Research weighs heavily in College rankings, but impact of scholarship is best gauge of success

Dean’s Column


April 16, 2007



Dean’s Column

Every year, higher education administrators wait with bated breath for U.S. News & World Report to issue its latest rankings of America’s best graduate schools. The wait is over for the College of Education, and the news is bittersweet. Two departments maintained or increased their national ranking, but overall, the college dropped from 35th to 44th. I do congratulate Counselor Education for maintaining its rank as the No. 2 program in the nation in their specialty (they have stayed in the top five for over nine years), and Special Education for moving up to No. 4 from No. 9. Our elementary education program in the School of Teaching and Learning also made the rankings, placing 23rd after holding the No. 12 spot last year. The faculty and students in these nationally ranked programs are commended for the excellence of their work that has drawn acclaim from peers and practitioners alike, and from the quality of their research as evidenced through publications and grants.

Because we have experienced a drop two years in a row, in strong contrast to our steadily rising trajectory over previous years, it’s important to view these changes from a more holistic perspective. In 2005, we changed the way we reported our research expenditures to exclude the operating budget of PK Yonge Developmental Research School, a change that was fully endorsed by Provost Janie Fouke, and in my judgment, entirely warranted because these expenditures were not connected to direct research work by the PKY faculty. In 2006, we also lost two very prolific faculty members who were extremely successful in bringing in large grants, and these losses reduced our research expenditures totals as well. What is exciting is that more and more faculty have begun seeking grants with the assistance of the Office of Educational Research, and we have also hired several new faculty who will be bringing sizeable grants with them. Of particular note is the hiring of the David Lawrence, Jr. Professor in Early Childhood Studies, Dr. Patricia Snyder, who is nationally and internationally known for her research in early childhood special education. Her profile will appear in a future issue, and we expect her to play a prominent role in the new Kellogg “Ready Schools” Initiative in Miami as well as with statewide initiatives in early intervention programs.

College research expenditures carry significant weight in how the U.S. News rankings are determined. At the same time, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that our college’s place in the rankings should not be the only determinant of success in gauging how well we respond to addressing complex, critical, state and national educational problems. The latest issue of Education Times that will be out shortly reveals an astonishing array of research conducted by faculty and graduate students across the college that I believe is likely to make a real and meaningful difference in people’s lives, a claim that few researchers can make with any validity. And of course, the rankings do not yet reflect the enormous impact the Kellogg “Ready Schools” Project is likely to have on creating conditions in elementary schools across Miami that will facilitate enhanced student learning and better health outcomes for young children. When we consider that the future of this state (and nation) rests upon ensuring equal opportunities to learn for young children from the beginning of their school career, it is difficult to imagine what could more important than that outcome, and where we are ranked pales by comparison.

While all of us would like to see our college rise up again (and I fully expect we will), I am encouraged and heartened as I read about all the wonderful initiatives now underway. We remain strongly committed to developing a well-grounded knowledge base that informs practice, and influences policymakers’ decisions, and many faculty and doctoral students are especially committed to engaged scholarship that addresses the needs of our most vulnerable and challenged populations. We will celebrate all forms of scholarship at our annual “Scholarship of Engagement” on April 25, an event that highlights the power of education research and scholarly work to contribute to the public good.

– Dean Catherine Emihovich.