Ashland University Students Rank High on National Assessment Test

10/28/10 ASHLAND, OH -- Ashland University claims as one of its aspirations to be one of the leading private comprehensive universities in the Midwest. Now, after receiving scores from the Collegiate Learning Assessment Test (CLA), it can point to measurable evidence for progress in that direction.

Last year, Ashland University conducted student learning outcomes assessment testing with the Collegiate Learning Assessment test, one of the premier national assessment mechanisms in the United States. More than 200 Ashland students took the test to measure their foundational critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills and the results strengthened Ashland's growing academic reputation, according to Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew.

"We did very well, in fact, the Ashland University students ranked well above the national average for value added achievement, scoring in the 84th percentile of schools taking the test, which included hundreds of schools across the country," Pettigrew said. "The University is committed to the transformation of student learning that focuses on preparing students to meet the 21st Century needs of our society. It is imperative that students develop foundational intellectual skills and talents that will help prepare them for future careers that don't currently exist today."

The online CLA tests were administered to 100 freshmen in September and October of 2009 and to 100 seniors in February of 2010. The criteria for student selection were randomized by the Office of Institutional Research and the exams were proctored by the University Core director as well as student interns and technological coordinators.

Dr. William Vaughan, University Core director, said the tests were interesting and engaging because they were general performance tasks not tied to the content of any particular major, but geared instead to one's general intellectual skills.

"The results indicate that, no matter what your major, your critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills improve as a result of coming to Ashland University, and improve to a greater degree than many other universities who completed the test," Vaughan said.

Vaughan said that while no assessment test can distinguish the "critical thinking skills" a student obtains from their institutional core courses as opposed to their major courses, few people would deny that analytical reasoning and critical thinking skills are outcomes of the University's core courses.

Dr. John Bee, University Assessment coordinator, said "the results clearly indicated that Ashland University does more to improve the intellectual abilities of the students it admits than many of the other schools who took the same test."

The CLA tests show that our institution as a whole is fulfilling its educational purpose in measurable, tangible ways," he said. "This can now be used as a benchmark for improving our university to even greater levels. But it should also establish, to the satisfaction of faculty, students, parents and potential employers alike, that a degree from Ashland is accompanied by a measurable increase in intellectual skills now acknowledged by national standards of assessment tests."

Bee's committee selected the test from a variety of national assessment measures. The CLA test was cross-sectional, and it compared student performance with other institutions by an algorithm based on expected levels indexed to entering SAT/ACT scores. Although samples are drawn from different cohorts, freshman and seniors, a measure of value added is calculated by comparing the performance of the two groups.

Pettigrew noted that although both Ashland groups scored well above what was predicted based on their entering SAT/ACT scores, the group of seniors significantly outscored the freshmen.

Ashland University (www.ashland.edu<http://www.ashland.edu>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.