Tag: rankings

Baltimore’s Optimism Problem


“America’s cities are the economic engines of the country and a driving source of optimism,” proclaims the Future Metropolis Index, a recent study that looked at American cities’ potential for future growth thanks to smart urban planning and sustainable development. But, of course, not all cities are created equally when it comes to optimism.

The study’s researchers looked at five characteristics — innovation, sustainability, vibrancy/creativity, efficiency, and livability/optimism. Unsurprisingly, San Francisco came out on top. (Clearly they didn’t adjust for affordability…) Tied for second were Seattle and DC. Baltimore ranked 20th out of the 36 cities, just a little bit less futuristic than Chicago but more than Dallas. (Last place, as always, goes to poor Detroit.)

The sad news is, Baltimore isn’t much better than Detroit, at least when it comes to what the study calls “livability and optimism.” Out of a possible 100 points, Detroit got 0. El Paso, Texas got 85. And Baltimore got 12. That’s the second-lowest in the entire country. This is mostly because of the metrics the study used — rates of unemployment, violent crime, and property crime — aren’t our city’s strong point. Still, it’s hard not to look at the other numbers and wonder if there’s a way we could do things better. After all, despite the good news around town, certain neighborhoods in Baltimore are scary places to grow up in. Our scores in the innovation and efficiency categories were quite high; if all our other numbers had measured up to these levels, we would be a top-ten city. But we don’t get to pick and choose which neighborhoods are “count” — for better or worse, we’re all in this together.

This jibes with the study’s findings that Americans are more likely to be optimistic about job prospects and economic growth than a decline in violent crime. Basically, things will get better for some of us… and more violent for everyone else. But as the numbers indicate, Baltimore can’t just focus on bolstering our higher-ed sectors and adding more free wifi spots if we hope to truly be a city of the future. Doing so will mean taking a hard look at where our city stands today — even the hard-to-look-at parts. And making plans to bring all of Baltimore into the future — not just the shiny, happy neighborhoods.

The Nation’s Feelings About Maryland: Meh.


Americans’ favorite state is Hawaii, according to a recent poll. This might lead you to conclude that we have a penchant for palm trees and beaches — but then it turns out that our least-favored state is California. And then there’s Maryland, which Americans feel kind of “meh” about.

Public Policy Polling is one of those outfits that’s always calling up at dinnertime, trying to find out Americans’ opinions on everything from Republican presidential candidates to the most-hated NFL teams (the Cowboys, apparently) to God’s approval rating. Last year, PPP asked American voters about their impressions of each state. The five states that came out on top were Hawaii, Colorado, Tennessee, South Dakota (!?), and Virginia. But most states — Maryland included — make an overall favorable impression. The only five states that Americans feel negative about are California (Hollywood?), Illinois (the Mob?), New Jersey (the Garden State Parkway?), Mississippi (self-explanatory?), and Utah (Mormons?). 

Maryland ranks 30th, liked slightly more than South Carolina and slightly less than Maine. We’re liked more by liberals, less by moderates and conservatives. Men dislike us way more than women. Young people like us more than middle-aged or old people. Hispanic voters aren’t really sure what to make of us.

What do we do with this information? I guess we could try to win over some of those Virginia fans, or gain a little ground by putting out bad PR about South Carolina. Or we could just ignore it, and go back to our lives.

Colleges Cheat on the SAT, Too


Maybe Sam Eshaghoff, the student accused of running an SAT-cheating ring in  New York, should have gone to Claremont McKenna College? He would’ve fit right in at the school, which announced that it had falsified its average SAT scores for the past six years in order to rise in the rankings.

The school — which claims that Richard Vos, vice president and dean of admissions, was the sole figure responsible for the fraudulent data — inflated its average SAT scores by about 10 or 20 points. Like all good cheaters, they knew not to show extravagant improvements… which is maybe why they got away with it for so long.

Is changing a median SAT score of 1400 to a 1410 really worth it? Well, in our rankings-dominated world, colleges can become obsessed with where they stand relative to other schools. Just like the highly-competitive (and highly pressured) students they’re hoping to admit, schools do everything they can to make sure they stand out from the crowd. For some, this includes bending the rules — or even outright lying.

The New York Times lists a few other instances of schools that have attempted to game the rankings. Iona College in New York lied about pretty much all of its stats, and subsequently rose from 50th to 30th in its region; Baylor University paid students to re-take the SATs, hoping their second scores would be higher, thus bumping up the school’s average. And many schools routinely hold off on admitting students with lower SATs until January, so their scores aren’t included in the university’s average.

Is this a sign that the college rankings obsession has gone too far?

Baltimore: More Literate Than Honolulu


… but less literate than DC. That is, according to the newly-released data from America´s Most Literate Cities, an annual report that ranks metro areas based on indicators like number of bookstores, newspaper circulation, and educational attainment.

For the second year in a row, DC topped the list, followed by Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Boston. Baltimore was 18th this year (same as last), beating out not only Honolulu but also New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. So there!

Baltimore ranked highest in our number of bookstores (15th) and publications (13th), but we´re not too shabby in the other categories, either.

However, as GOOD magazine points out, literary-ness doesn´t seem to correlate with money, at least according to this study. The most literate cities aren´t the wealthiest. But, as GOOD notes, a city´s committment to literacy can be one way to help close the poverty gap.

Baltimore College Rankings: Everyone’s Best at Something


Yesterday, we told you about how the US News & World Report college rankings singled out UMBC as its number one “up and coming” school in the country. But that doesn’t mean that other area schools aren’t special, too. And while “the list” is most well-known for its overall rankings, its gotten more and more specific over recent years — to the point where they list the top 100 schools for legal writing, for example. Below, a round-up of Baltimore area schools and their own particular strengths, as determined by the magazine’s rankings:

  • Johns Hopkins has the #1 biomedical engineering program and the #5 environmental health program for undergrads.
  • The Hopkins public health program is the best in the country
  • The Hopkins med school is #3 overall for research, #1 for internal medicine, #2 for AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, and geriatrics.
  • What about the humanities, you ask? Hopkins has highly-ranked grad programs in US colonial history, European history, literary criticism and theory, political theory, behavioral neuroscience, and non-profit management.
  • MICA is #4 overall for fine arts schools. The departments that rank particularly high:  painting/drawing; graphic design; sculpture.
  • Stevenson joins UMBC near the top of the “up-and-coming” list, ranking #2 overall!
  • Towson‘s strongest grad programs are in audiology, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology

Which Baltimore School Tops the US News Rankings?


The US News and World Report released its annual college rankings yesterday to a flurry of attention. (Quick, for the next 64 hours and counting, you can get full access to the rankings without paying!) If this sort of thing matters to you, you might be excited to hear that Harvard and Princeton tied for the number one spot, or that if the top four liberal arts colleges were an acronym, it would be WASP (Williams-Amherst-Swarthmore-Pomona).

The real news around Baltimore, though, is that the magazine ranked our very own University of Maryland-Baltimore County as the number one “up-and-coming” school in the entire country — for the third year in a row, no less. What does that mean, exactly? Well, the publication asked its ranking experts to single out schools “that are making the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, and student life.” UMBC touts its “engaged student” teaching model, used in intro psychology/engineering/science classes as one example of this kind of innovation — “The changes have not only produced higher pass rates, but also have encouraged more students to prepare for careers in these fields,” the school says.

There is, of course, plenty of criticism of the rankings every year:  their methodology is no good; “best” for who, exactly?; etc. (“I would say in total the rankings are based on how rich you are, how selective you are, and how famous you are,” an expert told the LA Times). But still, it’s nice to see the Retrievers getting the attention they well deserve.

The Best College in the WORLD is…


Sometimes being the best in the country just doesn’t feel… impressive enough, which must be why the QS World University Rankings exist. If you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion that Harvard isn’t quite as #1 as it seems to think it is, well, you were right; the top-ranking school in the world is, once again, Cambridge.  (Rounding out the top 5:  Harvard, MIT, Yale, and Oxford.) Baltimore’s very own Johns Hopkins is the 16th best school in the world, which sounds very nice indeed.

This year, the organization included a new and upsetting feature — well, upsetting if you’re paying for college in the U.S., that is — where you can compare international universities by both rank and tuition costs. #1 (Cambridge) costs around $15,000/year for domestic undergrads, and $5,000 (!) for post-grads. (No, that last figure is not missing a zero.) The #2 school, Harvard, runs around $39,000 for undergrads and $37,000 for post-grads. It’s enough to make you consider moving to England.

More sticker shock from survey organizers:  “In Paris, École normale supérieure ENS, ranked 33rd, and Ecole Politechnique ranked 36th both offer undergraduate courses for less than a $1000 and Postgraduate courses for less than $8,000. In Germany, the highest ranked universities are; University of Heidelberg at 53rd and Technical University of Munich at 54th in the world, each charging less than $2000 for domestic and EU citizens.”

View the complete rankings here, and a discussion of survey methodology here.

We’re Number 33!


Gawker, the New York-based online newsmagazine, has named Maryland the 33rd worst state in the U.S. Overall, the state is praised for it’s beauty, but Baltimore is singled out for derision.

“They like made a whole television series about what a scary and miserable place it is!” the website reads, adding, “Other than Baltimore, Maryland is basically just the Mid-Atlantic’s Connecticut — all suburby sprawl dotted with occasional crumbling cities.”

Last week, the website began it’s “Worst 50 States in America” series, naming eight new states each day.  Gawker staff members were asked to rate the states on a scale from 1-10. The averaged scores provides the rankings.