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Academically Anchored: Notre Dame Students Outperform Peers on Critical Educational Assessment

October 10, 2012

Notre Dame of Maryland University Women’s College students outperformed their peers in the second leg of the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), the school reports. Based on their scores as incoming students and again as seniors, Notre Dame students showed more improved critical, analytical and communication skills after four years in college than 88 percent of students at more than 500 participating institutions nationwide.  

“The CLA confirms the longitudinal growth of our students and the strength of their academic experience at Notre Dame,” said Dr. James Conneely, president of Notre Dame. “When faculty set high expectations and students are provided with a challenging curriculum, they thrive. The impressive scores on this critical learning assessment hold across the socioeconomic diversity of our student body, showing that all of our students possess strong potential.”

The CLA is a national benchmarking learning outcome assessment tool that offers an authentic approach to assessment and improvement of teaching and learning in higher education. To date, more than 500 institutions and 200,000 students have participated. The CLA presents realistic problems that require students to analyze complex materials. It measures critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and written communication skills in a holistic manner.

The CLA determines an institution’s contribution or value added to the development of these competencies by comparing the deviation scores between first-year students and seniors using a statistical technique known as hierarchical linear modeling. The results assist faculty, department chairs, school administrators and others interested in programmatic change to evaluate and improve teaching and learning, particularly with respect to strengthening higher order skills. 

The CLA is the same assessment examined in the groundbreaking book Academically Adrift, Richard Arum and Josipa Roska’s 2011 critique of American higher education. Reviewing CLA data, the authors reported low or minimal gains in learning among many students taking the assessment, as well as a wide racial disparity in outcomes. In stark contrast, Notre Dame students’ senior year scores among all racial and socioeconomic groups improved 31 percentiles from three years earlier — a rate of improvement better than 88 percent of the CLA schools that took the test.

Notre Dame of Maryland University
Notre Dame of Maryland University, founded as a Catholic liberal arts college in 1895 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, educates nearly 3,000 women and men enrolled in degree and certificate programs at its main campus in north Baltimore and at satellite centers in Maryland. The University encompasses a distinguished Women’s College, the first Catholic institution of its kind in America; a College of Adult Undergraduate Studies; a College of Graduate Studies, and an English language Institute, and includes Schools of Arts and Sciences, Education, Nursing and Pharmacy. Rich in tradition, Notre Dame provides students with opportunities in research, study abroad and service to the global community. Visit www.ndm.edu.