Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Finally, some talk about rating the internal life of a school!

This morning, Inside Higher Education posted a story called Can You Rank Crotchetiness? (Definitely a must-read.) Unlike a certain other ranking system, which focuses mostly on numbers that don't affect a student's daily experience at the school, the interaction between students and professors is important to know. (Overall community ambience is also important, as Law School Risk Factors demonstrates.)

Of course, there are all sorts of ways that schools and students could distort the reporting of information about student-faculty interactions, but the Crotchetiness article includes some factors that should be of interest (when adapted for use in law schools) to students:
"Burke offered the following as information that should be available for every graduate department:
  • For individual faculty members who have been in a department over a long enough time to have a good sample, precise information on the numbers of students they have advised on doctoral programs, their completion and dropout rates, time to degree, and specific jobs earned by new Ph.D.’s.
  • A list of any “foreseeable changes” in personnel, including relevant tenure clocks, retirements or possible moves.
  • Complete data on funding of graduate students — how much money, sources of funds, how long money lasts (for duration of degree or shorter).
  • Average time for Ph.D. completion in a department.
  • The exact process — both official and unofficial — of how graduate students are evaluated.
  • The true scholarly[]strengths of a department, acknowledging that many departments don’t have the depth to cover all periods or regions, and that just having one person with a particular specialty may not make a Ph.D. program viable."
Perhaps the Law School Survey of Student Engagement can be mined for crotchetiness data. The point is that there are many things that go on inside a law school that can make the student experience pleasant or unpleasant, and other rating systems (not ranking, which uses ordinal numbering, but a way of teasing out important factors) could go in this direction.


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