A shocker from the Wall Street Journal: Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

Many colleges fail in Teaching How to think.


This should come as no surprise to those interested in any education at any level.

What is presented below is a testing set.

Predictably it would not be favored by students and faculty in some institutions that didn’t fare well, at others, this was not the case.

One this that is certain is that far too many institutions of higher learning are packed with instructors, assistant professors and professors not interested in teaching critical thinking skills but more interested into indoctrinating the student into a specific belief system.

This is more apt to be problematic where the softer “sciences,” are majored, psychology, sociology, philosophy, anthropologyy, and gender studies etc, while the “Hard Sciences,” math, physics, chemistry, engineering,  architecture, computer sciences, biology, and pre-med are more fact based.




Look no further that our college and university campus’ across the country and the aberrant behavior among both teachers and students typically based on the Marxist concept of so-called political correctness and it is very clear how far our institutions of “Higher Education,” have fallen.

Results of a standardized measure of reasoning ability show many students fail to improve over four years, even at some flagship schools, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of nonpublic results.

 Students at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire showed extensive progress in critical thinking over four years, as measured by a test called the CLA+.


 Above, Kate Frederick, a sophomore. Photo: Cheryl Senter for The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal


By Douglas Belkin


June 4, 2017


Freshman and senior students at over 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think.

The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table,

The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. (See full results.)

At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.

This is true, too, of similar tests.


A Closer Look at the Test Results

Search how 68 public colleges and universities performed on the CLA+ standardized test. (Source)

Some of the biggest gains occur at smaller colleges where students are less accomplished at arrival but soak up a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum.

For prospective students and their parents looking to pick a college, it is almost impossible to figure out which schools help students learn critical thinking, because full results of the standardized test, called the College Learning Assessment Plus, or CLA+, are seldom disclosed to the public.


See the entire article below.



Plymouth State University student Madalyn Stevens, standing, performed in a mock trial in a class led by Prof. Maria Sanders, seated at rear, designed to develop critical-thinking skills. Photo: Cheryl Senter for The Wall Street Journal

Some academic experts, education researchers and employers say the Journal’s findings are a sign of the failure of America’s higher-education system to arm graduates with analytical reasoning and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in a fast-changing, increasingly global job market.

In addition, rising tuition, student debt and loan defaults are putting colleges and universities under pressure to prove their value.

A survey by PayScale Inc., an online pay and benefits researcher, showed 50% of employers complain that college graduates they hire aren’t ready for the workplace.

Their No. 1 complaint?

Poor critical-reasoning skills.

“At most schools in this country, students basically spend four years in college, and they don’t necessarily become better thinkers and problem solvers,” said Josipa Roksa, a University of Virginia sociology professor who co-wrote a book in 2011 about the CLA+ test.

“Employers are going to hire the best they can get, and if we don’t have that, then what is at stake in the long run is our ability to compete.”

International rankings show U.S. college graduates are in the middle of the pack when it comes to numerals and literacy and near the bottom when it comes to problem solving.



The CLA+ test raises questions about the purpose of a college degree and taps into a longstanding debate about the role of colleges: Are they are designed to raise students’ intellectual abilities or to sort high-school graduates so they can find the niche for which they are best suited?

The role of a diploma as signal of ability has been in the ascendancy recently, given how having a degree is closely related to graduates’ lifetime earnings. The test data, by contrast, show that many students earn their degrees without improving their ability to think critically or solve problems.

 Tests such as the CLA+ can be used to fulfill a mandate by accreditors for schools to show that they are trying to assess and improve the education they provide.

The CLA+ measures critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and writing because it demands students manipulate information and data in real-world circumstances that require different abilities. It has been lauded by a federal commission that studied higher education in the U.S.

Sources: The schools (test data); National Center for Education Statistics and CollegeSimply.com (acceptance rate, graduation rate)

At each college, the roughly 90-minute test is given to one group of

Adam Civinskas, a Plymouth State graduate heading to law school, said he and his classmates in a technical-writing class were assigned to devise a new class that would help them learn to write resumes and cover letters. He said they received almost no instructions on how to tackle this task.

His group interviewed other students and department heads, then built the class proposal from the research. “They gave us just enough information to make us ask ourselves the right questions,” said Mr. Civinskas. “That’s kind of the way everything works here.”

Overall, a majority of students at colleges that took the CLA+ made measurable progress in critical thinking, the Journal found. Colleges that added the most value aren’t necessarily highly ranked in areas that more often build a college’s reputation, such as faculty research, graduate programs, on-campus amenities, sports programs and the selectivity of the freshmen class.


A test of critical thinking found seniors at the University of Kentucky doing little better than freshmen. The university said the CLA+ wasn’t the best way to measure such skills.
A test of critical thinking found seniors at the University of Kentucky doing little better than freshmen. The university said the CLA+ wasn’t the best way to measure such skills. Photo: Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/Associated Press

“When it comes to how students select a college, we are clueless about quality,” said Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“The proxy we use is reputation.”

Flagship institutions such as the University of Kentucky and the University of Texas at Austin attract some of the brightest students in the country.

Their students showed little improvement in CLA+ performance.

Their value-added score put their ranking in the bottom third of all schools that gave the test in the same year.

Kentucky and UT Austin officials criticized the test and said they no longer use it.

At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, three-quarters of seniors had “basic” or “below basic” levels of mastery, the two lowest ratings out of five used in the CLA+.

“I wasn’t as focused as I should have been, but in a lot of classes, we just watched videos and documentaries, and then we would talk about them. It wasn’t all that challenging,” said Jeremy Daigle, who graduated in 2011 and now works in a coffee shop in Lafayette.

The college said the test results don’t “reflect the rigor of our academic programs.” UL Lafayette said it no longer uses the CLA+.

 Seniors who scored basic or below basic might not be able to “distinguish the validity of evidence and its purpose” or “determine the truth and validity of an argument,” according to the Council for Aid to Education.
At least half of the seniors at a quarter of the schools reviewed by the Journal fell into those categories.

By contrast, more than 90% of seniors at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; Miami University of Ohio; Ohio State University and the University of Georgia graduated with critical-thinking abilities rated as “proficient” or better. The two highest levels are “accomplished” and “advanced.”

Roger Benjamin, president of the Council for Aid to Education, said the test provides a sound assessment of the intellectual capital and capacity for innovation needed to succeed in the modern world.

“That’s why measuring performance and working toward improvement are so critical,” he said.

At the Citadel in Charleston, S.C., 65% of seniors who took the test in 2016 were rated basic or below.

The value added was in the low 2nd percentile among all the schools where students took the exam in 2016.

 The Citadel, like many schools, enshrines the importance of critical thinking in its mission statement, pledging to make sure graduates “are capable of both critical and creative thinking, and possess the methodological skills needed to gather and analyze information.”

As officials grapple with the lackluster test results, Citadel English professor Jenna Adair has begun incorporating lessons on critical reasoning into her classes.

She asks sophomores to read “Beowulf” and pretend they are journalists covering a presidential race between three characters in the millennium-old epic poem.

The students must generate criteria to evaluate the candidates, which pushes them to dissect the concept of leadership. Many struggle.

“A lot of students beg me to give them the answer,” she said.

About JCscuba

I am firmly devoted to bringing you the truth and the stories that the mainstream media ignores. Together we can restore our constitutional republic to what the founding fathers envisioned and fight back against the progressive movement. Obama nearly destroyed our country economically, militarily coupled with his racism he set us further on the march to becoming a Socialist State. Now it's up to President Trump to restore America to prominence. Republicans who refuse to go along with most of his agenda RINOs must be forced to walk the plank, they are RINOs and little else.
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4 Responses to A shocker from the Wall Street Journal: Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

  1. Simply Linda says:

    I can tell you, the college (NY) that I just graduated from was a Critical Thinking school–even in my “soft” program of History. Good grief, no snowflakes there–now, the school (PA) I will be attending in the fall–no room for snowflakes either and my schedule is rather very ambitious. I simply think that the students make it for what is worth-if you don’t put in to it, you wont get anything out of it. I rather like hanging on to my 3.0 whatever–so I work pretty hard at maintaining and going above what is challenged. Just my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some things can not be taungt; they must be learned. Swimming is one. Logical thinking is another.

    Those skills are learned by trial and error, applying basic knowledge & skills to problems and learning from mistakes, then trying again without the errors.

    Algebra, forensic debate, computer programming and chess are clear paths to development of ligic skills.


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