According to an investigation report released last Wednesday, April 27th, two deans from the University of Southern California repeatedly directed school officials to omit certain survey data from reports to U.S. News & World Report in order to boost their graduate school’s ranking in the organization’s list of best graduate education schools. According to the Los Angeles Times, the school then withdrew the Rossier School from the next annual ranking, where it was recently ranked 11th.
Jones Day, an American international law firm, conducted an investigation and released a report regarding the misreported data. Despite explicit instructions to include both Ph.D. and Ed.D. data from U.S. News & World Report, by largely reporting only on the Ph.D. program data, the doctoral program was painted to be smaller and more selective than it really was, according to the LA Times. The school included information from their Ed.D. data for survey questions regarding enrollment and degrees earned, while submitting “PhD-only data in response to survey selectivity questions (such as acceptance rates, average GPAs, and GRE scores of the entering doctoral class).”
According to the report. “Dean 1” (Karen Symms Gallagher), “verified the accuracy of the School’s 2020 survey submission, which omitted EdD data from the doctoral selectivity metrics.” Gallagher oversaw the school from 2000 to 2020 and signed off on the omission of data, according to the LA Times. The survey states that the second dean, who succeeded the first in 2020, continued the tradition, verifying the accuracy of the school’s submission in 2021 despite instructions to include Ed.D. data from U.S. News. “Dean 2” (Pedro Noguera) then raised the issue with the Provost in December 2021. The Provost called for an investigation, and as a result, the University contacted U.S. News to withdraw the Rossier School of Education from the rankings.
According to Jones Day’s report, Dean 1 had a history of convincing US News that the school’s EdD program was a “was a part-time program and therefore should not be treated as a full-time doctoral program.” And more surprisingly, US News “had not questioned the School’s prior submissions excluding EdD data from its doctoral selectivity responses.”
While the report mainly focuses on the doctoral selectivity metrics, Jones Day’s report also sheds light on the school’s history of inaccurate and irregular reports in other fields. These include miscalculations of research expenditures, exclusion of online Ed.D. programs, labeling of Ed.D. students as part-time, and misrepresentation of teacher job placement and retention statistics, which also may have affected the school’s ranking.
On the 29th, Dean Noguera released a statement accepting “full responsibility for continuing the practice of inaccurately reporting data to USNWR during my first year as dean.”