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Lobbyist Money Help  

Reaction Varies to MU's Required Test

January 29, 1998
By: Tristin Yeager
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Chad Hamilton, a senior majoring in communications, is one of many students who wonder how accurately a new test will assess student knowledge.

"It's more of a pain in the butt," he said. "I don't think people would care or take it seriously."

Hamilton said seniors might blow off the test since their performance doesn't having any bearing on whether they graduate, just whether they take the test.

While many students have expressed disdain for required assessment exams, not all MU seniors are against the idea.

Jenna George, a senior majoring in personal finance, thinks the money the university will receive for every student who takes the exam will make the process worthwhile.

The university will receive $100 for each student who takes the exam and $500 for each student who scores above 50 percent.

"It doesn't really bother me," George said. "Anything that can provide money and help keep students from paying more tuition money is a good thing."

University of Missouri-Columbia seniors will take the College Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) exam. For the past two years, the university has given the exam to a randomly selected group of students who willingly participated in the program.

During the 1995-1996 academic year, 151 students took the exam. The exam covered writing skills, math, critical thinking and science reasoning, and MU students scored between the 77th and 85th percentiles in all four areas.

University system vice president for Academic Affairs Steve Lehmkuhle said the test results will be used to help review the results of MU's general education program.

"Administering assessment tests is a way to address the issues raised by legislators about student performance," Lehmkuhle said.

Gil Youmans, MU Faculty Council president, agrees.

"I think it's appropriate to provide accountibility and testing if that's what's wanted by legislators and citizens."

Mid-Missouri legislators are divided on whether the assessment tests will meet demands for accountability.

"I'm not sure if it's actually going to accomplish the purpose that they're looking at," Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said. "I also have a question as to whether people are actually going to take it real seriously. If you have to take the test but you don't have to pass it to graduate, I don't see anybody staying up late night cramming to pass this."

Rep. Vicki Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, who used to work for the university, said the level of education at MU will assure good test results regardless of how seriously students take the exam.

"I think that the level of performance of the students at MU will provide great reassurance to the people of the state of Missouri, to parents, students and faculty and legislators who will see how well we are investing in the future through the dollars spent at MU," Wilson said.

Wilson also said she believes students will take the tests seriously.

"I think that students understand that the public judges the value of their diploma by the reputation of the university," Wilson said. "If the results of these tests are going to determine the reputation of the university in the minds of other people around the state, students will realize how important it is for them to do their best on their tests."

Unlike the Columbia campus, the Kansas City, St. Louis and Rolla campuses of the university system have required seniors to take assessment tests since the 1994-1995 academic year. The three campuses have administered Academic Profile (AP) Tests, different exams than the ones chosen by Columbia campus officials. In 1996, scores for the three campuses averaged slightly below the 50th percentile of the comparison mean.