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New College Exit Exam Would Test How Prepared Students Are

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Rochester: New College Exit Exam Would Test How Prepared Students Are
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Graduating students at St. John Fisher College will have the option of taking a new test in the spring. Supporters say the test could define student learning better than traditional measures like grade point averages.

Cody Miller excels on the St. John Fisher football field. The team's star running back is also nailing it in the classroom.

"I'm doing very well for myself right now. It's high threes."

But how much does grade point average really mean, once college is over?

"I think it's extremely important, depending on the major. Each employer looks at it differently."

Fisher is one of about 200 colleges which will, in the spring, offer an exit exam, of sorts. It's called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, or CLA.

"What it looks to do is to address critical thinking," said Dr. David Pate, Dean of St. John Fisher's School of Arts and Sciences.

He says the CLA will help the college determine what kind of job it's doing to prepare students.

"Employers, graduate programs, parents who are spending the money want to know – am I getting my money's worth?"

Students can use CLA results, just like grade point averages, to market themselves.

"They can use that on their resumes. They can use it applying to graduate schools," Pate said.

GPAs have been on the rise for years, but experts say they're not really a great indicator as to how students will perform on a job. According to one recent survey, just one in four two and four year colleges are doing a good job in preparing students for the workforce.

"What a lot of employers and policy makers are hoping for is that there might be some sort of magic exam that would say at the end of the four years, are you successful?"

Pate says the CLA won't provide a magic number, but it will provide an objective, benchmarked report card.

As Fisher gets set to welcome another class of students, and as Miller prepares for his senior year, performance, be it his GPA or a grade on the CLA, does matter, to a point.

"I think it's definitely going to help, going through the interview process."

After that, it's up to him.

"After that, it's just a number. It's not going to help you once you get to the interview."

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