Cardona delivered the keynote speech at the Conference on Best Practices for Law School Data held Wednesday, March 1 at Harvard Law School. There, he criticized the overreliance law schools and prospective students have had on rankings like those published by U.S. News and World Report and called for a new normal where those rankings play less of a role in students’ and law schools’ decision-making process.
“It's time to stop worshiping at the false altar of U.S. News and World Report,” Cardona said. “It's time to focus on what truly matters: delivering value and upward mobility.”
The conference was sponsored by the law schools at Harvard University and Yale University, and it featured input from education experts and law deans from around the nation. The one-day conference focused on what types of data applicants need to make the best possible decisions regarding their legal education and what a future “beyond” the U.S. News & World Report rankings should look like.
“By providing a forum for law schools to share and discuss best practices in sharing data, we hope to help ensure prospective students are well positioned to choose the law school that will enable them to achieve their highest aspirations,” said Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning.
According to Yale, a number of schools, including Yale, announced they would no longer participate in the publication’s ranking system. Yale Law School Dean Heather K. Gerken said Yale was the first school to make that announcement, and since it did about 25% of schools ranked, along with a number of medical colleges, have opted to no longer willingly participate in the rankings.
Prior to the conference, U.S. News & World Report Executive Chairman Eric Gertler penned a passionate defense of the rankings in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal. The piece, entitled “Why Elite Law and Medical Schools Can’t Stand U.S. News,” rejected the notion that the rankings are detrimental to students and jabbed at administrators he said “don’t like to be held accountable.”
Mark Stucker @YCBKpodcast ·Feb 26
"A few dozen have dropped out of the Law School rankings & every week, more drop out of the Law & Med school rankings, but people kept asking, what about their main “best college rankings”. RISD dropped out as an Art and Design school last week."
“There’s a cruel irony in our current higher education system. Our most underserved students typically attend our most-underfunded colleges. These schools are accessible and inclusive, but they often lack the resources to help students complete their degrees,” said Cardona. “Meanwhile, rankings discourage institutions with the largest endowments and greatest capacity to enroll and graduate more underserved students from doing so because it may hurt their selectivity. Instead, the most life-changing higher education opportunities go to young people who already have every socioeconomic advantage.”
Cardona did emphasize the value of data overall and pointed to the education department’s College Scorecard, which provides graduation rates, student debt, costs and other school information, as a useful resource. “Transparency is paramount from colleges and from ranking publications,” he said.
Gerken agreed with the sentiment and added the focus of the conference was “not just how to make choosing law school easier and more transparent for prospective students, but to refocus the conversation on the values of the profession and the future of legal education.”
“For too long we have been cabined by a ranking system that tries to squeeze what cannot be measured into a system that has an impossibly wide range of institutions inside of it,” Gerken said. “I believe that the results have been damaging to the future of legal education and to the future of our profession.”