Report finds Rossier misreported data for US News & World Report rankings

The Rossier School of Education omitted Ed.D. data from at least 2013 to 2021, first under the direction of Karen Gallagher, who served as Rossier’s dean from 2000 to 2020, and then with the authorization of current Dean Pedro Noguera. (Daily Trojan file photo)

The Rossier School of Education had omitted graduate program data in survey responses for US News & World Report rankings since at least 2013, law firm Jones Day found in a report issued April 27.

Rossier withdrew from the 2022 US News rankings in March 2022 after discovering a “history of inaccuracies” in data submitted to the media organization. The University had engaged Jones Day to conduct an independent review of the issue several months prior.

The report found that despite the US News survey’s “unambiguous” and “explicit instructions” to include both Ph.D. and Ed.D. student data starting in 2018, Rossier only responded to questions about selectivity with Ph.D. data. The report noted that in response to several other questions, the school’s reporting included Ed.D. data.

Rossier’s Ph.D. program focuses on developing students to become scholars and professors, while its less selective Ed.D. program trains future educational practitioners, such as school administrators and principals. As selectivity is assigned an 18% weight in US News’ ranking criteria, the omission of Ed.D. data boosted the School of Education’s position in the publication’s rankings.

According to the report, the school omitted Ed.D. data from at least 2013 to 2021, first under the direction of Karen Gallagher, who served as Rossier’s dean from 2000 to 2020, and then with the authorization of current Dean Pedro Noguera. While the University’s Office of Institutional Research also reviewed submissions each year, the report observed that the office’s responsibility was to check for major discrepancies from year to year, rather than “validate the underlying data.”

The report noted that Gallagher, referred to as “Dean 1,” understood the practice’s impact on the school’s ranking but continued to direct it even after US News & World Report expressly instructed the reporting of both Ph.D. and Ed.D. dates in 2018.

The attorney representing Gallagher, Angel Horacek, did not respond for comment.

Joining the University in 2020, Noguera, referred to as “Dean 2,” received briefings on the practice and approved it for 2021 US News & World Report rankings. The practice would have continued into 2022 if not for instructions to correct the reporting by Provost Charles Zukoski, who Noguera informed about the practice in December.

“I want to be clear that I accept full responsibility for continuing the practice of inaccurately reporting data to USNWR during my first year as dean,” Noguera wrote in an email letter to the Rossier community April 29. “Regardless of the circumstances of the pandemic and my personal situation at the time, it was and remains my responsibility as dean to ensure that the high academic standards and quality are maintained at USC Rossier, and that all of our operations and conduct are ethical.”

According to the Jones Day report, the practice of omitting Ed.D. data had come up before in discussions involving the school’s faculty and leadership. The report cited an email capturing faculty concern after one Executive Council meeting in late 2018. Faculty members urged the school to withdraw from rankings that year.

Jones Day also examined explanations for the omission of Ed.D. data but did not find them “persuasive” in justifying the actions taken. Arguments the report considered included that the practice most accurately represented the school’s programs in US News & World Report rankings and that it received no pushback from US News & World Report.

The report described Gallagher stating that she and other education deans had previously raised concerns with US News & World Report about its ranking methods, as they believed combining Ph.D. and Ed.D. data would ignore the significant differences between the two programs.

Regarding these justifications, the report concluded that “the School was at all times free not to submit itself for rankings consideration by US News; having opted to submit, however, the School was not free to create its own rules.”

The investigation also found no communications indicating US News & World Report ever permitted the practice, and pointed to one exchange between US News & World Report and a school staff member in 2017, where the requirement to include both Ph.D. and Ed.D. data was made clear.

In an April 29 letter to the Rossier community, Zukoski conveyed plans to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future.

“Dean Noguera and I will work to implement new oversight functions to ensure that the school always meets the highest standards of excellence and integrity,” Zukoski wrote.

In his letter, Noguera reaffirmed the school’s commitment to its students, providing recent examples such as the addition of 14 new faculty in 2021 and priorities to increase financial support for students. Two-thirds of students pursuing master’s degrees in teaching will receive full scholarships in 2023, and the school especially aims to increase aid for students in programs like teaching and counseling.

“I do not want to minimize the fact that the misreporting of data to the US News & World Report has blemished our reputation,” Noguera wrote. “However, I do want to assure you that we will recover through excellence in teaching, research and service.”

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