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Confusion over Assesment Test Process

February 04, 1998
By: Tristin Yeager
State Capital Bureau
JEFFERSON CITY - MU administrators are scrambling to implement campus-wide assessment testing for seniors. The university administration is facing a testing deadline of mid- to late-March, and policy guidelines have still not been established.

Last Wednesday the provost's office announced to MU deans that they would be responsible for informing students about the exams and determining the particulars of the process.

That process could include creating incentives to encourage students to take the exams and outlining repercussions for students who refuse to participate.

"I think the recommendation of how students will be penalized for refusing to take the exam will have to be handled in the dean's office and then given to the registrar," said associate provost Elaine Charlson.

The registrar's office had another perspective on how penalties will be determined.

"A list as to which students fulfilled requirements is given to us by each department. We give out diplomas based on that list," said Gary Smith, director of admissions and registrar. It's going to be handled through the deans' offices."

MU does not have a campuswide policy for the assessment testing process.

Rob Willard, president of the Missouri Students Association, is concerned about the absense of a policy for the testing process at MU.

"I would like to see some guarantee for what will happen," Willard said. "I believe we should look at a universitywide policy as to what would happen if students didn't take the exam. The plus-minus grading system was handled in a very inconsistent way. I don't want to see that happen again."

MU's deans offices are planning independently for the exams.

"We're working on getting information to department chairs by the end of the week," said Arts and Science associate dean Theodore Tarkow. "Departments will be given the option of scheduling their own test dates or participating in the three dates scheduled campuswide."

Tarkow said diplomas will not be withheld as punishment.

"The university is not going to withhold diplomas for students who don't take the exam," Tarkow said. "We will try to take aggressive steps to make the tests as successful as possible."

School of Journalism associate dean Robert Logan is also trying to prepare for the exams.

"The editorial faculty met last Friday, and we discussed how we can possibly implement these exams," Logan said. "I think positive incentives would be a good thing to help with this issue."

Logan said he believes providing incentives like free training for professional exams or pizza parties would help motivate students and give them a rationale to do well.

Wendell Ogrosky, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Missouri-Rolla, admits student motivation has been a problem but makes a distinction between its assessment program and Columbia's.

"In general, students respond well although there has probably been some grumbling," Ogrosky said. "Senior testing is with major field exams, not general education exams. Our engineering majors take a professional engineering certification exam that is required in their field."

Short notification time is being blamed as one of the reasons for the confusion.

Charlson defended the process of informing students by pointing to a statement in MU's undergraduate catalog, which costs $6.

"The catalog is the normal way the student body is informed about university policy," Charlson said. "I guess if they wanted four year's notice then the chosen notification process would be short notice."

The statement in the catalog is on page 6 under the title "academic assessment." It reads, "Students are expected to participate in the assessment of general education during their undergraduate careers."

All other university officials contacted Tuesday declined to comment on whether that statement provided students with sufficient notice of the required general education exams.