Report: “CLA+ National Results, 2013-14"
Author: Jessalyn James, program manager for assessment reporting and data management, Council for Aid to Education
Organization: The Council for Aid to Education, which promotes and tracks private giving to education and conducts research in the field.
Summary: In 2013 the Council for Aid to Education revised its Collegiate Learning Assessment, a test it introduced 11 years earlier to measure how well colleges help their students attain higher-order thinking skills. A report released on Thursday, based on the initial administration of the revised assessment during the 2013-14 academic year, includes new scores for specific skills and new measures of skills mastery based partly on input from college leaders. It also includes student-level data that the council is making publicly available for the first time after expanding the assessment through new test questions. More than 31,600 students at 169 institutions participated.
The new report says that, on average, seniors’ scores on a scale that ranges from about 400 to 1600 were 89 points higher than scores for freshmen, showing that colleges were having what researchers would classify as a medium-size impact. That’s smaller than the 108-point gain yielded by the old version of the test in a report released in 2013, but Ms. James, the report’s author, cautioned that the decline may simply reflect changes in the assessment rather than any change in student performance.
The report found little difference between public and private colleges in terms of how much better seniors scored than freshmen. Consistent with previous studies, the report found disparities in student performance based on field of study, with students majoring in mathematics and science scoring significantly higher as both freshmen and seniors than students majoring in business or the helping fields.
Bottom Line: The new version of the Collegiate Learning Assessment shows colleges that are having an impact on their students’ acquisition of higher-order thinking skills, but the assessment has been changed enough to complicate drawing conclusions about whether colleges are doing a better or worse job than before.