning their search for law schools, and there are some excellent rankings out there, such as Brian Leiter's Educational Quality Rankings. However, I believe the U.S. News methodology is fundamentally flawed--and the more articles out there that say that, the more people will realize that.
7.31.2005 7:56pm
John Steele (mail):
Law schools say they are training their students not to contribute to the next Enron. But with what moral authority can those law schools in the NYT article warn their students against cooking the books? Actions teach louder than words. Those law schools' various cheats, dodges, fibs and lies -- all supposedly justified by the need to play the game successfully or because "everyone else does it" -- are a perfect example of how to be an unethical corporate lawyer.
7.31.2005 8:39pm
G_G (mail):
My second favorite yearly memo from my law school administration is the one about how unfair and unreliable the US News rankings are, and then watching the same administration sacrifice to Moloch if it will make the ranking jump one spot.

My favorite yearly memo is the one from the faculty about the injustice of the Solomon Amendment which runs contrary to their deeply held beliefs in non-discrimination against homosexuals, but damn it, we really need that money.
8.1.2005 11:27am
David Thompson (www):
Despite the many flaws of the Vault firm guides, at least they haven't insipired quite the same level of down-and-dirty competition that USNews has for schools. Maybe if USNews got rid of the easily-cheated categories (per-student spending seems to especially be a problem, I remember when CalTech claimed that their supercollider was an undergrad expenditure and was catulpulted into 1st place in the undergrad rankings) and relied more heavily on peer and professional evaluations we wouldn't see as much of this distorted behavior. This is further proof that the market bends to even the most perverse incentives.
8.1.2005 7:09pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
David Thompson:

PEOPLE bend to even the most perverse incentives. It's not a feature of the market, it's a feature of people. Since markets are made up of people, of course, they exhibit the same behavior. But without markets, people would still respond to perverse incentives. Just ask anyone who has ever lived in a socialist society. Or heck, just go read the part in Freakonomics about teachers helping their students cheat on exams.

Higher education is really no different. But even if CalTech didn't cheat in this way, they and MIT (and other science-oriented schools) would still have an edge in the expenditure category simply because they have more science students, who therefore use laboratory space and fewer literature and history students who do not need such costly infrastructure for their educations. The entire methodology needs to be weighted in some way by the focus of the school. NYU, for example, has no engineering school and their lab sciences are not especially popular amongst undergrads (though arguably, their drama program requires significant investment in infrastructure like performance space). How can one compare NYU's expenditures on the literature majors with MIT's expenditures on their Chemical Engineering majors.

What I find amusing is that Brian Leiter's rankings (which are quite good from what I can tell) are very similar (not identical, but similar) to those of USNews. So, somehow, US News does have the general picture right even if there are some minor problems at the margins.
8.2.2005 9:21pm
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