Resolution on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA)

Resolution Number: RF07-260
September, 2007

Approved
by the Academic Senate November 6, 2007


Resolution on the Collegiate Learning Assessment
(CLA)


Whereas,


The Chancellor of the
California State University System (CSU) has mandated that all CSU institutions
begin using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), an instrument developed
by the Council for Aid to Education, to measure the value added by universities
as a means of demonstrating accountability to the taxpayers of the State of
California; and,


Whereas,


The CLA uses two assessment
tasks (performance writing and analytical writing) to measure four dimensions
of learning (critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving, and
written communication); and,


Whereas,


It is not reasonable to
expect to accurately assess the aggregate academic performance of an
educational institution which offers over 100 academic and cultural programs
through eight colleges and numerous centers and institutes by measuring four
dimensions of learning in a single assessment tools; and,


Whereas,


The mission of SF State is to
create and maintain an environment for learning that promotes respect for and
appreciation of scholarship, freedom, human diversity, and the cultural mosaic
of the City of San Francisco and the Bay Area, to promote excellence in instruction
and intellectual accomplishment, to provide broadly accessible higher education
for residents of the region and state, as well as the nation and the world; and,


Whereas,


The results of the CLA are
reported in summary form, comparing actual to expected performance without
providing the detailed data used to generate these results to participating
schools; and,


Whereas,


Funding for the CLA does not completely
cover the financial and human resources necessary to implement the assessment,
causing other campuses to have to utilize their scarce resources as cash or in-kind
incentives to encourage students to take and complete the test; and,


Whereas,


San Francisco State
University officials have instead chosen to give the CLA in pedagogically appropriate
classes where they could provide some information about student performance,
have made the test optional in those classrooms, have not spent our scarce
resources to encourage students to take the test, and have still received more completions
than required by the CSU; and,


Whereas,


The Chancellor of the CSU is
a member of the board of trustees of the Council for Aid to Education;



Be it therefore resolved


That the San Francisco State
University Academic Senate supports the development of assessment programs in
general in order to inform continuous improvements to the quality of education
received by our students as well as to demonstrate accountability to the
taxpayers of the State of California and our other stakeholders; and,


Be it further resolved


That the San Francisco State
University Academic Senate has serious concerns that the CLA could be misused. It measures academic performance
using only four dimensions in a single assessment. Using these results to
demonstrate accountability to funding bodies may inhibit the development of
academic programs by channeling scarce resources away from programs whose
learning outcomes are not easily measured using these criteria (e.g., fine
arts, mathematics, ethnic studies) and by channeling limited resources to
academic programs that tend to improve the university’s performance on “the
test”; and,


Be it further resolved


That the San Francisco State
University Academic Senate encourages the CSU to negotiate the release of the detailed
data from the CLA to participating schools as a condition of participation so
that this research may be used to diagnose and improve educational programs as
well as to assess educational outcomes; and


Be it further resolved


That the San Francisco State
University Academic Senate commends San Francisco State University officials
for their creative, efficient and effective means of achieving multiple
goals—in giving the test under required parameters, achieving commendable numbers
of completions, not having to expend limited resources on incentives, and
taking advantage of the opportunity to allow faculty to learn something about
student learning; and,


Be it further resolved


That the San Francisco State
University Academic Senate recommends proceeding exceedingly cautiously with
any expansion of the use of the CLA test to assess student learning outcomes;
and,


Be it further resolved


That the San Francisco State
University Academic Senate requests the Chancellor of the CSU to recuse himself
from deliberations regarding the CLA and from negotiations between the CSU and
the Council for Aid to Education in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict
of interest.