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美国大学排名游戏

Gaming the College Rankings
美国大学排名游戏

Any love-hate relationship must have its share of pain, so the academic world, in its obsession with college rankings, is suitably dismayed by news that an elite college, Claremont McKenna, fudged its numbers in an apparent bid to climb the charts.

任何爱恨交织的关系都有令人痛苦的一面。当精英学院克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院(Claremont McKenna)明显是为了提高在大学排行榜上的名次而捏造数据的消息传出后,迷恋大学排名的学术界确实会感到沮丧。

Dismayed, but not quite surprised. In fact, several colleges in recent years have been caught gaming the system — in particular, the avidly watched U.S. News & World Report rankings — by twisting the meanings of rules, cherry-picking data or just lying.

这虽然令人沮丧,却并不出人意料。实际上,近年来已经有几所大学被发现曲解规则的含义、筛选或干脆谎报数据,从而在这个机制——尤其是受到各方热切关注的《美国新闻与世界报道》(U.S. News & World Report)的排名——上做手脚。
 

In one recent example, Iona College in New Rochelle, north of New York City, acknowledged last fall that its employees had lied for years not only about test scores, but also about graduation rates, freshman retention, student-faculty ratio, acceptance rates and alumni giving.

举一个近期的例子,位于纽约市以北的新罗谢尔市爱纳学院(Iona College)在去年秋天承认,其雇员多年来不仅在考试成绩方面造假,还谎报了毕业率、新生保有率、学生教员比例、录取率以及校友捐赠。

Other institutions have found ways to manipulate the data without outright dishonesty.

其他院校也发现了各种“灰色”方式来篡改数据。

In 2008, Baylor University offered financial rewards to admitted students to retake the SAT in hopes of increasing its average score. Admissions directors say that some colleges delay admission of low-scoring students until January, excluding them from averages for the class admitted in September, while other colleges seek more applications to report a lower percentage of students accepted.

贝勒大学(Baylor University)在2008年向已录取的学生提供奖金,让他们重新参加学术能力评估测试(SAT),以期提高该校的平均成绩。各校招生负责人表示,有些学校将低分学生的录取时间推迟至来年1月,从而不用把这些学生计入9月份入学学生的平均分,而有的学校则寻求更多的申请人,以降低录取比例。

Claremont McKenna, according to Robert Morse, the director of data research at U.S. News, is “the highest-ranking school to have to go through this publicly and have to admit to misreporting.”

《美国新闻与世界报道》数据研究主任罗伯特·莫尔斯(Robert Morse)表示,克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院是“已被曝光并承认谎报的院校中排名最高的”。

This year, U.S. News rated it as the nation’s ninth-best liberal arts college.

2012年,《美国新闻与世界报道》将该校在美国文理学院中排在第九名。

There is no reason to think the U.S. News rankings are rife with misinformation, and the publication makes efforts to police the data, adjust its metrics and close loopholes.

虽然并没有理由因此就觉得《美国新闻与世界报道》的排名数据中充满不实信息,但是该刊还是努力甄别数据、调整评判标准并查漏补缺。

But repeated revelations of manipulation show the importance of the rankings in the minds of prospective students, their guidance counselors, parents, the alumni considering donations, the professors weighing job offers — and, of course, the colleges themselves.

可是,不断被揭露的作假行为显示出了排名在学生申请人、升学顾问、家长、考虑捐赠的校友、权衡工作机会的教授——当然,也包括高校自身——心目中的重要性。

“The reliance on this is out of hand,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, the associate vice president who oversees admissions at DePaul University in Chicago. “It’s a nebulous thing, comparing the value of a college education at one institution to another, so parents and students and counselors focus on things that give them the illusion of precision.”

芝加哥市德保罗大学(DePaul University)主管招生的助理副校长乔恩·博肯斯泰特(Jon Boeckenstedt)说:“人们对大学排名的依赖已难以控制。将一所大学的高等教育价值与另一个大学相比较是一件模棱两可的事情,因此家长、学生、咨询顾问都只关注那些他们以为精确、而实际上是假象的东西。”

The mixed feelings in the academic world were summed up in a report last year by the National Association for College Admission Counseling: Most college admissions officers and high school counselors have a low opinion of the U.S. News rankings, yet they use the published material, whether to gather information about other schools or to market their own.

美国大学招生咨询协会(National Association for College Admission Counseling)在去年的一份报告中对学术界这种爱恨交加的感觉进行了概括:虽然绝大多数的高校招生人员和高中升学顾问对《美国新闻与世界报道》的排名并不太看重,但是他们在收集其他学校信息或推荐自己学校的时候,还是使用该刊发布的材料。

Claremont McKenna, part of the Claremont Colleges cluster outside Los Angeles, acknowledged Monday that a senior officer had resigned after admitting that he had inflated the average SAT scores given to U.S. News since 2005.

克莱蒙特学院联盟(Claremont Colleges)分布在洛杉矶市郊,克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院是联盟中的一员。该校最近承认,一名高级职员承认自2005年以来夸大了提交给《美国新闻与世界报道》的SAT平均成绩,之后那名职员已经辞职。

People briefed on the matter identified the officer as Richard C. Vos, vice president and dean of admissions, who once said, “We don’t play yield games,” referring to the practice of encouraging unqualified applicants who can be rejected to make a college seem more competitive.

对此事有所了解的人士称,辞职的是该校副校长兼招生主任理查德·沃斯(Richard C. Vos),而恰恰是沃斯曾说:“我们不玩那些招生数字游戏。”他指的是有些学校鼓励不符合录取条件并会被拒绝录取的学生来申请,从而使学校看起来更热门。

Mr. Vos, whose name was removed from the school’s online roster of administrators over the weekend, declined to comment Monday night and he did not return calls Tuesday.

1月底,沃斯的名字已经从该校网站上的管理层名单中删除。1月30日晚,沃斯表示不愿对此进行评论,第二天他也未对给记者回话。

SAT score averages are also reported to credit rating firms and the Department of Education, which is looking into Claremont McKenna’s actions, said Justin Hamilton, the agency’s press secretary. He said the department could impose fines and other penalties for supplying misinformation, but rarely did, particularly if the college brought the problem to light on its own.

美国教育部正在调查克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院的行为,该部新闻秘书贾斯廷·汉密尔顿(Justin Hamilton)表示,SAT平均成绩还发给了信用评级机构和教育部。他说,虽然教育部可以对提供虚假信息行为施以罚款和其他处罚,但是很少这样做过,尤其是在该校自行将问题公开的情况下。

Mr. Morse, of U.S. News, said that he and a team of four to six people verified much of the information that colleges supplied, comparing it with databases from other sources, and that they performed a service in making the data public. But he conceded that his publication was probably at least part of the reason schools have lied.

《美国新闻与世界报道》的莫尔斯称,他与一个由4到6人组成的小组对各所大学提供的大量信息进行核实,与其他来源的数据库进行比较,并提供将这些数据发布的服务。不过,莫尔斯承认,在一些学校虚报信息这件事上,他们的排名可能至少负有一部分责任。

Iona’s case was extreme; U.S. News ranked its undergraduate college 30th among “regional universities” in the Northeast, but estimated that with correct data it would have dropped to 50th.

爱纳学院的例子比较极端:《美国新闻与世界报道》将该校本科学院排在美国东北部“地区性大学”第30位,但该刊估计,如果使用正确的数据,该校排名会降至第50位。

Also last year, the law schools of Villanova University and the University of Illinois acknowledged that they had misreported some statistics; Villanova conceded that its deception was intentional, while Illinois did not say. And at the United States Naval Academy, famous for its honor code, a professor recently accused administrators of inflating the number of applicants, which the academy has denied. In 2009, a number of institutions were found to be inflating their percentages of full-time professors — another criterion used in ranking systems. The impact and extent of Claremont McKenna’s cheating remains unclear. In a statement to the college staff and students, the president, Pamela B. Gann, wrote, “Although the degree of inaccuracies varied over time, we understand that the reported critical reading and/or math SAT scores were generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each.”

维拉诺瓦大学(Villanova University)和伊利诺伊大学(the University of Illinois)两家的法学院也在去年承认谎报了部分统计数据:前者承认是故意欺骗,而后者未发表评论。在以荣誉守则著称的美国海军学院(United States Naval Academy),一位教授近日检举该校管理人员虚报学生申请数量,但校方对此予以否认。2009年,许多院校被发现虚报全职教授比例,这是各排名体系使用的另一项指标。目前,尚不清楚克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院的欺骗行为所产生的影响和程度。该校校长帕梅拉·甘(Pamela B. Gann)在向全校师生发表的声明中写道:“虽然数据不实的程度因时而异,但据我们所知,在上报的批判性阅读和/或数学两项SAT成绩普遍被平均夸大了10到20分。”

Mr. Morse said that without more precise information, he could not measure how such a change might have altered the college’s ranking, but it might have made the difference in cracking the top 10 of liberal arts colleges, a bragging right that Claremont McKenna reached this year for only the third time.

莫尔斯说,由于没有更准确的信息,他无法判断这样的改变会对该校排名产生多大影响,但是这可能会让排名前10位的文理学院名单发生变化,克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院今年只是第3次排进前10这个值得夸耀的位置。

In the U.S. News rating system, explained in detail on its Web site, SAT scores account for 7.5 percent of the ranking. More heavily weighted criteria include academic reputation, student retention, faculty resources and the school’s finances.

《美国新闻与世界报道》在其网站上详细解释了他们的大学排名体系,其中SAT成绩占评分的7.5%,更重要的衡量标准包括学术声誉、学生保有率、师资和学校的财务状况。

Claremont McKenna’s reputation has risen over the years; as recently as 1990, it was not in the U.S. News top 20. But it is often conscious of the comparison with its neighbor, Pomona College, which U.S. News rated fourth among liberal arts colleges.

克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院的声望在多年来逐渐上升,但直到1990年,该校还排不进《美国新闻与世界报道》排行榜的前20名。但是该校经常有意与邻近的波莫纳学院(Pomona College)相提并论,后者被《美国新闻与世界报道》在文理学院中排名第4。

Bruce J. Poch, dean of admissions at Pomona until 2010, said of the rankings, “They’re not benign instruments,” but conceded that they are easy for a college to fall back on as evidence of its status. “The pressure is real,” he said. “God forbid you go down in those numbers.”

布鲁斯·波切(Bruce J. Poch)在2010年前一直担任波莫纳学院招生主任,他在谈到大学排名时说:“它们并不是可亲的工具。”不过,他也承认这些排名容易让大学将其当作是自身地位的证据。他说:“压力确实存在,上帝不会允许你让这些数据降低。”

Mr. Vos had been dean of admissions at Claremont McKenna since 1987. “He was always one of the people that I considered one of the good guys in the profession,” said Ralph Figueroa, director of college guidance at Albuquerque Academy, a private day school in New Mexico.

沃斯自1987年起一直是克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院的招生主任。新墨西哥州的私立走读学校阿尔伯克基学院(Albuquerque Academy)教导主任拉尔夫·菲格罗阿(Ralph Figueroa)说:“在我所认为的这个行业出色人士里,他一直是其中之一。”

In her Monday statement, Ms. Gann, the college president, said Claremont McKenna discovered the discrepancy in reported SAT scores and conducted an internal review, during which one senior administrator stepped forward to take sole responsibility.

克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院校长甘在1月30号发表的声明中称,该校发现了上报的SAT分数的不实之处,并进行了一次内部审查,在此期间有一位高级管理人员站出来独自承担了责任。

On the campus Tuesday, students said they were unhappy with the news, but not greatly concerned, and proud of the college for making it public.

1月31日,在该校校内,学生们表示,他们对这则消息感到不快,但是没有太担心,并对学院公开此事感到骄傲。

“I don’t worry about the rankings or how this will affect them, because they tend to be pretty arbitrary,” said Blake Bennett, a senior who has volunteered in the admissions office. “They change from year to year in order to keep selling books. Working in admissions, we pay attention to them, although we wish we didn’t have to. It’s just sort of a sad state of American colleges and higher education.”

克莱蒙特·麦肯纳学院招生办公室一位老年志愿者布莱克·班尼特(Blake Bennett)说:“我并不担心那些排名或这件事会对它们造成怎样的影响,因为那些排名是很武断的。他们为了卖书,每年都会变来变去。在招生办工作,我们是要留心它们,但我们希望不必非要这么做。这只是美国大学和高等教育的一种悲哀而已。”
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