Assessing Basic Academic Skills in Higher Education: The Texas Approach

By Richard T. Alpert; William Phillip Gorth et al. | Go to book overview
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percent for blacks, while Hispanics and whites earned a premium of six to seven percent. Historically, studies have shown that among all males (at age 42), college graduates earn 50 percent more than high school graduates.


More than 30,000 Texas high school graduates enter higher education each year without having mastered the skills needed to perform effectively at the college level. These are students who meet the admission requirements of our colleges and universities; many of them have posted good scores on college entrance examinations. Some of them graduate with good marks in their majors but they are woefully deficient in reading, writing, or mathematics.

Required examinations, especially in writing and English language usage, are not uncommon in higher education in the state. Many Texas colleges and universities already ask students to demonstrate proficiencies in some skill areas before graduation from college. Still, such arrangements are scattered and have no commonality. A passing grade at one institution may not be adequate at another. This sporadic approach to basic skills testing is both inefficient and inadequate. Worse, without knowing who is deficient in basic skills, we are turning out college graduates who cannot write a clear sentence, cannot comprehend complex written materials, and cannot use mathematics effectively. Employers are criticizing colleges and universities for the poor quality of some graduates, and in some cases, the integrity of the degree is questioned.

Early identification of and appropriate instruction for these students are essential to the health of the state's educational system and are absolutely necessary for the intellectual development of our students. The high school exit examination (TEAMS) will identify those students who are the most deficient before they graduate, but this test will not screen for skills needed in college because it tests for lower level basic skills.

Are We Testing Too Much?

There is some concern that we are testing students too much. The committee believes that ultimately the benefits of a standardized statewide testing program will override these concerns. For one thing, it would replace existing institutional testing and placement


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Assessing Basic Academic Skills in Higher Education: The Texas Approach


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