3 Tests of Student Skills Show Consistency, Study Finds

The three tests used by institutions participating in the Voluntary System of Accountability are compatible in determining students’ skills in critical thinking and writing, according to the results of a study released today.

The accountability system is used by more than 300 public colleges — all members of either the American Association of State Colleges and Universities or the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities — to provide the public with information about life and learning on their campuses.

As part of that system, each participating institution chooses one of three tests to administer to students in order to measure their learning from freshman to senior year. The three tests are the Collegiate Learning Assessment, sponsored by the Council for Aid to Education; the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency, from ACT Inc.; and the Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress, offered by the Educational Testing Service.

“This study enables … participating institutions to confidently choose one of the three tests to measure the core learning outcomes for critical thinking and written communications while ensuring comparable results,” said David Shulenberger, vice president for academic affairs at the association of land-grant universities.

Mr. Shulenberger said the study was important to validate the accountability system’s allowing three different tests — a policy that was chosen to balance the need for comparing results with institutional autonomy.

The results may also help persuade other institutions to sign up for the accountability system, he said.

The study was conducted at 13 universities that participate in the Voluntary System of Accountability. More than 1,100 students were given 13 different tests in critical thinking, reading, mathematics, writing, and science.

The research was financed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

Via Eric Kelderman, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.