PLYMOUTH — Plymouth State University students rank in the 95th percentile in the United States for "value added" knowledge, or knowledge and skills gained during the undergraduate years according to the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), a standardized test. The results show Plymouth State University students make key gains in critical thinking and problem solving skills during the four years they spend in the classroom, labs and in research activities.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) uses a "value-added" outcome measurement to examine a college or university's contribution to student learning. The CLA measures critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving, and written communication skills. The assessment consists of open-ended scenarios that require thoughtful written responses. David Zehr, PSU's Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies, says Plymouth State tests incoming first-year students and graduating seniors to gauge how much they've learned in four years.

"Along with course content we're teaching them valuable skills like problem solving, critical thinking, reasoning with quantitative information, and effective writing," Zehr said. "It says we're doing what we ought to be doing: we're taking students through their four-year education and helping them to develop the skills they're going to need to be successful in the job marketplace and in life."

Each school participating in the CLA has a predicted value added score, based on students' SAT scores and other factors. Zehr noted PSU exceeded expectations by placing in the 95th percentile for "value added" knowledge, or knowledge and skills gained during the undergraduate years.

"For all of the schools that participated in the CLA, we're in the top five percent on the value added dimension," said Zehr. "Based on these test results, our faculty can take great pride in the work they do with our students."

The CLA was developed in 2002 by the Council for Aid to Education; since then more than 1,000 colleges and high schools have participated in the program. PSU's institutional report was released August 28.

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