JLF Triangle Blog

How Much Are College Students Learning In North Carolina?

Jenna Ashley Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy writes here about a voluntary system of accountability for universities. Here’s some background on how the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) works.

CLA assesses students’ abilities to think critically, reason analytically, solve problems and communicate clearly and cogently. CLA is made up of four sections: a performance task, an analytical writing task, a make-an-argument section, and a critique-an-argument section. Scores are aggregated at the institutional level to inform the institution about how their students as a whole are performing. After controlling for college entrance scores (SAT or ACT), freshmen scores are compared with graduating senior scores to obtain the institution’s contribution to students’ results.  Students’ entrance scores help CLA to determine whether a university is at, above, or below expected performance.

Not only did the Academicqlly Adrift authors use the CLA, but Bill Gates endorsed it in early December. He wrote on his blog, The Gates Notes, “most people would agree that skills like critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing—the things the [CLA] test does measure—are pretty important.”

Moreover, postgraduate outcomes mirror the CLA’s results, Arum and Roksa found. “For example, students in the bottom quintile of CLA performance as seniors are more than three times as likely to be unemployed two years after college than graduates whose CLA scores were in the top quintile; they were also twice as likely to be living back at home with their parents,” Arum said.

You’ll find some of the CLA scores for UNC schools in a chart in Robinson’s piece.

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