I'm sure many of you have been following the debate about MFA Rankings. Here's a synopsis in links. And yes, my name is on the list of those against the rankings.
So here are the rankings:
And here's the letter:
To put it plainly, the Poets & Writers rankings are bad: they are methodologically specious in the extreme and quite misleading. A biased opinion poll—based on a tiny, self-selecting survey of potential program applicants—provides poor information. Poets & Writers itself includes on its website a disclaimer suggesting the limitations of these rankings, recommending that potential applicants look beyond them. Regrettably, the information appears on a separate page.
And some more responses:
Pick up the books of the faculty. Pick up the books of the alumni. Try to talk to people who actually go to these programs. They aren’t the ones voting in these rankings. But they are people who can tell you if a young faculty member is bright and full of energy or bewildered and doesn’t know how to handle graduate students. They can tell you if the Pulitzer winner is never going to learn your name or is going to keep meeting with you four years after you graduate. Read about the programs. Don’t go into debt—or do—but make your decision about your writing and the writers you want to work with first, and money after. Don’t buy these rankings. I mean really, don’t buy the actual rankings. Tell your friends not to too and hopefully, someday soon, Poets & Writers will stop printing them.
And yet more:
The methodology says the responses are "votes" and that those programs receiving the most "votes" are the ones the respondents hold in highest esteem. Yet if you read elsewhere you learn that the "votes" are the programs to which respondents are applying; there may be no connection between which program one might hold in high esteem and those to which one individual is applying (eg. I may think Houston is the best but because I live and work and have family in NYC, it isn't practical for me so it's not on my list of programs I'll be applying to- this likelihood isn't captured in the ranking). Respondents were not asked to reveal which programs they hold in highest esteem; they were asked to disclose to which programs they would apply.
And, yes, still more:
Last week, Poets & Writers put out their annual list of M.F.A. rankings (Iowa, to no one’s surprise, took the top spot). Unlike the college rankings done by US News and World Report, which are determined by a mix of cold statistical analysis and surveys of academics, Poets & Writers goes for a less scientific approach: their rankings are largely based on word of mouth—more precisely, on the words of applicants to M.F.A. programs. An item on the rankings’ F.A.Q. page explains: “MFA students and faculty at particular programs—while experts on where they attend and teach—are less likely to have compared their programs with others as recently as applicants have. And it’s more likely that students and faculty have a natural affinity for their own program over others.” So they frequent a few blogs for M.F.A. hopefuls, asking where they want to apply. The results are paired with the amount of funding the program offers, and a list is born.