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CSU, Chico News

Seniors Score High on National Exam Assessing Learning

Date: 09-05-2013

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

California State University, Chico seniors scored exceptionally high this spring on a national test assessing analytical thinking and writing skills. This is the fifth time CSU, Chico seniors fared well on the exam compared to students across the country.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), sponsored by the nonprofit Council for Aid to Education, tests freshman and senior performance in four areas: Analytic Reasoning and Evaluation, Writing Effectiveness, Writing Mechanics and Problem Solving. The 90-minute exam requires students to compose an argument and/or critique other arguments.

The CLA exam was established to test the extent to which students at a particular college or university are learning high-level skills over the course of their undergraduate careers.

Exam results for seniors – called value-added scores – show whether they meet, exceed or fall below expectations for how well they should perform on the test. Their expected exam scores are determined by a formula based on the test-takers’ own SAT or ACT scores and CLA results of freshmen at their school who took the test.

Last academic year, 145 U.S. colleges and universities asked entering freshmen in the fall and graduating seniors in the spring to take the CLA exam. Institutional scores were then compared among the participating schools.

In the 2012-13 CLA exam, CSU, Chico seniors scored overall in the 99th percentile compared to seniors at the other 144 U.S. universities. Participating schools included other CSU campuses as well as Auburn University, City University of New York, Colorado State University, Florida State University, Macalester College, St. Olaf College and the University of Texas campuses.

Bill Loker, dean of Undergraduate Education, said the total value-added score for CSU, Chico’s senior test-takers was the highest in the nation. He said results from the prior two years are almost as strong, and that CSU, Chico seniors have scored above or well above results expected for them based on freshmen scores and their SAT scores for the five years the CLA test has been administered in the CSU, dating back to 2007-08.

Belle Wei, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said, “This is a remarkable record for us at Chico State to be proud of. I am appreciative of our faculty who do an outstanding job preparing our students for advanced college-level work and success after graduation.”

Loker said CLA test results from entering CSU, Chico freshmen have not typically met or exceeded scores expected for them. Last year, CSU, Chico freshmen test-takers placed in the 45th percentile with respect to their peers with similar SAT scores at other participating universities.

Loker said while the CLA exam is a rigorous test of students’ writing and critical thinking, it has limitations as an assessment of a school’s ability to teach students. He said sample sizes are small – 37 freshmen and 50 seniors at CSU, Chico took the exam last year – and the test uses results from different sets of freshmen and seniors to assess learning, as opposed to following a cohort of freshmen to see how they did as seniors.

“The methodology is imperfect, and the strengths of the conclusions one can reach based on these test results are limited,” Loker wrote in a web-based message to faculty, “but our results in AY (Academic Year) 12-13, and consistently over the years, are cause for optimism about the impacts of the Chico State educational experience on our students.”

Echoing Provost Wei, Loker said thanks should be extended to faculty and staff for the job they do creating “an exceptional educational environment for our students at Chico State.”

The CLA results can be accessed on CSU, Chico’s website at http://www.csuchico.edu/ued/announcements/cla_results.shtml.


Note: This news release was updated with additional information on 9/9/13.