Monday’s Wall Street Journal carried a story – “Are You Ready for the Post-College SAT?” — that discusses the effort, led by the Council for Aid to Education, to develop an assessment test that measures college graduates’ “critical thinking, problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, writing, and the ability to critique and make arguments.” Employers, believing that decades-long grade inflation trends have made GPAs less useful as a guide to future performance, have casted about seeking other means to evaluate the competency of potential hires from the pool of college graduates. While a number of organizations have developed their own specific evaluation tests (General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, Google and Teach for America are mentioned in the article), others have grown frustrated with the sometimes tenuous link between good grades and future job performance. Meanwhile, schools have also sought a means “to benchmark value-added growth in student learning at their college or university compared to other institutions.” The test, the Collegiate Learning Assessment or CLA+, offers the prospect of addressing both of these goals. According to the CAE, “administering CLA+ at the senior level can enhance [a school's] credibility by providing third-party assurance of the quality of that institution’s level of education” and can also help schools “help institutions understand whether they’ve met their own expectations for excellence, by providing an independent evaluation of general skill development.” Students, on the other hand, can “receive their [CLA+] results in the form of a credential, which they may forward to employers as evidence of their work readiness.”
Will such a test help students, institutions and/or employers? It certainly cannot hurt. In the same way that an SAT or ACT score sheds light on a student beyond what can be gleaned solely from his or her GPA, the CLA+ could be useful to employers in assessing students from different colleges, to students in proving their bona fides to future employers, and to schools in assessing the development of their students from matriculation through graduation. For employers, in particular, it seems likely that the CLA+, like the SAT and ACT, however, is and will be, at best, a single data point to be added to the other data points (college reputation, GPA, interview, etc.) used in the employment assessment process. It will be interesting to see how widely used and accepted it becomes.