Despite its historical liberal arts focus, Augustana will cancel classes on Thursday, Feb. 21, to start a new tradition – Assessment Day, or mandatory standardized testing for about 300 seniors.
In the past, seniors took the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) before parting ways with the college. But the survey was more subjective than objective, according to director of assessment David Sorenson, who said that the new form of testing better gauges student progress over four years.
“This is kind of our way of examining, in a more systematic way, what kind of outcomes we see here,” Sorenson said.
According to Sorenson, students were randomly assigned one of three different tests: the CLA, CAAP or DIT-2. Students can choose to take their designated test during one of three testing times – in the morning, afternoon and evening. They must register to take the test on the student portal as if it were a class.
Junior Mallory Schulte, an ASA-appointed student representative to the Assessment Day Committee, emphasized the busy college student’s life but recognized the testing’s importance for Augustana.
“I really stressed that students have many obligations beyond going to class – especially for our seniors,” Schulte said. “Your scores will be used to assess the value of an Augustana education.”
But while one of the tests, the CAAP, appears similar to the ACT, Schulte said the others wouldn’t be as alike.
“I think the students will find the assessments very different from any standardized testing you received in high school – you might even find it fun,” Schulte said.
Although the tests are standardized and accompanied by bubble sheets, the purpose of the assessments rests in the college’s primary purpose, education, said assistant professor of religion Laurie Jungling, a member of the Assessment Day Committee.
“It’s not about assessing each individual student but rather about assessing how well Augustana College is doing in its promise to educate our students,” Jungling said.
According to Jungling, the college’s general education aims to provide students with a real liberal arts education. As a result, individual student scores will be anonymous and only aggregate data will be analyzed to help the college in its goal of achieving several educational outcomes.
“We’ll use the data collected to make changes to those areas of the Gen. Ed. that we may not be doing as well in and lift up those areas where we excel,” Jungling said.
According to registrar Joni Krueger, an Advising Day will be held on the same day as Assessment Day next fall and in the future, likely in early November and mid-March. Freshmen will take the test in the fall and seniors will take theirs in the spring. While in the future students will meet with professors for academic advising, Krueger said, this year students can attend an activities/majors fair in the 3-in-1 room from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Assessment Day.
For seniors like Evan Livermore, the mandatory assessment isn’t a problem.
“It’s certainly not any drastic increase in the day’s workload, and because the college is taking Assessment Day pretty seriously, I don’t have to worry about the test conflicting with classes or extra-curriculars,” Livermore said.
Sorenson said the Assessment Day Committee carefully planned the testing date around all students.
“The labs, the student teachers, the nurses – those still happen. We would not have requested dropping classes on a Thursday without knowing that it was a reasonable thing to do,” Sorenson said.
Senior elementary education major Elizabeth Orris already began student teaching. Irritated by no prior warning regarding Assessment Day, Orris said taking the test at 5:30 p.m. after a full day in school will make the school day even longer.
“Augustana could have warned us way beforehand about this test,” Orris said. “I feel like I am in high school again,” Orris said.
Most students, like senior Hannah Kuelbs, agree there are clear benefits for the college.
“I don’t mind helping the college with its evaluation at all. I think it’s helpful to track results,” Kuelbs said.
But senior Alison Peymann questions the college’s actions at their very core, viewing the implementation of mandatory standardized tests as attacks on the colleges values of “Liberal Arts, Excellence and Community.”
“I don’t believe any of these things can be measured by a test and I’m disappointed that Augustana cannot demonstrate enough integrity to say ‘this isn’t for us’ in the face of test-driven education trends,” Peymann said.
Such testing threatens both community and education at Augustana, the two reasons why Peymann enrolled at the college.
“We don’t have top notch facilities, we do have a top notch education here, though; why jeopardize that with the potential that ‘teaching to the test’ will infiltrate and overrun the good things that are happening on campus?”