Case Study: CAAP Fulfills General Education Assessment Requirement

The College: Carl Albert State College, Poteau, Oklahoma
The Challenge:   Evaluating the general education program that launches students toward four-year degrees
The Solution: CAAP's Reading, Writing Skills, Mathematics, Science Reasoning, and Critical Thinking assessments for all students who complete 45 or more credit hours
The Results: Reaccreditation in 2002 with no stipulations, based in part on rigorous self-assessment

Situation
The two-year general education curriculum at Carl Albert State College (CASC) is the school's "bread and butter," says Nina Ritchie, director of institutional effectiveness for the college. The quality of that curriculum is of utmost importance to the college and its accreditation site team each time the school is up for reaccreditation.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education require all students to complete a "mid-level" or general education assessment after the students complete 45 hours of study.

"The general purpose of our assessment policy is to ensure that measurable student learning is happening," said Dr. Phillip Moss, vice chancellor for academic affairs for the regents. "It helps determine that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing."

The regents' assessment policy is broad enough to allow colleges and universities to choose their own methods of assessment, from standardized tests to portfolios of student work.

Needs
CASC is accredited by the North Central Association (NCA). The college must go through a rigorous reaccreditation process every five years. NCA requires colleges and universities have a school improvement plan in place for accreditation. Part of the plan must include "a specific assessment system designed to document increased student success," according to NCA's Standard and Criteria for Accreditation of Schools.

Solution
During freshman orientation, all incoming CASC students are given the CAAP Critical Thinking test. The college then invites all students who have completed 45 hours to take the CAAP Reading, Writing Skills, Mathematics, Science Reasoning, and Critical Thinking tests. Approximately 200 students take the tests each year.

Results
Every year, CASC releases a "Student Assessment Report" that contains the results of its entry-level, mid-level and program outcomes assessments, as well as its assessment of student satisfaction.

During the most recent accreditation review, in 2002, the college used its student assessment report to show the quality of its general education program. CASC received reaccreditation with no stipulations.

"You've got to have some way to measure the rigor and compare that to national norms," Ritchie said. "Certainly that is what our accreditation site team was looking for. They wanted to know if we had some way of comparing our scores to other schools. The CAAP has that."

Outlook
The linkage reports available to the college, which show what students have learned by comparing their ACT or COMPASS scores to their CAAP scores, enable the college to thoroughly review its curriculum. Ritchie says the college pays special attention to the developmental education program, and uses the linkage results as one way of seeing what changes need to be made in those courses.

"We are not big enough to have a separate institutional research office. We could not possibly pay for the talent that would require. ACT provides reporting services and summary reports that are very helpful for us in the reaccreditation process."

– Nina Ritchie, Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Carl Albert State College