After spending years in high school preparing and stressing over the ACT and SAT, college students assume the world of general standardized testing is a fading memory. At least until junior year. This is when the ACT’s Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency comes into play.
Commonly referred to as CAAP, the test is designed to evaluate students in core subject areas to determine their preparedness for upper-level courses and the workplace. The use of standardized testing and CAAP, however, doesn’t adequately assess overall knowledge well enough to accurately represent the college demographic.
According to USD’s course catalog, the purpose of the test is to ensure the standards and quality of the education that students receive and to provide the college with information for improving the general educational curriculum. The test is also designed to provide students with information that allows them to compare their performance to that of other students across the United States.
CAAP is virtually identical to the ACT in its format and subjects, including math, scientific reasoning, reading and English. Essentially, CAAP’s goal is to determine who has the potential to graduate or not.
The fact that this judgement is made halfway through an undergraduate career could leave some people at a standstill, paying for over 48 credit hours just to be told they aren’t good enough. If colleges cannot determine who will do well in college or not before admitting students or through their grades in everyday coursework, they have a bigger problem at hand.
For lucky individuals, they may be exempt from ever facing CAAP. Those with high enough scores on the ACT or SAT aren’t required to take the test. This is just a recent change to the South Dakota Board of Regents policy. But the overall system is flawed in that students aren’t in college preparing for a standardized test. Taking a standardized test is a skill in of itself and is a situation virtually nobody will actually occur in a workplace environment.
Also, students who may not perform well under pressure receive negative feedback on filling in bubbles rather than their academic abilities. Research from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development adds that education cannot fit into a mold for judgement when the individual people involved have drastically different strengths and weaknesses.
The purposes of a liberal arts college like USD are learning and personal growth. Students expose themselves to a wide range of ideas and engage in critical thinking. The structure of standardized testing doesn’t coincide with these institutions. An arbitrary test score doesn’t include a student’s research, projects or passions. Nor does the test account for many areas available at four-year colleges, such as history, music or art. CAAP places students in a box when they specifically chose not to be.
If the state still sees a problem in the quality of enrolled students, they should consider investing in all forms of higher education, including technical schools and community colleges. Offering more options are various paces and levels, along with different job opportunities, allows students mindlessly choosing to attend four-year colleges other ideas for their futures.
Students are more than just numbers. They are people investing their money in learning.