By: Missy Arneson
St. Louis Community College will no longer be requiring the CAAP exit exam for graduating students, effective spring 2017. All students received an email from Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Andrew Langrehr about the elimination of this requirement.
The exam consisted of multiple parts covering several subjects including math, science, reading, critical thinking, writing skills and essay writing. The exam’s purpose was to test how well students retained information from their general education classes.
The exam is no longer being required to allow more diverse assessments that better test students on their specific work, according to Manager of Assessment Ray Eberle-Mayse.
“The college, over the last few years, has moved to what I call more varied and authentic forms of assessment,” Eberle-Mayse said. “For example, case studies you might have in a business-related course, portfolios, surveys, common course finals that our faculty developed that really connect with — are better with — the objectives of that course or that program.”
The removal of the exam requirement should not affect graduation rates, according to Eberle-Mayse.
“It was a requirement for graduation, but students didn’t need to receive a particular score on the exam in order to graduate,” Eberle-Mayse said. “From my perspective [not requiring the exam] is less burdensome to our graduates, that they’re doing these kinds of assessments now as part of the course work as opposed to scheduling a separate appointment and coming in to the Assessment Center to take this exit exam.”
Dean of Business and Communications Julie Fickas said not requiring the exam removed an obstacle from students graduating.
“It removes a fear factor,” Fickas said. She said students might not have known about it until they saw the graduation checklist. “They saw it and thought ‘I don’t know if I want to graduate.’”
Eberle-Mayse said the removal of the exam made graduating less taxing for students.
“We can gather information about what [students] are learning without them having to come in on a Saturday to sit for a couple of hours for an exam,” Eberle-Mayse said.
Eberle-Mayse said the exam is still available for programs that want to use it.
“Part of that assessment is a critical thinking exam,” Eberle-Mayse said. “Our occupational and assistant therapy programs have wanted to use that critical thinking exam because that’s one of the key learning outcomes of those programs.”
So if the exam is no longer being required, why was it ever set in place?
“The exit exam’s purpose, initially, was to make sure some of what students learned in general education [was retained],” Eberle-Mayse said.
According to Fickas some students thought the test would include material from every class they had ever taken. This was not the case, but she said the idea still made students nervous.
As scary as the test might sound, Eberle-Mayse said no student has ever had to retake it.
“We didn’t require any student to retake the exam,” Eberle-Mayse said. “The exit assessment was primarily used to document student progress for the state of Missouri or for accreditors. There was no score that a student needed to receive to pass.”