Annapolis Group

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The Annapolis Group is an American organization that describes itself as "a nonprofit alliance of the nation’s leading independent liberal arts colleges."[1] It represents approximately 130 liberal arts colleges in the United States. These colleges work together to promote a greater understanding of the goals of a liberal arts education through their websites, as well as through independent research. [2] Its current chair is Philip A. Glotzbach, the president of Skidmore College.

Background[edit]

The Annapolis Group was first organized in early 1993 in Annapolis, Maryland. Its original members included and expanded upon the Oberlin Group which was first organized in 1984.[3] The Annapolis Group was created by the presidents of Franklin & Marshall College, Gettysburg College, and Dickinson College. [4]

Criticism of rankings[edit]

An article was published on the website for the Annapolis Group (collegenews.org) in 2004, titled, "Liberal Arts College Presidents Speak Out on College Rankings." The article included statements made by the presidents of Dickinson, Reed, Puget Sound, St. John's College, Hamilton, Earlham, Hendrix, Colgate, Washington & Jefferson, Centre, Ursinus, Connecticut, Kenyon, Mt. Holyoke, and Skidmore. [5]

Presidents Letter[edit]

The Presidents Letter (dated May 10, 2007), developed by Lloyd Thacker of the Education Conservancy, was sent to college and university presidents in the United States in May 2007, concerning the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. The letter does not ask for a full boycott but rather states that:

while we believe colleges and universities may want to cooperate in providing data to publications for the purposes of rankings, we believe such data provision should be limited to data which is collected in accord with clear, shared professional standards (not the idiosyncratic standards of any single publication), and to data which is required to be reported to state or federal officials or which the institution believes (in accord with good accountability) should routinely be made available to any member of the public who seeks it. [6]

Instead, it asks presidents not to participate in the "reputational survey" portion of the overall survey (this section accounts for 25% of the total rank and asks college presidents to give their subjective opinion of other colleges). The letter also asks presidents not to use the rankings as a form of publicity:

Among other reasons, we believe [...] rankings: imply a false precision and authority that is not warranted by the data they use; obscure important differences in educational mission in aligning institutions on a single scale; say nothing or very little about whether students are actually learning at particular colleges or universities; encourage wasteful spending and gamesmanship in institutions' pursuing improved rankings; overlook the importance of a student in making education happen and overweight the importance of a university's prestige in that process; and degrade for students the educational value of the college search process. We ask you to make the following two commitments: 1. Refuse to fill out the U.S. News and World Report reputational survey. 2. Refuse to use the rankings in any promotional efforts on behalf of your college or university, and more generally, refuse to refer to the rankings as an indication of the quality of your college or university."[6]

List of colleges and universities[edit]

Twelve college and university presidents originally signed the letter in early May. [7] The letter currently has 130 signatures, though others may be added at a later date. [8]

2007 movement[edit]

On June 19, 2007, during the annual meeting of the Annapolis Group, members discussed this letter. As a result, "a majority of the approximately 80 presidents at the meeting said that they did not intend to participate in the U.S. News reputational rankings in the future." [9] The statement also said that its members "have agreed to participate in the development of an alternative common format that presents information about their colleges for students and their families to use in the college search process." [10] This database will be web based and developed in conjunction with higher education organizations including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges.

On June 22, 2007, U.S. News and World Report editor Robert Morse issued a response in which he argued, "in terms of the peer assessment survey, we at U.S. News firmly believe the survey has significant value because it allows us to measure the "intangibles" of a college that we can't measure through statistical data. Plus, the reputation of a school can help get that all-important first job and plays a key part in which grad school someone will be able to get into. The peer survey is by nature subjective, but the technique of asking industry leaders to rate their competitors is a commonly accepted practice. The results from the peer survey also can act to level the playing field between private and public colleges." [11] In reference to the alternative database discussed by the Annapolis Group, Morse also argued, "It's important to point out that the Annapolis Group's stated goal of presenting college data in a common format has been tried before [...] U.S. News has been supplying this exact college information for many years already. And it appears that NAICU will be doing it with significantly less comparability and functionality. U.S. News first collects all these data (using an agreed-upon set of definitions from the Common Data Set). Then we post the data on our website in easily accessible, comparable tables. In other words, the Annapolis Group and the others in the NAICU initiative actually are following the lead of U.S. News." [11]

References[edit]

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