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Measuring Depth of Learning

Jamie Scurry, a research associate at a Brown University–based think tank, has a good article in today's Providence Journal about the U.S. News & World Report college ranking.

For all the finger pointing and chest pounding unleashed by the annual ranking, it is remarkably silent on the very reason you have invested tens of thousands of dollars in higher education: Are these institutions actually the best places to learn anything?

The short answer is: We don't know. Since few institutions actually measure student learning, there is little reliable information available. Instead, colleges and universities -- and U.S. News & World Report -- base assertions of quality on a host of other factors, such as faculty-student ratios, SAT scores, number of books in the library, alumni donations, and how many people apply to become students. Large endowments and high rejection rates may burnish a school's image, but they tell prospective students nothing about the quality of learning that takes place.

Of course, he neglects to mention, what has been my experience, that many employers are more impressed by a prestigious school's degree than by the student's transcript.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:08 AM EST