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July 01, 2007


Stephen Downes

In this post, the argument against the US News & World Report grading system is depicted as follows:

- the grading system is not objective

- the grading system is always wrong

- grading systems cannot be used

But the objection to the U.S. news & World Report grading system does not involve any of these criticisms.

The criticism is precisely this:

The criteria the U.S. news & World Report uses to assess colleges have nothing to do with whether a college is a good college.

They are using the *wrong* criteria.

People are not saying that they should not grade colleges, and they are not saying that no such grading system could be objective.

They are not even saying that the colleges ranked as 'good' by the U.S. news & World Report are actually bad.

The fact that a college si discovered to be 'good' is not "the ratings system working for you". It is pure luck, an accident. The college *just happened* to be good. But it could just as easily have been bad.

If the U.S. news & World Report had counted the number of bricks in the college buildings, would you say the ratings "worked for you" in that case? Of course not.

But the ratings used by the U.S. News & World Report were just as irrelevant.

And my concern about this is two-fold:

- first, many students will be fooled by the ratings, and will not get the college they were looking for

- second, instead of actually getting better, colleges will attempt to look better in the U.S. News & World Report ratings.

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