mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
New College Test a Boon To Employers


College diplomas are one of the most expensive things a young person can buy, but for employers, at least, they’re not worth very much. Businesses and HR departments have long complained that students leave college unprepared for the workforce, and that academic success as measured by GPA isn’t a reliable predictor of employee performance. Schools are aware of this problem, and a number of them are now experimenting with a solution: the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), a new standardized test to be taken by students leaving college. Just as college admissions officers use the SAT, the test could allow employers to compare student achievement across different schools and help put the GPA in context. So far, the test has received a relatively positive reception from employers and students. The WSJ has more:

HNTB Corp., a national architectural firm with 3,600 employees, see value in new tools such as the CLA +, said Michael Sweeney, a senior vice president. Even students with top grades from good schools may not “be able to write well or make an argument,” he said. “I think at some point everybody has been fooled by good grades or a good resume.”…

Cory LaDuke, a 21-year-old senior at St. John Fisher, said he had mixed feelings about taking the CLA + but understood why employers might be skeptical of some graduates because “some people don’t work that hard and fake their way through it,” he said.

“It kind of sucks that an employer can’t trust your GPA, but that’s the way it is right now, so this also an opportunity,” said Mr. LaDuke. “It’s another way to prove yourself.”

At Via Meadia we have long advocated for a test along these lines, which would measure students based on what they actually learned while in school rather than how many easy classes they could load on to their schedule. And with a strong performance on this test, gifted students from a small state school could better compete with students from Harvard and Yale when they enter the job market. As always, much of the success will come down to the details of this particular test, but it’s a promising beginning.

[Test image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Features Icon
show comments
  • Irenist

    The next step in breaking free of the shackles of the higher ed lobby is to allow students to self-educate with MOOCs (or good old fashioned library books) and take the CLA+ without having ever enrolled in a university. Ditto for law: let people take the bar exam after “reading the law” like Lincoln did; no need for pricey diploma mills.

    Either you have the knowledge or you don’t. If you can teach yourself, why be forced to pay for college? It’s a waste for young Americans to pay for four years of dining hall food, fancy dorms, and crowded lectures when they could just test out of the whole nonsensical, expensive, time-wasting mess.

    • Corlyss

      I’m surprised you didn’t suggest eliminating the bar exam altogether. IMO the only people it renders meaningful results to are the Princeton folks who create the multistate. The exam as a whole had no more relationship to good lawyerin’ than law school GPAs have whether one will make a good lawyer or a good employee.

      • Irenist

        Great point, Corlyss. I’d settle for eliminating law school (since the bar exam doesn’t leave students six figures in debt), but if there were a free market, non-cartel way to credential lawyers that would set clients’ minds at ease as the bar exam does now, I’d be all for it: you’re right that the bar exam–like the LSAT and the SAT–is baloney, with no reliable correlation with real world results.

  • johngbarker

    There goes the cash for credits business.

  • Corlyss

    Having lived thru a variety of efforts to hold people accountable against “objective” standards that were introduced as ungameable, I’m skeptical.

    No sooner does the shiny new measuring device debut, than 1) the creators/authors get sued for bias (and with the heinous legal standard of disparate impact, that will be a lot easier); 2) the standards start being watered down to make allowances for “cultural differences” among individuals and between groups of testees; 3) the test takers learn how to game the test; 4) the people supposedly using the test decide it’s hopelessly compromised because they can’t do what they want to do if they adhere to it; or 5) all of the above happen at once.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I don’t disagree with your skepticism, but I am unclear as to whether a better alternative exists. Businesses want some guarantee (imperfect though it may be) that their new hires are not entirely without value, and this would seem to be a better way to do it than relying upon devalued degrees.
      I agree with you that the usual suspects will moan and wail, and then work to undermine the system as quickly as possible (this is a new thing?), but short of throwing up our hands and quitting, I am not sure of what better approach could be taken.
      A minor note: “disparate impact” goes back to at least the time of Griggs v. Duke Energy (1971?), which is how we got into this mess in the first place.

      • Jim__L

        I’ve been told by hiring managers that they are not allowed to test for job-specific skills… electrical techs cannot be hired on the basis of their demonstrating skill with an oscilloscope, for example.

        Black people have secured the vast majority (at the very least) of their political rights in this country a la WEB DuBois. It’s time that the almost-forgotten lessons of Booker T Washington — develop job skills as a way to gain economic clout — come to the forefront of NAACP-type efforts.

        • Tom

          It’s past time, and it should have started decades ago.
          Washington’s theory wouldn’t work as long as whites were bound and determined to A. keep blacks in their place and B. blacks didn’t have any political clout whatsoever.
          Now, while there are those who will argue that A still exists (I’m not one of them), B no longer obtains.

    • Pete

      That’s right. When blacks come out poorly on the results, the cry will go up that the test, no matter how objective they are, are biased, and then everybody will cave in to this political correctness.

      Come on, Mead, you know this..

      • Anthony

        I attended a book seminar over weekend and met an author who just published a book titled “Birth of A White Nation: Invention of White People. Now, neither title nor concept were original but author’s thesis (an honest assessment of conditions as well as honesty require an acknowledgement of differences) came to mind as I read your reply. Just an observation because author definitely was neither promoting an agenda nor denigrating a group but only probing a social construct for purpose.

        • Corlyss

          “Just an observation because author definitely was neither promoting an agenda nor denigrating a group but only probing a social construct for purpose.”
          I’m skeptical. Nobody writes about this subject or uses such provocative words without having an agenda in mind. According to one reviewer on Amazon, the book provides “systematic white privilege” as if it were “invented” by nefarious American colonists vis blacks. I don’t understand how such an idea could be reliably teased out of a Western history in which the only people who accomplished note-worthy cultural achievements were white Western/European males. I just don’t. I could be totally misreading the author’s intent based on a brief review, but I bet I’m not.

          • Anthony

            Look at the facts and don’t be quick to defend the imaginary – social construct though just that becomes real when man must believe in something (if only in believing). Now, I am done skepticism or not.

  • Jane the Actuary

    I think this offers a lot of potential, in one specific application: giving students more confidence in higher-ed “start-ups” or other non-prestigious colleges to the extent that a stumbling block is the ability to truly gain the employer’s confidence that his/her education has been rigorous enough. Of course, we need more such “start-ups”, especially of the sort that enable a student who has taken a MOOC or other self-study to gain credit by demonstrating competency, and for that we need to fix the accreditation system. See College (Un)bound, on a library book shelf near you.

  • rheddles

    This is a very expensive test costing somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000. Not everyone can take it. Only those who attend a participating college. The council for Aid to Education has set it up so that only 700 participating colleges can conduct the test. No doubt the contract limits it to students enrolled at the participating college.

    The correlation to SATs is .9. This is not new information nor is it of much value as currently administered.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service