The National Survey of Student Engagement
HOW IT WORKS: "Nessie" measures how students spend their time. Research shows that students who study moreand do more activities outside of schooltend to become happier, higher-achieving graduates. Following that logic, the survey asks how students spend their free time and what courses they take.
SCORING: The assessment provides feedback to schools so that they may better engage students on campus.
SAMPLE QUESTION: During the current school year, about how often have you done each of the following?
• Asked questions in class or contributed to class discussions
• Made a class presentation
• Prepared two or more drafts of a paper or assignment before turning it in
• Tutored or taught other students (paid or voluntary)
• Participated in a community-based project (e.g., service learning) as part of a regular course
• Had serious conversations with students of a race or ethnicity different from your own.
The Collegiate Learning Assessment
HOW IT WORKS: The CLA is administered to freshmen and again to seniors to measure how much they learn while on campus. It does not measure knowledge itself but, rather, critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and writing.
SCORING: Rates schools, not individual students, comparing freshmen with seniors and colleges to one another.
SAMPLE QUESTION: You are the assistant to the president of a company that makes electronic and navigational equipment. A saleswoman for the company has recommended the company buy a private plane, a SwiftAir 235, for making sales calls. She was just about to approve the purchase when there was an accident involving a SwiftAir 235. You are provided with information including:
Articles about the accident; a federal accident report on in-flight breakups in single-engine planes; charts on SwiftAir's performance; an Amateur Pilot article comparing SwiftAir 235 to similar planes; pictures and descriptions of SwiftAir Models 180 and 235.
Prepare a memo that addresses what data support or refute the claim that the SwiftAir 235 wing leads to more in-flight breakups, what other factors might have contributed to the accident, and your recommendation about buying the plane.
Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency
HOW IT WORKS: CAAP is given to incoming students and then again to the same students, usually at the end of sophomore, junior, or senior year. With essays and multiple-choice sections, it tests reading, writing, math, science, and critical-thinking skills.
SCORING: The results from each of the exams allow schools to track specific students over time and compare them directly with students from other schools.
SAMPLE QUESTION: Students read a passage explaining Aristotle's and Galileo's conflicting theories of the physics of falling objects, then answer four questions. One is:
A book dropped from a height of 1 meter falls to the floor in tseconds. To be consistent with Aristotle's views, from what height, in meters, should a book three times as heavy be dropped so that it will fall to the floor in the same amount of time?
(The correct answer is D.)
ICT Literacy Assessment
HOW IT WORKS: The Information and Communications Technology test measures technological literacyhow well students can parlay computer skills into real knowledge. Students complete tasks that require sifting through multiple information sourcesE-mails, Web articles, chartsand decide which sources are most useful.
SCORING: Students receive a detailed report analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and offering suggestions for improvement. They also get a percentile rank.
SAMPLE QUESTION: The office manager asks in an E-mail: "Can you help me find a good source of products for left-handers? I'd like a wide range of merchandise, product guarantees, and an online catalog. Discounts would also be a plus."
You've received E-mails about three potential sources; now you want to combine the information into a single table and rank the possibilities.
Sources for sample tests: Hechinger Institute, Educational Testing Service, ACT, the NSSE Institute, and Council for Aid to Education
This story appears in the March 12, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.