By David Rosen (The Washington Post).
Every year around this time U.S. News & World Report issues its ranked list of America’s “best” colleges. And every year an inevitable handwringing ensues – among academics, anyway – about what the rankings mean, and whether they’re of any use at all. Pose this question to most professionals in higher education, and you’ll likely get a resounding “no.” The flat numerical scores, which receive the most attention, say little about what makes any college or university
good or bad. The rankings say less still about the alchemy that makes a school the right “fit” for any given student. On the other hand, many high school seniors (and their parents) take the rankings seriously – which means, in turn, that college admissions officers and marketers need to take them seriously as well. It’s a good bet that Princeton’s current No. 1 status will find its way into the university’s advertising materials posthaste.
So it goes every year. This time around, however, the questions about the U.S. News lists have suddenly seemed more pressing and personal – because Trinity College, where I teach, has found itself demoted from 38th to 44th place among small colleges. When something bad like this happens, it makes sense to figure out what went wrong. In this case, the question of “what went wrong” is surprisingly fraught, and speaks to some deep divides in American education. Read full article