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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

US News 2008 Rankings: Quick Takes

As everyone from Dave Hoffman to Brian Leiter to, well, everyone is observing, the new “2008" U.S. News rankings and ratings of law schools have appeared on the magazine’s website a few days earlier than promised. Assuming that the reported results are final, not just preliminary or phony to compete with the many fallacious predictions about rankings posted on the Internet, here’s a look at the previous and current reputational assessments by academics and by lawyers and judges, broken down by tier.

Ratings by Faculty (Peer) and Lawyers and Judges in the 2007 and 2008 U.S. News Surveys
Peer           Lawyers & Judges
--------------           ----------------------    Effect size
Tier     N    Mean     SD        Mean     SD
2007
1    100    3.04    0.76        3.34    0.60
3      36    2.06    0.18        2.58    0.31
4      44    1.66    0.22        2.12    0.37
Total 180   2.51    0.85        2.89    0.73        0.48
2008
1    104    2.99    0.73        3.36    0.63
3      35    2.03    0.17        2.51    0.31
4      45    1.64    0.23        2.02    0.35
Total 184   2.48    0.82        2.87    0.78        0.49

Ratings for Tier 1, classifying the top 50 schools as Tier 1 and other Tier-1 schools as Tier 2
Peer           Lawyers & Judges
--------------           ----------------------
Tier     N    Mean     SD        Mean     SD
2007
1    50    3.63    0.65        3.80    0.52
2    50    2.46    0.24        2.88    0.20
2008
Tier     N    Mean     SD        Mean     SD
1    50    3.58    0.62        3.87    0.52
2    54    2.44    0.22        2.89    0.24

I apologize for the misalignment of the tables--I've given up trying  to get the html coding right. Here they are in prettier, pdf format.  (Note to self--never again work on html tables.)

My brief take on the tables:

Average 2007 and 2008 assessments are very similar. Lawyers and judges give more favorable ratings than academics. Assessments are clearly related to school tier, with average ratings of schools decreasing as tier increases. Variability of the ratings is greater for the more highly ranked schools.

I looked at differences between the 2007 and 2008 ratings of individual schools. The difference for average peer assessments was never greater than 0.2 on the 5-point scale.  A difference that large occurred for only two schools; in both cases it was a decrease. Tulane’s peer assessment changed from 3.2 to 3.0, and Golden Gate’s changed from 1.7 to 1.5. Forty-five schools had a decrease of 0.1, and 30 had an increase of the same size.

Assessments of lawyer and judges changed more.  Here is a list of schools with positive (2008 rating more favorable than 2007 rating) and negative changes of 0.3 or larger.

After I get back from Gettysburg College, where I'll be talking about Reparations Pro and Con, I hope to have some more thoughts on the relationship between law review citations (which I use as a proxy of law review quality) and peer assessment scores.  Some of my previous thoughts on this topic are available here and some longitudinal data is here.

Al Brophy
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THE 2007-08 HYLTON RANKINGS

of American Law Schools

Introduction: The Hylton Rankings rank American law schools in an order which reflects the way that they are regarded by law school professors and students. The Rankings are named for their compiler, Professor J. Gordon Hylton of Marquette University.

The Hylton Rankings are calculated using data presented in the annual rating of law schools published by the U.S. News and World Report. However, while the US News rankings are based on a variety of factors, the Hylton Rankings are based only on the peer assessment ratings provided by law professors and by the mean LSAT scores of each law school. The other US News Report categories are either arbitrary or redundant with the two used in the Hylton Rankings. Grade point average depends on undergraduate institution and major; assessment by lawyers and judges is usually just blind guessing; acceptance rates are a function of the applicant pool and subject to manipulation; employment statistics are a function of the school’s prestige and are affected by local and regional market conditions; and bar passage rates are a function of how rigorously the exam is graded and the composition of the pool of bar takers. In contrast, peer assessment tells us what law professors think about individual law schools, and LSAT scores tell us what students think about the school.

The Hylton Rankings are thus a rating based on institutional prestige and reputation rather than actual educational quality. The Hylton Rankings assume that the quality of legal education provided by ABA-accredited law schools varies very little from institution to institution.

Unlike the US News ratings, the Hylton Rankings list law schools from #1 to #184. This, of course, can be highly misleading, as the difference between one school and the next is always quite small. However, those schools at the top of the list contain a larger percentage of academically talented students and are more highly regarded by law professors than those at the bottom. The top 19 schools have raw scores above 70 (out of a possible 100) while the bottom 23 schools have raw scores between 30 and 40. The raw scores listed next to the names of the school can be used to compute the actual distance between any two schools on the list.

The 2007-08 Rankings:

FIRST QUARTILE Raw Score 2006 Ranking

1. Yale 92 2
2. Harvard 90 1
3. Columbia 87.5 3
4. University of Chicago 86.5 5
4. Stanford 86.5 3
6. New York University 86 6
7. Michigan 83 8
7. Virginia 83 7
9. Pennsylvania 82 9
10. California—Berkeley 80 10
10. Georgetown 80 11
12. Northwestern 79 12
13. Cornell 78 14
13. Duke 78 13
15. UCLA 75.5 15
16. Texas 75 15
17. Southern California 73 17
18. Vanderbilt 72.5 18
19. Minnesota 70 19
20. Washington University 69.5 21
21. Boston University 68.5 23
21. George Washington 68.5 20
21. Notre Dame 68.5 25
21. Washington & Lee 68.5 21
25. Emory 68 27
26. Illinois 67.5 23
27. Boston College 67 29
27. Fordham 67 26
29. California-Davis 66 33
29. North Carolina 66 27
29. William & Mary 66 30
32. Iowa 64.5 30
32. Wisconsin 64.5 30
34. California—Hastings 63.5 33
34. Ohio State 63.5 37
34. University of Washington 63.5 64
37. Wake Forest 63 35
38. Indiana-Bloomington 62.5 37
39. Arizona 62 39
39. Colorado 62 42
41. Brigham Young 61.5 44
41. Maryland 61.5 47
43. Tulane 61 39
44. Yeshiva-Cardozo 60.5 45
45. Alabama 60 51
45. Connecticut 60 47
45. George Mason 60 47
45. Georgia 60 42

SECOND QUARTILE Raw Score 2006 Ranking

49. American 59.5 46
49. San Diego 59.5 47
51. Brooklyn 59 52
51. Florida 59 39
53. Arizona St. 57.5 60
53. Florida St. 57.5 56
53. Pittsburgh 57.5 58
53. Villanova 57.5 53
57. Chicago-Kent 57 53
57. Oregon 57 63
57. SMU 57 67
57. Temple 57 56
61. Utah 56.5 53
62. Case Western 56 58
62. Lewis & Clark 56 71
62. Loyola-Chicago 56 71
62. Loyola-Los Angeles 56 60
62. Miami 56 63
62. Rutgers-Camden 56 63
68. Houston 55.5 60
68. Seton Hall 55.5 71
70. Baylor 54 63
70. Cincinnati 54 71
70. Kansas 54 79
70. Missouri 54 68
70. Tennessee 54 68
75. Kentucky 53.5 68
75. Richmond 53.5 76
77. Rutgers-Newark 53 76
78. Georgia St. 52.5 84
78. Pepperdine 52.5 87
78. Santa Clara 52.5 79
78. St. Johns 52.5 76
82. Catholic 52 83
82. DePaul 52 81
82. Hawaii 52 84
82. Northeastern 52 71
86. Denver 51.5 81
86. Indiana-Indianapolis 51.5 91
88. Nebraska 51 91
88. Oklahoma 51 87
90. UNLV 50.5 102
90. South Carolina 50.5 91

THIRD QUARTILE Raw Score 2006 Ranking

92. Marquette 50 91
92. New Mexico 50 102
92. Penn St.-Dickenson 50 105
92. San Francisco 50 87
92. St. Louis 50 87
92. Wayne St. 50 97
98. LSU 49.5 95
98. Louisville 49.5 97
98. Michigan St. 49.5 97
98. Seattle 49.5 105
98. SUNY-Buffalo 49.5 95
103. Syracuse 49 97
104. Hofstra 48.5 84
104. Willamette 48.5 111
106. Arkansas-Fayetteville 48 105
107. Maine 47.5 104
107. Pacific-McGeorge 47.5 97
107. Quinnipiac 47.5 111
107. Toledo 47.5 105
111. Mississippi 47 109
112. Albany 46 111
112. Gonzaga 46 121
114. Akron 45.5 111
114. Drake 45.5 124
114. Mercer 45.5 117
114. New York Law 45.5 111
114. Samford-Cumberland 45.5 128
114. Stetson 45.5 121
114. Suffolk 45.5 121
121. Creighton 45 135
121. Missouri-Kansas City 45 111
121. Pace 45 117
121. Vermont 45 109
125. Arkansas-Little Rock 44.5 117
125. Washburn 44.5 142
127. Cleveland St. 44 128
127. Idaho 44 117
127. St. Thomas (MN) 44 ---
127. Texas Tech 44 124
127. William Mitchell 44 134
132. Chapman 43.5 148
132. Hamline 43.5 128
132. Loyola-New Orleans 43.5 124
132. Memphis 43.5 128
136. Howard 43 139
136. Montana 43 128
136. Southwestern 43 128
136. West Virginia 43 146

FOURTH QUARTILE Raw Score 2006 Ranking

140. Baltimore 42.5 135
140. Duquesne 42.5 139
140. John Marshall 42.5 142
143. City Univ. of New York 42 152
143. Franklin Pierce 42 142
143. South Dakota 42 148
143. Texas Wesleyan 42 148
143. Tulsa 42 142
143. Wyoming 42 139
149. Dayton 41.5 135
149. Northern Kentucky 41.5 148
149. Southern Illinois 41.5 124
152. Widener 41 158
152. Valparaiso 41 146
154. California Western 40.5 152
154. Northern Illinois 40.5 135
154. Roger Williams 40.5 158
154. South Texas 40.5 152
154. St. Mary’s 40.5 152
159. Capitol 40 152
159. North Dakota 40 161
159. Western New England 40 163
162. Campbell 39.5 152
162. Florida International 39.5 ---
164. New England 39 163
164. Nova Southeastern 39 166
164. Touro 39 163
167. Golden Gate 38.5 161
167. Ohio Northern 38.5 169
169. Ave Maria 38 158
170. Regent 37.5 169
171. Whittier 37 167
172. Oklahoma City 35.5 171
172. Thomas Jefferson 35.5 167
174. Detroit Mercy 35 173
175. Florida Coastal 34.5 173
175. Mississippi College 34.5 171
177. U. of the District of Columbia 34 173
177. North Carolina Central 34 177
179. St. Thomas (FL) 33.5 176
180. Thomas Cooley 33 178
181. Appalachian 32.5 ---
181. Texas Southern 32.5 179
183. Barry 31 ---
184. Southern 30.5 180

Additional Comments

1. The Formula for the Hylton Ratings.

To obtain a single number for ranking purposes the Hylton Rankings combine the US News Peer Assessment Score times 10 with the mean of the 25th and 75th LSAT percentiles minus 130. These adjustments produce a number between 10 and 50 for both categories. For example, Yale Law School, the highest ranked school in the US News rankings, has a Peer Assessment score of 4.9 which converts to 49. It 25% and 75% LSAT scores are 170 and 176 which average 173. 173 minus 130 equals 43 which is then added to the Peer Assessment score for a total score of 92 out of a possible 100.

Although it may seem arbitrary, deducting 130 from the LSAT score actually converts the score into a meaningful number. LSDAS and ABA data suggest that virtually no one is accepted to law school with an LSAT score below 140, hence the real range of LSAT scores is the 40 point range between 140 and180. The current medium Peer Assessment score is 2.3 (or 23 for rankings purposes), and the current medium LSAT score is 157 (or 27 for ranking purposes).

2. Which Law Schools Were Most Hurt and Most Helped by the US News Formula?

There is very little variation between the Hylton Rankings and the US News Ratings at the top of the chart. The 21 highest ranked schools in the US News Rankings are all ranked between 1 and 21 in the Hylton Rankings. There are, however, significant differences below this level.

The six schools which benefit most from the U.S. News’ use of additional categories are New Mexico (ranked 22 places higher than in the Hylton Rankings); Toledo (also +22); SUNY Buffalo (+21); Kentucky (+15); Mercer (+14); Stetson (+14). In addition, four schools ranking in the “3rd Tier” in the US News Ratings (Florida International, Franklin Pierce, Southern Illinois, and Wyoming) would be in the “4th Tier” if the Hylton Rankings scoring system was used.

The schools that are harmed most by the additional US News categories are San Diego (which dropped 36 places below where it would have been under the Hylton Rankings); Lewis & Clark ( -20); Oregon (-15); Catholic (-15); and Santa Clara (-13). In addition, Wayne State which ranks number 92 in the Hylton Rankings drops to Tier 4 in the US News Rankings. Similarly, Michigan St., ranked 98 in the Hylton Rankings, is placed in Tier 3 in the US News Ratings. Willamette, Chapman, and Hamline, all placed in Tier 4 in the US News Rankings would be in Tier 3 if the Hylton Rankings formula was used.

3. Which Law Schools Experienced the Greatest Change in their Hylton Ranking Between 2006 and 2007?

Because the Hylton Rankings use fewer categories, and the categories are relatively stable from year to year, there is less movement from one year to the next in the Hylton Rankings than in its US News counterpart. As the above chart reveals, the schools at the top of the Hylton rankings remained very stable. None of the top 21 schools moved more than one place in the rankings. However, a small number of schools did make seemingly significant movement up or down in the rankings.

Six schools moved up more than ten places in the rankings. They were: Washburn (+17, from #142 to #125); Chapman (+16, from #148 to #132); Samford-Cumberland (+14, from #128 to #114); Creighton (+14, from #135 to #121); Penn St-Dickenson (+13, from #105 to #92); and UNLV (+12, from #102 to #90).

The reason for the improvement in ranking is primarily the result of increased LSAT scores. All six schools reported higher LSAT scores this year, and four of the six (Washburn, Chapman, Samford, and UNLV) saw their Peer Assessment scores increase by one-tenth of a point over 2006. All six schools were ranked below #100 in 2006, though Penn State-Dickinson and UNLV are now ranked #92 and #90, respectively.

Eight schools dropped more than ten places in the rankings. They were: Southern Illinois (-25, from #124 to #149); Hofstra (-20, from #84 to #104); Northern Illinois (-19, from #135 to #154); Dayton (-14, from #135 to #149); Florida (-12, from #39 to #51); Vermont (-12, from #109 to #121); Northeastern (-11 from #71 to #82); and Ave Maria (-11 from #158 to #169). Southern Illinois, Hofstra, Florida, and Ave Maria experienced both a one-tenth of a point drop in their Peer Assessment scores and a decline in LSAT scores. The peer assessment scores remained the same for the other four, although each experienced a drop in LSAT scores.

Of the fourteen schools that moved more than ten places in the rankings, only one (the University of Florida) was ranked among the top fifty schools in 2006. Florida also experienced the large change in its raw score of any school as it dropped from 62.5 in 2006 to 59 in 2007. This was the result of its Peer Assessment score dropping from 3.2 in 2006 to 3.1 in 2007, and its LSAT 25% / 75% range declining from 157/164 to 155/161.

4. Why Are There 184 Schools Ranked This Year?

Four schools which recently achieved full ABA accreditation were ranked for the first time in 2007. They were St. Thomas of Minnesota (#127); Florida International (#162), Appalachian (#181), and Barry (#183).

Posted by: J. Gordon Hylton | Apr 1, 2007 3:23:58 PM