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President Daniel Weiss is one of 12 original signatories of the letter that focused public attention on the rankings’ shortcomings and mounted the first phase of the challenge to them
The number of colleges deciding not to participate in some or all portions of the U.S. News and World Report college rankings survey is increasing significantly. A majority of the 80 liberal arts college presidents attending the annual meeting of the Annapolis Group this week expressed their intentions not to supply any statistical data for the U.S. News rankings survey. They also committed to the development of a new Web-based “common format” that students and their families can use in the college search process.

  • See the Annapolis Group statement below

Last month President Daniel Weiss joined other college and university leaders in focusing public attention on the U.S. News rankings’ shortcomings and mounting the first phase of the challenge to the rankings.

Weiss and 11 other presidents are the original signatories to a letter pledging to refuse to fill out the U.S. News reputational survey, the portion of the magazine’s annual rankings survey in which colleges rate each other. The largest single factor in the rankings formula, it makes up 25 percent of scores. The signers also pledged to refuse to use the rankings to promote their institutions or refer to the rankings as an indication of their schools’ quality. The letter was widely publicized upon its unveiling on May 5 by Lloyd Thacker, founder and director of the Education Conservancy, and has been sent to hundreds of other college presidents seeking similar commitments. The conservancy is a nonprofit organization committed to improving college admission processes. The number of signatories has grown to 34.

Following the Annapolis Group meeting Weiss said, “The meeting was an opportunity to have an open and frank discussion about the issues associated with the U.S. News ranking system and how we can most effectively provide useful, accurate, and statistically valid information to prospective students and their families. There was widespread agreement among the presidents that the U.S. News system is methodologically irresponsible and that our priorities should be to serve the needs of our individual institutions and provide the right kind of information to our constituents.

“I was pleased to see that the presidents voted overwhelmingly in favor of putting our efforts into developing a template that will allow us to provide that information in a way that is both substantive and flexible,” Weiss said. “This will allow individual prospective students to get the information they need and to compare the institutions they’d like to compare so they can make the right decision for them. The presidents felt very strongly that any ranking system that seeks to provide a single measure of quality is, in essence, irresponsible.

“What we want to do is provide information that speaks to our differences and to our uniqueness and provides benchmarks that allow the prospective students to make judgments. As a result of that discussion, the presidents voted overwhelmingly in favor of ceasing to participate in the U.S. News rankings system – a system which doesn’t do any of those things. Therefore I decided not only that I would not complete the reputational survey but that I would not provide them with statistical information that is readily available, the provision of which requires Lafayette’s staff to serve as research assistants for the U.S. News publication. All information will be available — we are not withholding anything, we are simply not going to produce their reports for them.”

The format envisoned by the Annapolis Group, an organization of the leading national independent liberal arts colleges, will not rank colleges but will instead provide “easily accessible, comprehensive and quantifiable data.” The Annapolis Group will work with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges, among others to develop this alternative data system.

The movement against the U.S. News rankings has drawn a great deal of national media attention including articles in the New York Times, USA Today, and

Yale University and the Great Lakes Colleges Association have agreed to host meetings in the next several months to continue the process of devising educationally appropriate alternatives to the rankings.

Annapolis Group Statement on Rankings and Ratings

ANNAPOLIS, Md., June 19, 2007 – Members of the Annapolis Group have agreed to participate in the development of an alternative common format that presents information about their colleges for students and their families to use in the college search process. The Web-based initiative, to be developed in collaboration with other higher education organizations, will provide easily accessible, comprehensive, and quantifiable data. The Annapolis Group members will work with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), among others to develop this common instrument.

In addition, the majority of the Annapolis Group presidents attending the annual meeting in Annapolis, Md., expressed their intent not to participate in the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking exercise. The Annapolis Group is not a legislative body and any decision about participating in the US News rankings rests with the individual institutions.

These discussions were held during the annual June meeting of the Annapolis Group colleges, which brought together approximately 80 presidents and 71 academic deans of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, the largest attendance in recent years.

The members of the Annapolis Group share mutual interests and information to strengthen their respective educational programs. They work cooperatively and collectively to promote greater public understanding and recognition of the value of a liberal arts education.

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