By Mallika Mitra
On Feb. 20, the Wall Street Journal featured a small liberal arts college in Michigan that many students may be familiar with: Kalamazoo College.
The article, by Douglas Belkin, discussed the change K made four years ago to begin publicizing test results to show what or how much students have learned at K over their four years.
Due to the recession, before this change was made, the school was facing a low number of applicants, according to the article. This practice is very uncommon for higher-education industry, which is usually very private. However, this change allowed prospective students and parents of prospective students to know the results of the education that they would be getting for their money.
Although evaluating schools based on test results has been a controversial topic regarding colleges and universities, as well as high schools, this new system allows K to provide interested students with information on how their education could be enhanced over the course of their four years at K.
Two of our own staff members were interviewed for this WSJ article: Eric Staab, Dean of Admissions, and Paul Sotherland, Associate Provost.
In the article, Staab discussed how parents of prospective students “come here and they want to know, ’What are we getting for our money?’” Stabb is also quoted saying that he believes this change to publicize test results is what helped the school stay in relatively good shape during the recessions, and that the results “gave us some data to stand on.”
Sotherland was introduced in the article as the presenter of a 15-minute lecture to high school students who have been accepted to K, but have not yet chosen whether or not they will attend. This presentation includes the data found in the test results. He is quoted in the article saying, “The effect that Kalamazoo has on students is huge.”
According to the article, first-year students have the opportunity during orientation week to take a test measuring their “problem solving, reasoning and critical thinking.” Students are then given the same test when they are seniors. The WSJ explained that although K students did well as both first years and seniors, “the amount they improved overtime was at or above the 95th percentile in each category.”