24 September 2008

College Rankings

Whether you live by them or not, published college rankings affect every campus, even if only through the effort expended in discounting them. If the institution feels the pressure to actually rank, by which we always mean rank highly, then a lot more energy must be expended.

To the public, rankings appear organized and orderly. Almost always employing highly readable charts, a magazine (like U.S. News and World Report) seems to support students' and parents' comparison shopping. Resisting the assumptions that follow (College A is better than College B) is difficult.

Research voice. The Beyond Ranking Project of the Education Conservancy provides a contrast that includes a research base about ranking. Students' voices were captured in EC's 2007 survey on college admissions and the web summary includes a sampling of their comments (scroll to bottom of that web page).

Corporate voice. The Boeing Company is making its own ranking of engineering schools based largely on the employee evaluations of the graduates of those schools. While college assessment officers frequently seek (or at least desire) employer input about graduates' readiness for the workplace, feedback on actual job performance has not been common. An approximation is sometimes gathered through evaluations of interns or students in practicum placements, but always with the emphasis on pre-professional competency. A "hire rate" with an internship site is sometimes established but that's also a function of the economy, not just interns' performance. So, the academy will have some adjustments (in thinking and maybe even in practices) if Boeing's program has warm reception. (Boeing will not publish a list but right about now it will begin notifying deans of how their schools "ranked" in the Boeing review of data. I think we can expect some sharing of news, at least by happy deans.)

For sheer enjoyment, contrast all of the above with Stuart Rojstaczer's website, College Ranking Service.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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