Criticism of College Rankings from Stanford's President Emeritus (1996) - still relevant today

As the president of a university that is among the top-ranked universities, I hope I have the standing to persuade you that much about these rankings - particularly their specious formulas and spurious precision - is utterly misleading. I wish I could forego this letter since, after all, the rankings are only another newspaper story. Alas, alumni, foreign newspapers, and many others do not bring a sense of perspective to the matter.

      I am extremely skeptical that the quality of a university - any more than the quality of a magazine - can be measured statistically. However, even if it can, the producers of the U.S. News rankings remain far from discovering the method. Let me offer as prima facie evidence two great public universities: the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and the University of California-Berkeley. These clearly are among the very best universities in America - one could make a strong argument for either in the top half-dozen. Yet, in the last three years, the U.S. News formula has assigned them ranks that lead many readers to infer that they are second rate: Michigan 21-24-24, and Berkeley 23-26-27.

      Such movement itself - while perhaps good for generating attention and sales - corrodes the credibility of these rankings and your magazine itself. Universities change very slowly - in many ways more slowly than even I would like. Yet, the people behind the U.S. News rankings lead readers to believe either that university quality pops up and down like politicians in polls, or that last year's rankings were wrong but this year's are right (until, of course, next year's prove them wrong).

I quoted an excerpt. Please read the full letter here.

This letter is from Gerhard Casper, Stanford's President Emeritus. In it he urges U.S. News and World Report to move away from its college ranking system. He gives an elegant critique of their methods along with a plea to help families who are looking to choose the right college for their child.

He uses the University of Michigan as a case to show how the the ratings are faulty, and as an alumnus, I appreciated that.

It is somewhat sad that the letter is from 1996 and these pathetic ratings still last. Two years ago I even watched a newspaper in New York City rank the high schools with letter grades based on things like Ivy League matriculation, endowment dollars, and other odd pieces.

I am hopeful that schools are helping their families with much clearer methods of picking schools for their children. Parents, stand tall, and do what is right for your child. Do not become infatuated with the salacious bits of "journalism" around America's colleges.

via @krupali

21apples has a new look

My blog got hacked yesterday as you can see by the picture. They somehow hacked the theme of my WordPress 3.0.1 blog, a theme I had been running for a year or so now. I wasn't sure how they got in and my webhost Site5 couldn't provide much information except that WordPress is prone to attack.

Luckily I could get into the admin side of the blog and ran a WordPress export. I then imported that using Posterous.com's importer tool and within about an hour they were done importing all of my posts, images, and comments. I then changed my DNS for 21apples.org to point to Posterous' servers and it was all set.

I know that Posterous has been having its own issues, but I'm happy for now being able to post and having all of my data fairly secure. And I always have that backup file. Part of me thinks maybe I should head over to WordPress.com as I do love WordPress, but Posterous is so easy that it is hard to deny.

Oh well, for now, welcome to the new 21apples!

p.s. thanks to Alex Ragone for pointing out that my site had been compromised!

Looking for NING developer to design/setup our community

We are in the market for a NING developer who is experienced in helping set up new communities. We're a non-profit organization looking to engage our constituents. Below outlines the basic of what we need. Contact information is at the bottom of the post. Feel free to pass this on to people who might be interested. Thanks!

Goal: Develop a custom ‘Plus’ Ning Community

We need you to: help us work through process to build a well thought out installation. Ask appropriate questions of us along with taking material that we have prepared. Major technical objectives:

  • Custom theming to match our external website (we have wireframes)
  • Best-practice organization of the front page to highlight major areas: groups, recent activity, members, recent forum posts (from overall community forum - open to all members), photos, videos, etc.
  • Group setup optimized to include restricting creation of groups to site administrators, turning off comments by default, page to post shared documents, forums, wiki functionality
  • profile questions
  • required:
  • first name
  • last name
  • school
  • position
  • optional:
    • Facebook URL
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIN URL
    • Tell people a little bit about yourself
  • Events calendar to pull from RSS on our website and/or entered manually
  • Top Tabs to include: Home, My Page, Members, Groups, Events, Discussions, Help (set up Community Norms and How to Tutorials place holder pages)
  • Change “friend” to “colleague” in all locations
  • have one of us being the site creator, but remove that info from all community pages
  • We need to be able to moderate new members
  • Submit proposals to: alex.ragone [at] gmail.com with subject NING Community Proposal. Any examples of previous NING work are welcome and encouraged.

    Women and people of color are strongly encouraged to submit proposals.

    photo credit: Darcy Norman. Licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution.

    Posted via email from arvind's posterous

    Learn how to use fonts better and people will take you more seriously

    For those who know me I'm an absolute maniac about design. I love good design, and well, can leave the other stuff behind. With so many publishing tools out there in the world people are creating more and more content. Do yourself a favor and learn some design basics. People will take your work more seriously. This article is a great start.

    Posted via email from arvind's posterous