George Washington U. Inflated Class-Rank Data for More Than a Decade

George Washington University’s admissions office misreported data on the class rank of incoming students for more than a decade, the institution announced on Thursday. The errors, as described by university officials, resulted from a combination of good data and faulty “estimates.”

Previously, George Washington reported—on its Web site and to U.S. News & World Report—that 78 percent of the members of last fall’s freshman class had graduated in the top 10 percent of their high-school class. The correct figure, university officials said on Thursday, was 58 percent.

That number, however, refers only to the proportion of students for whom the admissions office had obtained actual class-rank data—just 38 percent of last fall’s freshman class. ”This is not a complete number on any admission office’s Web site,” Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, said of class rank.

Nonetheless, Mr. Maltzman described the misreported data as resulting from a series of embarrassing mistakes by employees in the admissions office over time. He vowed that the university would ensure that such mistakes do not happen again. “We’ve made a very bad error that I’m not very happy about,” he said.

Class rank is a traditional measure of a student’s academic achievement compared with that of his or her peers. Although many high schools have stopped ranking students according to their grade-point averages, colleges often tout the percentage of incoming students who ranked in the top portion of their high-school classes. U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide rewards colleges for enrolling large proportions of students who graduate in the top 10 percent. <Read more.>

Via Eric Hoover, The Chronicle of Education.