Taking test gets some students early registration

More than 300 freshmen will be able to register for spring semester classes a few days before their peers because of their participation in a University academic assessment program.

A randomly selected group of freshmen in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences was offered priority registration if the students were willing to take a standardized test, called the collegiate learning assessment, three times throughout their four years at GW.

Cheryl Beil, GW’s executive director of academic planning and assessment, said the University is using the assessment to help with an accreditation process it undergoes every 10 years. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, a non-governmental voluntary membership association, examines institutions as a whole and accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in the region. The next accreditation review for GW is in two years.

In 2002, the Middle States Commission revised its standards for accreditation, which is why the University has started such testing, Beil said. She added that this is the first year the University is offering early registration in return for taking the tests.

Students will receive priority registration for the three semesters following their three exams.

“Because it’s tied to our accreditation, the University allowed us to use priority registration,” Beil said. “It’s an ordeal, so we figured we needed a really strong incentive.”

Students who agreed to participate will be allowed to register for classes Nov. 5, along with upperclassmen in the University Honors Program and other groups selected for early registration. The regular schedule for spring semester registration for undergraduate students begins Nov. 10 for seniors with at least 90 credits.

According to an e-mail sent out to about 700 freshmen at the beginning of the semester by GW’s academic planning and assessment office, the test is a research study that measures “important aspects of liberal education, and helps evaluate GW’s contribution to student learning.”

The test also provides other benefits to the University, Beil said. GW implemented several new programs over the course of the last few years, including the dean’s seminars series and the University writing course requirement, that the testing helps administrators gauge as well.

“We’re only implementing it in the Columbian College because we’re trying to see the effects of the recent initiatives,” Beil said.

About 240 students have participated in the two tests offered so far this semester, and one more test will be offered. Students agreeing to take the test this year will take another exam in either their sophomore or junior year and a final test their senior year. Those who have already taken the three-hour test said it is similar to the SAT and is writing-intensive.

“I got none of the classes that I signed up for initially at (Colonial Inauguration),” said freshman Natalie Kaplan, who took the test. “This semester, I wanted to ensure that I get the courses that I’m trying to take.”

Kaplan said she walked out of the testing site in less than two hours and she was one of the last ones to leave.

“Most people didn’t try very hard,” she said. “I thought it was a really bad assessment. The subject matter was so bland that it was really hard to do.”

Other freshmen said they think giving randomly selected freshmen priority registration gives some students an unfair advantage.

“They shouldn’t be given priority registration – it’s not like sorority registration – it’s not like they had to do anything for it,” freshman Samita Goyal said. “They should get money or an incentive that doesn’t hurt other students.”

Meghan Robinson, who did not receive an invitation to join the program but lives with a student who did, said that she did not mind missing out on the offer.

“At first it seemed enticing, but I heard bad things about the test, so I’m okay with (not being selected),” she said.

Freshman Tim Little, who took the test, said he didn’t know why they are being administered or what GW were trying to learn from assessments. Nevertheless, he happily accepted the school’s offer.

“I figure that three hours on a weekend is worth getting priority registration for the semester,” he said. “Being a freshman, getting ahead of everyone else is a pretty good deal.”

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