Top medical schools join growing anger over US News rankings

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The US News & World Report rankings, long a major force in higher education, face growing anger from law and medical schools that refuse to cooperate with a system they say is based too heavily on wealth and prestige. Critics of the rankings say the backlash could soon spread to undergraduate institutions.

In recent days, the medical schools at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia and Stanford universities have said they will no longer provide US News with the data it uses to rank them. Its actions came after Harvard University’s medical school announced on January 17 a similar withdrawal of participation. As a result, four of the top 10 on the US News list of top research medical schools object to the ranking process.

The rankings “perpetuate a vision for medical education and the future workforce of physicians and scientists that we do not share,” J. Larry Jameson, dean of the Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said in a statement Tuesday. He said the metrics used by US News encourage schools to enroll students with the highest grades and test scores. “However, we strive to identify and attract students with a wide range of characteristics that hold promise,” said Jameson. “The careers of physicians, scientists and changemakers reveal the importance of other personal qualities, including creativity, passion, resilience and empathy.”

Hours after that statement, the 11th Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai announced that it too would no longer participate.

“I’ve been dean for 16 years and I didn’t like living with rankings,” said Dennis Charney, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine. The school nearly made that decision more than five years ago, he said, but some people feared it could affect its ability to recruit top students.

A similar dynamic played out in legal education after the top-ranked law school at Yale University dropped out of the US News rankings in November. Many prominent schools have followed the lead of Yale Law School.

US News’ rankings in a multitude of education markets, such as “top liberal arts colleges” and “top online programs,” are intended to help students and others navigate complex and often confusing choices about where to apply, where to enroll and what types of degrees make sense for your career ambitions and your pocketbook. The assumption is that something of the essence of institutions, public or private, small or large, religious or not, can be distilled by analyzing data and assembling lists with ordinal numbers.

But Charney said the metrics are leading schools to make decisions that run counter to their own priorities. “We’re going to feel a lot more freedom in our admissions policies and how we assess students,” he said. “Let’s not worry about these metrics. It’s great.”

Graduate education leaders who have long chafed at the concept of classification are deliberating whether to break with US News as well.

US News College Rankings Draw New Claims, Contestants

“Now I think it’s time to question whether we continue,” said L. Song Richardson, president of Colorado College. US News ranks it 27th among national liberal arts colleges. Richardson said US News’ criteria are “narrow” and often don’t reflect the mission and values ​​of his college and others. She said many in higher education share her skepticism but are hesitant to go public. “They know the Emperor doesn’t have clothes, and yet everyone is playing the game because they think they have to,” Richardson said.

Richardson was formerly dean of law at the University of California, Irvine, whose law school recently ranked against the US News rankings. She animated the growing revolt. “People are finally ready, given everything that’s going on in the world right now, to say, ‘That’s enough,’” she said. “I’m so happy.”

In response to the complaints, US News has adjusted its law school ranking formula, giving more weight to certain measures that schools take to promote careers in public service and less weight to how judges, academics and lawyers perceive the schools’ reputations. .

But the publication defends its classification as a service to consumers trying to make sense of a confusing national market. “Our mission is to help future students make the best decisions for their educational futures,” US News said last week in a statement responding to criticism from Harvard Medical School. “Where students attend school and how they use their education are among the most critical decisions of their lives, and with more competitive and less transparent admissions and increasingly expensive tuition fees, we believe students deserve access to all data and information needed to make the right decision.

“We know that comparing multiple academic institutions on a common dataset is challenging, which is why we always say that rankings should be a component in a prospective student’s decision-making process. The fact is, millions of prospective students annually visit the US News Medical School Rankings because we provide students with valuable data and solutions to help in that process.”

US News & World Report tweaks law school formula after rankings revolt

A spokeswoman for US News said Tuesday that the publication had nothing to add to the statement.

College and university leaders have criticized the rankings for years. A common complaint: Formulas that place high importance on high test scores lead some schools to offer scholarships to high-achieving students rather than those in financial need. But the annual lists of “best” schools are so influential that most continue to submit information requested by US News to calculate rankings.

Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken, whose school has held the top spot for decades, sparked an outcry when she announced that the school would no longer participate. “We have reached a point where the classification process is undermining the legal profession’s core commitments,” wrote Gerken.

One by one, many law schools joined hers.

Within medical education, it is still unclear how far the rebellion will spread.

New York University Second School of Medicine, asked about the actions of its counterparts at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and U-Penn, issued a statement that was neither for nor against US News. “These academic medical centers have made the decision that is best for their institutions,” the statement said. “We will do what is best for NYU Langone Grossman School of Medicine, our students and our patients..”

“No ranking system is perfect,” said Anantha Shekhar, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, ranked No. 14 on the US News list. He has concerns, she said, but he also acknowledged that rankings can encourage healthy competition.

“We will continue to send the data for now,” he said, “but we will have to evaluate it over time.”

Many other medical schools in the top 25 have declined to take a stand since Harvard’s announcement.

Two former University of Chicago medical school leaders wrote an op-ed in STAT in November urging deans to stop participating, arguing that the rankings do a “serious disservice” to candidates and reinforce “biased and even racist practices that should be antithetical to the professional values ​​and standards of academic medicine”.

The sole beneficiary, they wrote, is US News.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, tied for 20th on the list of top medical schools for research, had not positioned itself in the ranking debate.

Holly J. Humphrey and Dana Levinson of Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on improving medical education, cited several concerns with the ranking methodology, including “an elitist emphasis on the reputation and wealth of schools.” Humphrey, who was dean of medical education in Chicago for 15 years, said increased competition in healthcare over the years has intensified pressure on schools to try to ensure they top the list.

These are not new concerns. “This topic comes up in nearly every meeting of medical educators and medical school deans I’ve attended throughout my entire career,” spanning decades, Humphrey said.

Top medical schools join growing anger over US News rankings

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