Carthage Seniors: Top 11% nationally
Carthage Impact: Top 17% nationally


When it comes to critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication, Carthage seniors are in the top 11 percent nationwide among colleges and universities using the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

“Students are entirely transformed during their time at Carthage, and at a higher level here than at most every other school that takes this assessment.”

The Collegiate Learning Assessment, or CLA, is a national tool administered at institutions across the country to assess their impact on student learning. The CLA measures a college’s contribution, or value added, to the development of four higher-order skills: analytical reasoning and evaluation, problem solving, writing effectiveness, and writing mechanics.

In the College’s most recent CLA report, 2011-2012, the gains shown by Carthage students in these areas were higher than gains shown by students at 83 percent of participating institutions. Carthage seniors scored in the 89th percentile.

The results testify to the value provided by a Carthage education.

“The CLA represents the quality of our faculty and our students,” said Carthage Professor and former Provost Julio Rivera. “Our value-added score tells us that students are entirely transformed during their time at Carthage, and at a higher level here than at most every other school that takes this assessment.

“Our seniors, as they leave, are in the top 11 percent among graduating seniors nationwide. Students and parents want to know that when students graduate, they leave competitive. The CLA results show that our seniors are very competitive in academic skills with seniors across the nation — at all institution types, from Ivy League schools to community colleges.”

A Top College

Curriculum, Faculty and Students

Carthage has participated in the Collegiate Learning Assessment twice, in 2011-12 and in 2008-09. The College’s results both times were very strong. In 2008-09, Carthage students showed academic gains in the top 8 percent in the nation.

Dana Garrigan, associate provost for planning and assessment at Carthage and an associate professor of biology, said the CLA results are a testament to the strength of the Carthage liberal arts curriculum — a curriculum that emphasizes writing in every major, interdisciplinary study, critical reading and thinking, and hands-on learning through research and other projects.

Programs such as Western Heritage and the Carthage Symposium further the College’s curricular goals. The writing-intensive Western Heritage Program requires every Carthage student to spend two semesters studying the history of Western thought. Carthage Symposia — courses team-taught by faculty from different disciplines — challenge students to explore a topic through the lenses of two completely different fields. All students are required to create a senior thesis, so they graduate having produced an original academic work that is research- or creativity-based.

The results also speak to the dedication of the faculty and the quality of our students.

“You can have the greatest faculty in the world, but if students don’t respond, it’s not going to work,” Prof. Rivera said. “Education is about change and transformation. If you come to a place like Carthage, you’re looking for that kind of change and transformation.”

About the CLA

Designed to measure an institution’s contribution

Carthage, along with 160 other institutions, administered the CLA during the 2011-12 academic year. Approximately 100 first-year students took the test in fall 2011, and approximately 50 seniors took the test in spring 2012.

Students taking the test complete tasks that require them to analyze complex materials. Their written responses are graded to assess their abilities to think critically, reason analytically, solve problems, and communicate clearly and cogently. The CLA then compares the performance of first-year students with that of seniors to measure an institution’s contribution, or value added, to the development of those competencies.

“The value-added score is a measure of institutional effectiveness in working with students over the four years that they are enrolled here,” explained Prof. Garrigan. “We score better than 83 percent of comparison institutions.

“That’s the number we’re really excited about,” Prof. Garrigan continued. “It represents that wherever we start with our students, we’ve had great success in helping them develop their abilities to a really high level.”

Download the full CLA report