College knowledge tested nationwide

By Michelle Moran
March 16, 2006

Shane Evans

Ever wonder how much you really learn at college? Cabrini administrators and faculty want to know. Randomly picked seniors and freshmen have been participating in testing over the past couple weeks to answer that looming question.

The test that is being conducted is the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which is a mechanism to gauge students’ learning over their college career.

The new push for college testing can be related to a nationwide trend among colleges. Last month the Bush administration launched a study that will examine whether college testing could be beneficial to students, parents, taxpayers and the colleges themselves. The drive comes from an urge for colleges to prove that they are worth the price they have risen to in order to attend. The testing is also influenced by studies showing that college graduates’ literacy rates are dropping.

The test that is being conducted at Cabrini was designed by the Council for Aid to Education and the RAND Corporation, which describes the assessment as “an innovative approach to assessing your institution’s contribution to student learning.”

The assessment, which has been conducted over the past couple weeks, uses writing prompts and performance tasks to test students’ ability to articulate complex ideas. The CEA said, “Life is not like a multiple choice test, with four or five simple choices for every problem. So we ask students to analyze complex material and provide written responses.”

Kim Blacka, a senior graphic design major, said, “I was chosen to take the assessment. It wasn’t a big deal; there were only two essay questions, but there was a time limit that made it a little stressful.”

The CEA will generate two reports for the college: the first in mid-winter after testing of freshmen that provides an insight into the incoming class, and the final report during early summer after the testing of seniors. The report does not give scores on individual students, but an institutional report that evaluates Cabrini’s value-added dimension.

Dr. Charlie McCormick, the dean of academic affairs, said, “I suspect that faculty and relevant committees will be very interested in this report as it will be an indication that we are either doing something correctly or we need to improve student learning in an area. Either way, it will help the College put student learning at the forefront of our efforts.”

According to the CAE website, the annual cost for a college to participate in the assessment is $6,300, which covers the cost of testing up to 100 freshmen and 100 seniors. Cabrini will continue with the testing.

McCormick said, “We will participate in the assessment for at least three years to get a sense of student learning at the College over time.”

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

Michelle Moran

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