South Dakota university students gain more The South Dakota Board of Regents can now verify that students in the state's public universities gain more from the first two years of college than other first and second year students in a national reference group. In a subcommittee, members of the Regents received a report last month on the gains in achievement for all second semester sophomores in spring 1998.
"This analysis provides the Regents with objective data that measure the value our state universities add to the educational achievement that our students bring with them when they enroll," said Regents President Harvey C. Jewett, IV, of Aberdeen. We now can measure that a specific percentage of our students actually gained in achievement in writing, math, reading, and science. We offer this as an accountability tool to the students, parents, and policy makers of this state."
In order to measure gains in achievement a student must possess both an ACT score and a CAAP score. Most freshmen entering a South Dakota public university present a score on the college admissions exam produced by American College Testing (ACT) of Iowa City, IA. In spring 1998, after two years of pilot testing, the Regents began to require that all second-semester sophomores take the CAAP, Collegiate Assessment of Academic Performance, also produced by ACT, because both tests are maintained by the same testing company, it is able to measure gains in achievement in skill areas.
The CAAP has been normed over three years on more than 120,000 students enrolled in more than 100 universities across the country. "At every single Regental institution, our students showed gains that were at the expected level or greater than expected, in larger percentages than the national reference group. We have a greater impact on the achievement of our students than the average institution using the CAAP," said Regents Executive Director Robert T. Tad Perry.
The focus in scoring is on the change in score level from the time of the ACT testing to that of the CAAP testing. This is a comparison of students and not a comparison of like institutions. The reference group for each of the South Dakota universities consists of all students attending the universities in the reference list, which would be four-year public universities. The same expectation for gains in achievement is made of students scoring at the same initial ACT level. Each South Dakota student is compared to students among the pool who have similar initial ACT scores. The expected gain is based on the three years of test data compiled by ACT.
"South Dakotans get a great value for the investment they make in higher education, both as individuals and as a state. Anyone who looks at these numbers has to agree," said Perry. "We reported in June that 10 percent of our rising juniors achieved at the 99th percentile in mathematics. That alone is phenomenal. When you combine these gains with those achievement scores we reported last summer, you have to begin to see that South Dakota kids are high achievers. People should be proud of these kids and of these universities."