Use and Implementation of the Collegiate Learning
Assessment (CLA)

AS-2939-10/AA (Rev)

RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) urge the California State University (CSU) to implement the recommendations put forth by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) taskforce in 2009 and endorsed by the President's Council on Accountability; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU urge the CSU, in line with those recommendations, to allow individual campuses the option to administer the CLA at their discretion but no less frequently than once every three years; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU urge the CSU to convene a taskforce of system test administrators and faculty to develop standardized implementation protocols to protect the validity of the comparison data (both within and between institutions) by ensuring that testee selection and testing procedures are comparable; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU urge the CSU to involve its faculty in an open analysis of the resources (money, personnel and time) required for administration of the CLA; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU distribute this resolution to the Campus Senate Chairs, the Board of Trustees, and Executive Vice Chancellor Echeverria.

RATIONALE: The CLA is a project of the Council for Aid to Education and in their words is intended to "focus on how the institution as a whole contributes to student development." Those words emphasize the holistic nature of the analysis, which highlights the reality that implementing improvements to those measures is likely to involve a wide spectrum of activities and may require more temporally
distinct measurements to capture effectively the outcomes of those activities – In essence, much of the data collected on a yearly basis would not be useful for assessment, measurements, and accountability.

The 2007 decision to pilot the CLA was made without faculty discussion or input and hence was a decision that failed to leverage the expertise of the faculty of the CSU on matters of assessment of student learning, analysis of the outcomes of those assessments and determination of the comparative value of those assessments for improving student learning and communicating with the public about the quality of the education offered by the CSU. While the Academic Senate of the CSU affirms the value of assessment in guiding quality education, it is clear that faculty should play a major role in design and/or selection of assessment instruments. The General Education group on each campus may well be an appropriate vector for faculty involvement with administration of the CLA and analysis of the data generated.

In March 2009 the CLA taskforce issued recommendations on the CLA. The recommendations were:

1. Continue to use the CLA as the Accountability Measure required by the Voluntary System of Accountability.
2. Convene a taskforce of system test administrators and faculty to develop standardized implementation protocols for use throughout the CSU system.
3. Delay administration of the CLA for one year. After that, institute requirements that campuses administer the CLA instrument a minimum of once every three years.
4. Characterize the CLA as an accountability instrument instead of an assessment instrument. Assessment is evaluation intended for program improvement while accountability is evaluation intended to demonstrate accomplishments to external groups.
5. Arrange a meeting between representatives from the CSU and CAE to discuss possible changes/ additions to the CLA to tailor it to the CSU’s need (e.g., ethical decision-making and quantitative skills).

The President's Council on Accountability endorsed the recommendations and in summer 2009 the Office of the Chancellor notified campuses of a requirement, in line with the taskforce recommendations, that the CLA be administered at least once every three years. In fall 2009 those recommendations were overridden and campuses were informed that they would be required to administer the CLA annually despite the cost, the lack of implementation guidelines, and the unclear utility of the measures as collected.

The basis of any system of accountability is measurement that provides useful information. While the CLA may provide such information, further analysis of the reliability of the instrument and validity of the information provided is warranted before the CSU imposes annual administration of the CLA on campuses. Annual CLA administration forces a focus on the outcomes of that assessment which may lead to suboptimal decisions given that the level of correlation between CLA information and alternative assessment mechanisms already in use has not been determined. It is only prudent to establish the validity of assessment instruments before making decisions based on the outcomes of those assessments.

In addition, the CSU is experiencing unprecedented resource challenges. There are significant costs associated with administration of the CLA, and again it would be prudent to more fully understand the value of the information provided
before committing scarce resources to annual administration of the CLA. Most especially, we need to explore the effectiveness of CLA information in driving improvements in practice, and it is far from clear that annual administration of CLA is the appropriate frequency to support this goal. Devoting significant resources [money, time, personnel] to annual assessment of indicators that change on a longer timeline is unlikely to be an optimal use of resources.

Approved Without Dissent – March 10-11, 2010



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