February 27, 2008
Does innovation matter? A depressing statistic, leadership, and the rewarding of risk
Here's a depressing statistic: The same schools have been in the top 14 of the U.S. News rankings since the mid-90's. In other words, there has been no movement in or out of that group despite the development of distinctive programs at several schools. Given that there have been varying levels of change and improvement among schools in the top rank, this means that innovation, or a lack of it, has not mattered much.
The above statement is true only if a school judges its value primarily in terms of the U.S. News ranking. Sadly, whether they admit it or not, this is true of many schools, the leaders of which often have to answer to non-lawyers who care about carefully parsed numerical rankings, which look to an outsider like a fairly objective measure of quality. It may not be surprising, then, that those leaders do not care much about innovation (especially in teaching) when they consider lateral hires, promotion, and pay for law professors.
Unfortunately, I don't see the Deadwood rankings Doug refers to below as doing much to measure innovation, either. Like the U.S. News survey, it won't measure the student experience in a way that reflects or rewards risk-taking. Many people have made much of the negatives related to a focus on these rankings, but one of the most damaging may be a general drag on our ability to evolve our schools into something better by encouraging those among us who create positive change at the core of what we do.
-- Mark Osler
February 26, 2008
A new law school ranking system ... and no blog metric?!?!?!
The Green Bag ... announces in an editorial in its forthcoming issue [that] this spring, it will begin work on the “Deadwood Report,” which it envisions being an annual assessment of “whether faculty members do the work that the law schools say they do.” The journal acknowledges that the ranking will provide “rough and admittedly partial” measures of law school faculty quality, but posits that by being transparent (it will disclose the sources of its data and how it derives its numbers and rankings from those data), and by bringing more information into public view, “it will help law school applicants make better decisions about where to study or work.... We are trying to do some good here.”
The Green Bag editorial kicking this all off is a very interesting read, though I am not sure it (yet) provides the supposedly transparent reality it aspires to create. Nevertheless, anyone with a web-based inlking will be interested to see this aspect of the proposed methodology:
An up-to-date web site is a wonderful thing. That is where we will gather all of our information. This seems reasonable to us because your web site is surely where most applicants and other inquisitive people go for information about your law school. If a school cannot be bothered to provide accurate information about the teaching, scholarship, and service of its own faculty on its own web site, it deserves to be haunted by any inaccuracies.
This is no indication, however, that law faculty blogs or blogging activities will be a significant part of the endeavor, even though faculty blogging and/or other types of faculty web dissemination would seem to be a valid and significant way to assess and measure whether faculty do what law schools say they do. Needless to say, blogging issues aside, this Deadwood Report is a project worth watching for all those interested in the law school universe.
Posted by DAB