A letter to the USC Rossier community from Dean Noguera

April 29, 2022

To the USC Rossier Community,

As you know, USC Rossier did not participate in the U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) rankings for the best graduate schools of education this year. This action was taken because for several years, USC Rossier had been inaccurately reporting data on research and student enrollment to USNWR. In response to questions pertaining to doctoral student enrollment we included data on both full and part time doctoral students. However, in response to questions related to research we only provided data on doctoral students in our PhD program. These actions were not carried out in secret. In fact, there were discussions among some of our faculty and USC Rossier’s leadership about the strategy. It is important to note that not everyone agreed with the approach taken. Nonetheless, it had been going on since 2013. I share this not to cast blame but to provide context for the practice.

After I raised this issue to Provost Zukoski in December 2021, the university engaged an outside law firm, Jones Day, to conduct a review of the matter. I fully supported the decision to engage an outside investigator and to release their report, which is now available.

I want to be clear that I accept full responsibility for continuing the practice of inaccurately reporting data to USNWR during my first year as dean. Regardless of the circumstances of the pandemic and my personal situation at the time, it was and remains my responsibility as dean to ensure that the high academic standards and quality are maintained at USC Rossier, and that all of our operations and conduct are ethical. My commitment to the USC Rossier community is that we will make decisions pertaining to the management of the school with transparency, and in a manner that is consistent with our mission and highest values. I also assure you that regardless of our ranking, we will have a coherent approach for demonstrating our impact on the field of education through our research, teaching and practice.

Some of the steps we are taking to maintain these commitments are described below:

Building An Equity-Focused Culture
An Annual Programmatic Equity Review
Since the summer of 2020, governance chairs have been charged with an annual equity-focused programmatic and curricular review. This is a foundational commitment that ensures we are living our mission in all courses and programs. It is essential that the culture at our school reflects our values and commitments. I know that through hard work together, we will live up to our ambitious mission.

Ensuring High Quality Teaching and Support for Students By Recruiting New Faculty and Increasing the Size
As a result of our large enrollment, many of our faculty have taken on too large a teaching load. As a result of our current faculty size many of our colleagues are overly burdened by the number of students they must teach and the dissertations they supervise. We are changing this to reduce the burden on our faculty and maintain the quality of learning experiences for our students.

Last year, we hired 14 new outstanding faculty, and we expect to hire more in the next two years. These new faculty members are helping to ease the teaching burden while also adding to our expertise and robust research enterprise. We are proud that we have more faculty that have been elected to serve as members of the National Academy of Education than all but a handful of universities. Additionally, several of our faculty are among the most influential in education, according to EdWeek’s annual survey. Our faculty’s accomplishments are not diminished by the fact that we did not participate in the rankings.

Reaffirming Our Commitment to Impact on the Field
USC Rossier is and will continue to be a leader that is committed to addressing the most challenging issues facing our field related to equity, inclusivity, access and racial injustice. Locally, we are deeply invested in LA schools and are partnering with the Los Angeles Unified School District to prepare its next generation of teachers. Across the region, California, and the nation, we continue to produce outstanding educational leaders. Our students have earned reputations for excellence because of the expertise they have acquired in improving the performance of educational institutions, as well as education policy and practice.

Openness & Ethics in Operations and Decision-making
Budgeting Transparency
Since arriving at USC Rossier, I have worked to ensure the highest degree of transparency when decisions on budget and promotions are made. Our budgeting model has been built around a close partnership with faculty leadership to ensure collaborative decision-making and inclusive leadership. Transparency and inclusivity in budgeting and decision-making increase the likelihood that the choices we make about our operations and future direction will make our school stronger.

Increasing Aid for Students
Our highest budgetary priorities are increasing student aid and raising pay for staff and faculty. Our goal is to increase financial support for students, especially those in programs like teaching and counseling, who are not choosing a career based on their earning potential. While we are proud that two-thirds of our students pursuing a masters in teaching will receive full scholarships next year (no other major private university has made a similar commitment), we can and will do more. Improving access to all of our programs at USC Rossier for a diverse array of students is the best way that we can ensure that we will have a positive impact on the field of education for years to come.

Maintaining A Supportive Environment for Staff
The pandemic has been a challenge for all of us, but it has been especially difficult for the staff at USC Rossier. From supporting our faculty and students to meet the demands of navigating remote instruction and work, to ensuring that all of our operations run smoothly, our staff at USC Rossier has risen to the challenge and excelled. I want to personally thank them for all they have done for this community. I also want to acknowledge how this moment will impact them. In addition to their own feelings and concerns, there will undoubtedly be more questions from prospective students, current students and the community overall. I know that in asking these questions, we will approach staff with respect and dignity. For my part, I will be meeting with our staff directly, to address any questions and concerns, over the coming weeks.

Moving Forward
I do not want to minimize the fact that the misreporting of data to the U.S. News & World Report has blemished our reputation. However, I do want to assure you that we will recover through excellence in teaching, research and service. The reality is that a ranking is not what makes USC Rossier strong. It is all of you. How we seek to address the most critical questions in education, the skills we acquire to advance the development of our field, and the ways that we relentlessly work together to pursue a better future, are the things that matter most. Whether the pursuit of such goals leaves us nationally ranked is far less important than our commitment to achieve these goals together.

I am honored to serve as your dean, and I remain committed to ensuring that USC Rossier is the standard-bearer for education schools—an example we can all be proud of. Fight On!!

Sincerely,

Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D.
Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean