US News Rankings – A Different Role for Inputs

Instead of our current world where higher LSAT/GPA numbers lead to more choices, I want to consider a hypothetical admissions model where students are randomly assigned to schools and forced to attend the schools selected for them. In such a world, LSAT/GPA scores would be relatively equal across all schools (in comparison to the present distribution). In formulating a rankings system from a student perspective, we would only care about what the schools do to improve the relatively equal incoming student quality (measured by job placement or other output variables).

Still, particularly for smaller schools, there would be some statistical variation in incoming LSAT/GPA scores and we would seek to control for those differences in assessing the output variables such as job placement. An ideal rankings system would discount success that could be attributed to incoming student quality and vice versa for schools with lower incoming scores. So, in a world where variations between incoming classes are small and unlikely to have substantial effects on the overall rankings, a good statistician would still like to control for the expected variation in class quality. But, strangely, in a world where the variations in entering class quality are very large, US News not only doesn’t control for entering class quality, it actually adds it to its overall formula in a prominent manner. This makes little sense if the goal is truly to measure law school quality (however it is defined) and aid students in their decision-making.

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4 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    This might be the single dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

  2. Steve says:

    Recap:
    Sentence 1: “forced to attend the schools selected for them”
    Last Sentence: “little sense if the goal is truly to … aid students in their decision-making.”

    Seriously, how are you opening with suggesting people are forced to go to a particular school (with no regard for their geographic preferences), then close by criticizing USNWR for not helping “aid students in decision making”?

  3. jake says:

    Thanks Corey, great analysis.

    If only we could inject all law school applicants as well……with an IQ balancing potion….to make sure that no one heaven forbid be blessed (cursed?) with an unfair advantage…..

    Or……we can just pass laws forcing firms to hire equally from all schools in an effort to give all graduates a chance to prove themselves……

    Or maybe we can even coerce firms into hiring non-law school graduates as associates…..so as to not give law students an unfair advantage in their field…..

    Or we can dumb down the bar exam……because again….it just ain’t fair to some

    Life isn’t fair Corey…..and neither is Kansas Law……to it’s students

  4. Corey Yung says:

    Steve and Jake, if you read my post as advocating forcible random assignment of applicants to all law schools, you might want to read it again. It was a thought experiment to show that even in a world with similar student bodies in every law school, we should still control for statistical input differences.That US News doesn’t control for those variables with much larger differences in incoming student quality (as measured by GPA/LSAT) is a methodological mistake, in my opinion. I’m attacking a rankings system, not admissions policies. However, if venting pent-up hostility at me makes you feel better, then I hope you are having a great weekend.

    As for KU Law and it’s students, I leave that to the students who attend the law school to judge. But, personally, I love to teach fantastic students attending one of the best bargains in legal education .