Friday, July 07, 2006

Scores of All Law Schools in USN&WR Rankings

U.S. News & World Report does not disclose the scores of all the law schools it ranks. It does so only for schools ranked in tiers one or two. USN&WR lists schools in tiers three and four by name, alphabetically. It of course generates scores for all the schools it ranks. How else would it know what tier to place them in? For reasons good, bad, or indifferent, however, USN&WR declines to report the scores of the law schools it ranks in tiers three or four. I here partially remedy that lacuna.

Chart of All Scores in Model of USN&WR 2007 Law School Rankings

The above chart shows both the scores that USN&WR assigns to law schools in tiers one and two, and the scores that my model generated for all law schools ranked by USN&WR. I offered a comparison of the data for tiers one and two earlier, as part of my description of the model's accuracy. I now add the scores my model generates for tiers three and four.

Note the s-shape of the curve describing the full range of scores. It shows relatively sharp cut-offs at both extremes. The distinction of the most highly ranked institutions, here shown at the far left of the curve, has long formed a staple of law school commentary, which routinely focuses on the top fifteen or so law schools. The above chart reveals that a similar (if dubious) distinction marks the bottom fifteen or so schools ranked by USN&WR.

Some readers will doubtless want to know what score my model generated for each particular school in tiers three and four. I have thus far resisted the urge to publish that information, however. Why? I offer three reasons.

First, I worry that some people would, in the absence of USN&WR's scores, rely on the model's scores to rank schools in tiers three and four. I am the first to admit, however, that my model does not perfectly mirror the USN&WR rankings. Second, even if the model perfectly duplicated USN&WR's results, I'd hesitate to release the scores of schools in tiers three and four for fear that I might promote the sort of obsession that already surrounds the scores of schools in tiers one and two. Third, I pity the schools struggling at the bottom of the USN&WR rankings. Those at the bottom of the fourth tier, in particular, already have problems enough. Perhaps I'd feel they deserve their fates, and that honesty demanded full disclosure of their faults, if I thought the USN&WR rankings did a very good job of describing law school quality. But I don't think they do.

Lest you suspect me of ulterior motives, allow me to observe that disclosing the scores of schools in third and fourth tier would probably help my own employer, Chapman University School of Law. Revealing those scores would show just how widely differentiated scores in the fourth tier are, and how Chapman is just about ready to break into tier three. You can read more about our travails, and our prospects, in this earlier post.

Now, though, comes your chance to catch me in hypocrisy. Here's the problem: Although I have thus far hesitated to release the model's scores for schools in the third and fourth tiers, I plan to advocate reforms that would let anybody generate them pretty easily. Consistent? Perhaps not. I think I can defend my approach, but because that defense relies in part on the systemic effects of the reforms I'll suggest, I'll speak about it later.

Earlier posts about the 2007 USN&WR law school rankings:


Anonymous said...


I had heard once before (though never confirmed) that US News, makes the actual numeric ranking available to the administrations at third and fourth tier schools. Is there anyway to confirm whether this is true or a complete fabrication? If the Dean at Chapman wanted this information, would it be available?

(Even if the answer is "no", I wonder how many schools pester US News for that information, and end up getting it.)

Tom W. Bell said...

Anon: Oh, yes, that's true. I asked for and received Chapman's score, last year. But maybe I wore out my welcome; I asked again this year and saw my request ignored, deliberately or not.

Anonymous said...

Just post the damn scores.