Monday, August 2, 2010

ABA Report on US News Rankings

There's a short article on the new report in the ABA Journal; its conclusions are pretty tepid and uninteresting.  More interesting is the chart (in the appendix after p. 53) showing changes in the ranking methodology over time.  (There is a typo in the weight of academic reputation for 2003 and 2004, however--it was 25% during that whole period, not 15%.)  In the early-to-mid-1990s, there were a lot of changes, which one would expect from an amateur enterprise.  Some of the changes were constructive:  e.g., dropping average starting salaries which, unadjusted for differences in cost-of-living, were an utterly worthless measure.  The report, however, fails to note the single most significant methodological change in the last dozen years, namely, the decision in 1999 to adjust instructional expenditures (the tail the wags the ranking dog) for differences in cost-of-living.  That was also the year U.S. News stopped printing the "faculty resources rank," since it would have made it obvious how much that one criterion was determining the overall result.

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