[NB: Thanks to an email from Paul L. Caron, of the TaxProf Blog, I here offer a corrected version of my earlier post on this topic.]
As I said yesterday, I plan a series of posts about what I've recently learned about the U.S. News and World Report's law school rankings. Let me start here with a change that I've not seen reported elsewhere: This year's rankings saw a notable change in how the employment of a school's graduates affects its overall score.
In calculating its law school rankings, U.S. News and World Report takes two measures of a school's success at finding employment for its students: the percentage of graduates employed nine months (call it "Emp9") after graduation and the percentage employed at graduation ("Emp0"). Until the most recently-released rankings—the "2007" rankings—the Emp9 measure has counted for 12% of a school's overall score, while Emp0 has counted for 6%. Starting this year, however, Emp9 counts for 14% and Emp0 for 4%. In other words, U.S. News moved 2% from the Emp0 to Emp9. (For more details about the methodology of the rankings, see here.)
Did the new way of measuring law schools' placement efforts affect the rankings? For some schools, almost certainly. Some schools did considerably better on the Emp9 measure, relative to their peers, than they did in the Emp0 measure. Here are the schools that most benefited this past year from the change: Albany Law School-Union U. (NY) and U. of Memphis (Humphreys). Each of those schools gained .03 points in the ranking's 100 scale. Conversely, California Western School of Law and Texas Southern U. (Marshall) were most hurt, each losing .05 points.
Of course, those calculations tell us only about the effect of the change on schools' actual scores—not the rounded scores that U.S. News reports and uses in ranking schools. The change in how a school's placement efforts affects its rankings thus proved most telling to schools that had actual scores near the margin of the next highest or lowest rounded integer score. Since U.S. News doesn't report the actual scores, we can only guess which schools moved in the rankings due the new methodology.