Case Study: Meeting Department Needs with Flexible CAAP Testing

The College: St. Louis Community College, Missouri
The Challenge:   To meet accountability standards associated with state funding
The Solution: Randomized CAAP testing for all students before graduation
The Results: Meeting the state's accountability standard and creating a database related to student academic performance

St. Louis Community College (SLCC) educates approximately 28,000 credit students at its three campuses in and around St. Louis, Missouri. The state's "performance funding" requires that the college submit standardized testing results to the Coordinating Board of Higher Education each year to demonstrate student academic achievement.

SLCC needed a standardized test that would help determine if graduates were academically prepared for both transferring to four-year colleges and employment. SLCC did not want the test to place an undue burden on students.

"We originally selected CAAP as our 'graduate test' because the college was familiar with the instrument and it met the state's need for a standardized exit examination," said John Cosgrove, director of institutional research and planning for SLCC.

CAAP allowed the college to gather information from five of the subject areas—math, writing skills, reading, critical thinking, and science.

For more than 10 years, SLCC has tested each graduate with one CAAP test module. The college uses the results to meet the state's requirement that each college report its standardized testing outcomes.

SLCC has also used the results as part of its institutional effectiveness program. The college analyzes the results to determine the percentage of students who score at or above the 50th and 75th percentiles.

In 2003, SLCC decided to explore new strategies related to CAAP testing. Although past testing had provided necessary data, the college wanted to collect data more closely aligned with the general education program and instructional initiatives.

The current pilot project requires graduates to complete the CAAP Reading Test. In fall 2005 the college implemented a reading requirement for all new students.

"Many of our students, even though they have a high school diploma, were coming in with sixth-, seventh-, or eighth-grade reading levels, and they are having a hard time in their courses," Cosgrove said.

Departments may also select one additional component of the CAAP based on what skills they see as valuable for their students.

"We believe encouraging faculty to select a specific CAAP module will strengthen the link between the assessment and the use of data to enhance student achievement," Cosgrove said. "Students will now leave their education experience with valuable information about their ability in both reading and another key skill."

"We look at it in terms of the value to the student. Before, I don't know that the students saw any real value in the CAAP tests. They saw it more as just another graduation requirement. Students now see the value of being a good reader. Those are skills they are going to need whether they transfer to another school or go right in to the workforce."

– John Cosgrove, Director of Institutional Research and Planning,
    St. Louis Community College