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US News Rankings: TC Takes Fourth

In one of the most competitive rankings in the last several years four major schools of education were separated by five points for the lead rankings. Stanford University was rated number one (100), Harvard and UCLA were ranked two (96), and Teachers College was ranked number four (95).

In the "specialties" ranking, which is assessed by education school deans, TC was ranked five with Stanford in Education/Supervision. In Curriculum/Instruction TC was ranked three. In Educational Psychology it was ranked ten. In Education Policy, TC was ranked four while Stanford was ranked one and Harvard two. In elementary education, TC came in fourth behind Ohio State University-Columbus and University of Madison-Wisconsin, which were rated number two. In secondary education TC rated six. In Higher Education Administration it was ninth and Stanford was five and Harvard six.

Gayle Garrett of U.S. News, who happens to be the methodologist and one of the lead organizers of the rankings, noted the narrow margins between schools and explained, "When all data was run through the education schools research ranking model there was just a hair's breadth of difference between Harvard, UCLA and Teachers College. The jump that UCLA made as compared with last year's results is due mostly to the big increase in funded research-from $20.3 to $29.8 million-and the consequent jump in the average per faculty member-from $594.2 to $876.9 thousand. The $29.8 million was also the largest amount of research funding reported by any education school."

She added, "I hope you noticed that Teachers College received the highest rating-4.7 out of a possible 5.0-of any education school in our survey of school superintendents. Only Stanford, of all the schools ranked, was able to match it."

In a recent paper, "Quantifying Quality: What Can the U.S. News and World Report Rankings Tell us About the Quality of Higher Education," Marguerite Clark of Boston College (Education Policy Analysis Archives), makes five recommendations for improving the interpretability and usefulness of the U.S. News rankings.

1. First, U.S. News needs to stabilize their ranking methodology since the rankings are annual in nature and imply some kind of comparability. A related issue to consider is whether the rankings need to be annual in nature.

2. Second, U.S. News needs to recognize the uncertainty around schools' overall scores. The results of this analysis suggest that it would be more accurate to group schools in bands than to assign them discrete ranks. This approach would avoid the misleading effect that small changes in a school's rank from year to year produces in terms of the public's of its academic quality.

3. Third, the schools of education rankings need to be reassessed since they do not seem to "hold together." Better comparisons might emerge if they were divided into two more conceptually coherent groups (e.g., those that are primarily research oriented and those that are primarily teacher-training oriented.) U.S. News already does this for schools of medicine, i.e., there is an overall ranking of medical schools as well as a ranking of schools that focus on the training of primary-care physicians.

4. Fourth, in order to be accountable to consumers, U.S. News needs to make available all data used to create the rankings, even if only on their Web site. Currently, U.S. News only publishes information for the top-ranked schools and less or no information on lower-ranked schools.

5. A final general recommendation is that U.S. News should adopt a model similar to that used by Consumer Reports for reporting its quality ratings. Consumer Reports rates products, but does not allow the product manufacturers to use these ratings in their advertising. This approach might relieve some of the tension and debate that currently surrounds the rankings and make their annual arrival on newsstands a less stressful event for the higher education community.

For an in-depth analysis of the rankings please click on to www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/edu/eduindex.htm.

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