By January 20, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

Gaming the College Rankings at Baylor

Baylor Rewards Freshmen Who Retake SAT – NYTimes.com

Baylor Newspaper Article

Show me a ranking system and I’ll show you a way to “game the system” to manipulate the apparent results. You see this with sales quotas, annual bonus plans, emergency room waiting targets… it’s often easier to manipulate the system than it is to really improve the process (credit to Dr. Donald Wheeler for that gem in his classic book Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos.

The most recent case I’ve seen in the news was about Baylor University. Apparently, they paid H.S. seniors who were already accepted to the university to RE-TAKE the SAT (aiming for a higher score). These seniors (they had actually already graduated) were offered a $300 bookstore credit for their troubles.

Higher score –> Better U.S. News and World Report college rankings

Not setting a good example, are they, the university leaders? An outside critic says:

“This is a straightforward, cynical attempt to manipulate test score averages to boost Baylor’s rankings,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “This is a perfect example of what Nacac warned about in their report.”

Some students are very critical:

“I think the people who put forth this decision completely compromised what they say Baylor is about: its Christian values, the integrity of Baylor, the integrity of Baylor 2012,” Mr. Gawrieh said in a telephone interview.

A university spokesman gives a weasel-y non-answer to a direct question:

Asked whether the decision was motivated at all by the college rankings, Mr. Barry responded: “Every university wants to have great SAT scores. Every university wants to be perceived as having a high-quality class. We all wanted that. Were we happy our SAT scores went up? Yes. Did our students earn their scores? Yes they did.”

We need to expect more from our educators. Of course, a cynical view could say that teaching students how to game the system will serve them well in the working world… or academia!

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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