Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Charts, Hylton Rankings, and other ways to look at USNWR

Jeff Lipshaw has posted the distribution of academic reputation scores and has found a rough bell curve distribution. (Thanks, Jeff!) And with Paul Caron's post on the Hylton rankings, described also by Al Brophy here. There are all sorts of posts about the Hylton rankings, see here, and my only additional comment is that Hylton's use of peer assessments and LSATs can't really get at the "quality" of faculties or students. Leiter's rankings, of course, try to assess quality without the halo effects inherent in USNWR's questionnaire, but even his methodology isn't perfect (although it's certainly creative, and it's better by far than what USNWR uses).

In the spreadsheet that I posted on my blog, I tried to come up with some more useful combinations of the USNWR rankings, concentrating on the two factors that I think are most useful to prospective students: placement rate and bar passage rate. But because placement can be gamed, see Bill Henderson and Andy Morriss's piece, as well as Tom Bell's post, my factors don't improve the situation at all.

So what are we to do? The "objective" measures that USNWR uses aren't really that objective; moreover, just because something can be counted doesn't mean that it's useful information. My cat Grace's fur is made up of four different colors. (Grace, to the left, is in her typical "cool down" pose--sort of a modified "downward cat.")
But counting the colors of her fur doesn't get to the quintessential nature of Grace. And don't even get me started on the quintessential nature of Shadow, shown below on Erev Rosh Hashanah 2003, wondering whether she'll be allowed to eat the soup, even though she can't hold a spoon properly.


Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

I too have a cat named Shadow who had this to say about USN&WR: The ratings are a pathetic way to sell magazines. They are deeply affected by a reputational good ol' boy system and subject to manipulation.

When you thing about it, that's not bad coming from a cat. He also said that those obsessed by the USN&WR rankings (which he deemed inferior to all others) legitimize them and would be better served by examining the Star tabloid rankings which ranks by average divorces per faculty member.

But back to Shadow. In Law School ranking terms, I think this means we need to go the direction of the Loyolas -- of Jeff, of Nancy and so on.

4/05/2007 3:25 AM  

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