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June 29, 2007


John Hunter

Good post. I see plenty of reasons to criticize the ranking of the schools. Just like there are plenty of reasons to criticize grades in school. I also think the data they collect does provide some interesting information.

And I think your point is exactly right. Schools don't like being graded because it doesn't truly measure their value. And yes that is ironic given what so many of them do to students (some might say they are better at grading students - I am not so sure).

However saying one school is ranked 1st and another 10th is largely meaningless (it means that given the data US News received and the way they chose to process it this is the order they are in - but so what? Other rankings of schools also provide interesting info I believe but what does it actually mean?

Does it mean all students from #1 school are going to be better then all students at #50 school when they graduate? Does it mean all students at #1 school learn more. does it mean on average students at #1 school learn more? Does it mean at #1 school the professors that actually teach you have written more papers? Does it mean they are better teachers? Does it mean you have a better basketball team? Does it mean the Deans at school #1 are doing a better job than those at school #10?

One rank is about as meaningful as me taking all the statistics for college basketball and ranking basketball players from 1960-2007 in the order of the top 100. If 50 somewhat knowledgeable people did this I would imagine some names would appear frequently Bill Bradley, Karem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Walton, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan... but is there really any truth to who is ranked where? It might be fun and even informative to listen to various people's opinions but that is it.

And what about grades? What does it mean? Does it mean that the students that got an A know chemistry better? Are more competent chemists? Are more capable of proceeding to the next level of courses? That they completed the tasks asked of them more accurately than those with lower grades? That they are better at taking tests? That they have a insight into making new discoveries? That they will be better chemists? That they showed a drive and passion and understanding for chemistry...

Stephen Downes

The U.S. news & World Report ratings are like measuring the width of a person's nose and using that as a basis for assigning a mark in geography.

It's one thing to give grades; it's ite another to correlate them meaningfully with achievement.

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