Assessment Policies

"If there is one generalization that can be made about the culture of the academic community, it is that unusual value is placed on acquiring and using information. To refuse, in principle, to investigate the results of our own actions because such an inquiry is deemed somehow inappropriate is to display inconsistency of the highest order -- a fact not lost upon those outside higher education. Like any investigation, assessment involves vast technical difficulties and undreamed-of subtleties. However, difficulties and subtleties have hardly stopped us in other areas."

- Peter T. Ewell, writing in Change, 1985

ASSESSMENT POLICIES

ENTERING COMPETENCIES

The competencies students have when they enter the College are important in determining their subsequent academic success at Sinclair. As a result of the open door policy the competencies among entering groups of students vary widely. The College measures the entering competencies of its students through the usage of computer adaptive placement testing (ACCUPLACER), the evaluation of prior learning, and diagnostic testing.

ENTRY LEVEL ASSESSMENT AND PLACEMENT POLICY

As an open door urban community college, Sinclair is committed to providing access coupled with high quality instruction to all interested community members. Commitment to quality instruction means that the college provides students with a quality environment, qualified faculty, and quality support services. The connotation of quality as exclusionary of some students because they do not measure up to certain academic standards is inappropriate to Sinclair because of the college commitment to accessibility. The issues of access and entry level assessment are, therefore, interdependent. As a successful community college, Sinclair must be open to students of all types, and must create an environment conducive to student success once the student enters the college. Assessment, especially entry level assessment is a crucial factor in providing individuals opportunities to enter college and for succeeding once enrolled.

Results of a study conducted by the Colorado Assessment and Basic Skills Committee for two-year colleges indicate that a number of factors relate to the success and persistence of new community college students. The most significant factor is whether the student follows basic skills assessment-related advice and enrolls in courses deemed most appropriate in the counseling process.

The study also resulted in the following major findings:

  • More than 80% of the new students who follow assessment-related advice succeed academically and are more likely to persist at least one additional term than those who do not follow such advice.
  • Students who follow advice for English courses are almost four times as likely to succeed than those who disregard such advice.
  • In reading and mathematics, new students are more than twice as likely to succeed if they follow assessment-related advice.
  • Students who score below the college level on assessment tests are much more likely to follow advice than those who score at the college level.

The purpose of entry level basic skills assessment is to ascertain a student's level of preparedness in certain basic skill areas to discover whether he/she can perform college level work. Once assessed, the student can be correctly placed at a level of study commensurate with his/her skills, and if needed, developmental work should be mandated. This better assures that students will not have to begin college level work before they are ready, and that once ready, they will be more likely to successfully complete a given curriculum. Moreover, faculty should be better able to meet student needs because the relative skill level of a given class would be a known as opposed to an unknown quantity.

If students are not proficient in a given skill area, then to permit them to enroll in classes demanding an ability they do not yet have, does a disservice to the students. Therefore, assessment of basic skills and appropriate placement is mandatory for all entering degree-seeking Sinclair students. This also includes transfer students who need to demonstrate skills required, not just course work completed at another institution. This better assures correct placement and subsequent academic success. Particular attention is paid to appropriate testing for special needs students to determine their need for adaptive learning methods. Alternative testing is and should continue to be available for these students.

It is important that any basic skills assessment be conducted using methods and instruments which are both valid and reliable. Sinclair currently uses the ACCUPLACER developed by College Board.  ACCUPLACER is a computerized placement test in reading, writing, and mathematics that is part of Sinclair Community College's enrollment and registration process.  This test will determine which classes student should schedule during their first quarter.  It is not a pass/fail exam.  The goal is to ensure students are placed in classes that are neither too difficult nor too easy.

Student test scores are disseminated to the student and are available on Colleague for academic counselors and faculty advisers. Basic skills assessment results must be available if the counselor and/or adviser is to provide sound advising and correctly assist the student in selecting the most appropriate courses and class load. The most effective way of assuring that entry level scores are available for usage in quality advising is to record the scores on the student's record. Once a student is placed in a given course, follow-up diagnostic testing of student skills occurs.

In summary, entry-level assessment is crucial to providing students the opportunity to succeed in their educational pursuits. Educational research shows that students who are assessed and enroll in courses appropriate to their skill levels are four times as likely to succeed academically as those students who are not assessed or who ignore placement requirements. Academically underprepared students who enter classes for which they are not ready may be adversely affected relative to success and block the road to achievement.

Because Sinclair Community College is committed to providing accessible, high-quality education, the following entry level assessment policy of basic skills was adopted by the Board of Trustees in July of 1990 and was implemented the fall of 1990.

Entry-Level Assessment Policy of Basic SkillsPrior to initial registration, students who designate themselves as degree or certificate-seeking must be assessed for reading, language usage and writing, and numerical skills. Transfer students who are degree or certificate-seeking and who do not have transferable equivalent math or English courses must be assessed. No degree or certificate-seeking students can register for any credit courses until they have test scores on file. Special needs and ESL* students should make appropriate assessment arrangements with a college counselor.

Students who are not degree or certificate-seeking, but who are taking courses for personal interest or career development, do not have to be assessed. However, with the exception of transfer students who have math or English credits accepted for equivalent courses, ALL students who take a math or English class must be assessed prior to enrolling in those classes.

Students must begin mathematics and/or English course sequences at or below the level indicated by their assessment results. Students who possess less than a ninth grade level of master in reading must complete "Fundamentals of Reading", DEV 064, as a prerequisite to enrollment in any college level course, except those specifically identified as exempt from this requirement.

PLACEMENT TESTING PROGRAM

Twelve years ago, basic skills assessments or placement tests were administered only during registration periods, without prior publicity, and with limited counseling efforts. Data about test results were not systematically compiled or analyzed. Since 1984, the College used the ASSET Academic Skills Assessment Tests, developed by the American College Testing Corporation, to assess basic skills in English, reading and mathematics. The Testing Center, assisted by academic counselors, administer and interpret the ASSET tests. Prior to its implementation, a college-wide task force studied whether it could be used effectively at Sinclair; the task force concluded that the program would strongly enhance the quality of assessment services for entering students. Beginning in October of 1993, the College began using computer adaptive placement testing (ACCUPLACER) became the basic skills testing instrument.  

* English as a Second Language

All new full- and part-time students intending to pursue a degree or certificate follow the new student enrollment process that includes basic skills assessment, orientation information, academic advising and registration. English, reading and mathematics assessment tests are administered and results are used to make recommendations about specific courses students should take. Students who are not functioning at the college level in basic skills are required to take appropriate developmental studies courses before enrolling in other classes. Students complete a form stating their specific educational plans and related needs or concerns.

DIAGNOSTIC TESTING

Most programs use the results of the ACCUPLACER assessments in English, reading, and mathematics as a basis for recommending course placement to students. A few programs use additional instruments for diagnostic and/or placement validation purposes. For example, the Automotive Service Education Program (ASEP) gives candidates a Mechanical Reasoning Test. The English Department requires a writing sample from students on the first day of class; the sample verifies the placement of students who have registered for a specific English course based on their ACCUPLACER results. Students who have not participated in the ACCUPLACER program can decide whether to remain in the course or transfer to a more appropriate one.

The Nursing program requires applicants to take the PAX-RN Examination. Applicants to the Health Information Management program must also provide proof of their ability to type 35 words per minute with five errors or less. Ongoing analysis of ACCUPLACER data and student success rates may result in decisions to change the testing requirements for some of the programs in the Allied Health Division.

DEVELOPMENTAL STUDIES

The Developmental Studies Department offers courses in the basic skills of reading, English, and mathematics as well as courses in English as a Second Language (ESL), spelling and vocabulary, and college survival and study skills. Students are expected to achieve mastery levels of 80 percent on course objectives to receive passing grades. Follow-up studies are in progress to determine the retention and success of DEV students.

STUDENT PROGRESS TOWARD OBJECTIVES

LEARNING OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT

The Steering Committee on the Assessment of Student Learning and Development made the following recommendations relative to learning outcomes assessment issues.

  • The assessment of skills in general education and in the major should be mandatory for all degree-seeking students, but graduation should not be contingent upon the testing results.
  • Higher order skills such as critical thinking and knowledge/skills in a student's program of study should also be assessed as deemed appropriate by the department.
  • There should be neither logistical not monetary barriers to a student participating in learning outcomes assessment.

Assessment of general education skills should be considered as a counterpart to entry level assessment activities. This assessment information, when analyzed in reference to appropriate entry data can demonstrate changes in students' knowledge resulting from their experiences at Sinclair Community College. Analysis of basic skills, knowledge in the major, and general education skills prior to graduation should provide a viable means of documenting the school's and a given program's impact upon students' skills.

In order to analyze and document Sinclair's impact on students' skills, it is necessary to evaluate targeted skills when students complete their programs of study. Assessment of general education skills is necessary in order to determine whether growth and changes have occurred throughout the student's college experience. First and foremost, testing in general education skills would identify minimum competency in communication, writing and computational skills. It is also very important to assess other higher order skills such as critical thinking and knowledge/skills in a student's program of study. Additionally, despite the potential practical difficulties, students' actual written and oral communication skills should be assessed prior to graduation.

In addition to the assessment of general education skills prior to graduation, all degree-seeking students participate in a summative assessment of the cognitive, psychomotor, and/or affective skills relevant to their declared major or program of study. The selection, development, and implementation of appropriate methods are determined through the cooperative efforts of the department faculty, chairperson, advisory board members (if applicable), and the respective dean. The input of students, graduates, and employers may also be helpful.

Programs and departments desiring discipline specific learning outcomes assessment have designed appropriate assessment practices reflective of their goals and incurring minimal cost to a student. For example, a student may be required to complete a special project as part of a capstone course in a given area. The student would have to pay tuition fees, but the project itself does not require expenses beyond normal course materials costs.

Some of the options academic departments utilize, but are not limited to, are:

  • Commercially available, standardized national examinations.
  • A comprehensive examination developed by peers, faculty, and/or external evaluators.
  • Final projects evaluated by peers, faculty and/or external evaluators.
  • A comprehensive research paper or thesis.
  • Programmatic growth contracts.
  • Evaluation of psychomotor skills -- proficiency checks.
  • Formative and summative evaluations of student performance and attainment of skills by a group of program faculty members and/or external evaluators.
  • Oral, and/or written public and/or interpersonal communication skills assessment.
  • Evaluation of organizational skills such as "in-basket" projects, observation of simulated work experiences, etc.

Assessment strategies should effectively measure those skills and knowledge areas critical to a new graduate's successful entry into the work force or to university parallel programs. The resultant assessment outcomes will provide the desired information, feedback, and means of documentation which best serves the academic department in its continued efforts to improve the quality of the program and the students' educational experience at Sinclair.

The study of student stop-outs or drop-outs is logistically and philosophically appropriate to institutional retention efforts and therefore should be part of Sinclair's retention activities. Stop-out and drop-out students would not receive learning outcomes assessment because the purpose of learning outcomes assessment is to determine whether students have acquired the knowledge and/or skills which the respective college program required. If a student stops prior to completion of a program, she/he could not be expected to have gained the same level of achievement as a student who completes all degree or program requirements. Student assessment, and student attrition at key points in any program may signal the need for closer scrutiny, but learning outcomes assessment is geared toward the study of students who are in fact actually leaving upon completion of a program.

LEARNING OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT POLICY

All degree programs have clearly defined learning outcomes for student achievement directly related to the demonstration of knowledge and technical skills. The outcomes for each program are published and identify specific courses that are related to preparing students to attain each competency in the program. Accurate course placement and its implications for future retention was recognized by implementing a policy for mandatory entry level assessment and placement for all degree and certificate seeking students. A learning outcomes assessment of students' skills and abilities will provide valuable information for the enhancement of teaching and learning. Sinclair Community College has a responsibility to determine whether its graduates have acquired the skills necessary to participate effectively in society and in their chosen careers.

The following learning outcomes assessment policy was adopted by the Board of Trustees in July of 1990 and became effective in September of 1990:

  • All degree and certificate-seeking students must participate in a summative comprehensive assessment of the cognitive, psychomotor and/or affective skills relevant to their declared majors or programs of study. Such assessment requirements, procedures, methodologies,* and scheduling will be determined by the appropriate academic departments. In addition, all degree and certificate-seeking students must be assessed for general education skills prior to graduation.
  • The assessment steering committee recognizes that for assessment to be as successful as possible, formative assessment activities should take place throughout the students' programs which measure their progress in the learning and retention of specific skills (e.g. general education, critical thinking, major skills, etc.). While this policy recommends measuring students' outcomes near the completion of the program, all departments are encouraged to develop a more complete picture of students' progress with on-going assessment activities while attending Sinclair. It is also recognized that some departments may have a need for technical assistance to assist in developing summative as well as formative assessment practices.
  • Means for program assessment of student outcomes were developed by each department by the Spring of 1993 with college-wide implementation by 1995. The primary use of summative assessment results, in both general education skills and the program major, is for program improvement and ultimately student success.

    * See Assessment Methodologies.

GENERAL EDUCATION ASSESSMENT POLICY

In June of 1990 the Academic Council adopted minimum general education requirements for all degree seeking students. The Assessment Steering Committee recommended that the assessment of general education skills should be mandatory for all degree-seeking students, but graduation should not be contingent upon the assessment results.

The following policy was adopted by the Board of Trustees in July of 1990 and became effective in September of 1990:

  • All degree and certificate-seeking students must participate in a summative comprehensive assessment of the cognitive, psychomotor and/or affective skills relevant to their declared majors or programs of study. Such assessment requirements, procedures, methodologies,* and scheduling will be determined by the appropriate academic departments. In addition, all degree and certificate-seeking students must be assessed for general education skills prior to graduation.
  • The assessment committee recognizes that for assessment to be as successful as possible, formative assessment activities should take place throughout the students' programs which measure their progress in the learning and retention of specific skills (e.g. general education, critical thinking, major skills, etc.). While this policy recommends measuring students' outcomes near the completion of the program, all departments are encouraged to develop a more complete picture of students' progress with formative assessment activities while attending Sinclair. It is also recognized that some departments may have a need for technical assistance to assist in developing summative as well as on-going assessment practices.
  • Means for program assessment of student outcomes were developed by each department by the Spring of 1993 with college-wide implementation by 1995. The primary use of summative assessment results, in both general education skills and the program major, is for program improvement and ultimately student success.

A General Education Assessment Sub-Committee investigated methodologies to assess all degree seeking students' minimum competency in general education skills prior to graduation.

The minimum general education core curriculum requirements are contained on the following page.

Developments in the area of General Education including assessment tools, pilot studies and curriculum improvements are completely documented in the General Education Report. Contact the General Education Coordinator for details on obtaining this report.

MINIMUM GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL DEGREE SEEKING STUDENTS

LEARNING OUTCOMES *

An ability to express themselves clearly and logically in standard English both in written and oral form

Ability to think rationally, systematically and logically and to solve quantitative problems through proper means of analysis/synthesis.

An ability to understand our complex modern world and the social interactions which take place therein.

An ability to understand the role and applications of computers in today's society.

REQUIRED COURSES

At least two courses of written communications selected from one of the following sequences: ENG 111, 112, 113; ENG 131, 132; ENG 121, 122;

and

One course of oral communications selected from the Communication Arts courses.

One course of MAT at the 100 level or above or demonstrated proficiency via examination.

One course of humanities selected from the previously approved list;

and

One course of social science met by courses in PSY, SOC, PLS, HIS, GEO, ECO, HUM 115, SWK.

A computer theory/application course in a particular discipline, a component/module within a course, or a CIS course.

Presented by the Core Curriculum Subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee of Academic Council Fall, 1990.

THE SINCLAIR COMMUNITY COLLEGE GUARANTEE OF GRADUATE QUALITY

The Sinclair Guarantee of Graduate Quality gives graduates two guarantees they can count on:

1.  A guarantee of gransfer credit for graduates receiving Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees at Sinclair Community College, for entering a university parallel/transfer program with confidence.
2.  A guarantee of job competency for those wo hae obtained an Associate of Applied Science degree at the college and wish to enter a technical career program.

 

GUARANTEE OF TRANSFER CREDIT (AA AND AS DEGREES)

Sinclair Community College guarantees to its Associate of Arts and Associate of Science graduates the transfer of course credits to those Ohio colleges or universities which have articulation agreements with Sinclair Community College. The guarantee applies only to courses included in a written transfer/articulation plan which must be on file in the Academic Credit Assessment Information Center. Transfer must take place within twelve months of graduation.

Limitations on the total number of credits accepted in transfer, grades required, relevant grade-point average, and duration of transferability apply as stated in the catalog of the receiving institution.

If courses included in the articulation agreement are rejected by the college or the university, the graduate may take tuition-free alternate courses at Sinclair which are acceptable to the receiving college or university.

Cost of books, insurance, lab and activity fees, and other course related expenses are the responsibility of the graduate.

GUARANTEE FOR JOB COMPETENCY (AAS DEGREES)

Sinclair Community College guarantees to its Associate of Applied Science Degree graduates appropriate technical job skills identified in the learning outcomes for a specific degree. The guarantee applies only to graduates employed on a full-time basis directly related to the area of program concentration as certified by the Vice President for Instruction. Employment must commence within twelve months of graduation.

If an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) graduate is judged by his/her employer to be lacking in technical job skills identified by the learning outcomes for his/her specific degree program, the graduate will be provided up to nine tuition-free quarter credit hours of additional training by Sinclair Community College under the conditions of the guarantee policy. Cost of books, insurance, uniforms, lab and activity fees, and other course related expenses are the responsibility of the graduate and/or the employer.

SPECIAL CONDITIONS FOR THE AAS GUARANTEE

  1. The employer must:
    • Certify in writing that the employee is lacking job skills which relate directly to the Degree's learning outcomes.
    • Specify areas of deficiency within six months of the graduate's initial employment.
    • Develop a written educational plan for retraining in cooperation with the appropriate academic department at the college.
  2. Retraining will be limited to nine quarter hours of credit related to the identified skill deficiency and to those classes regularly scheduled during the period covered by the retraining plan and must be completed within a calendar year from the time the educational plan is agreed upon.
  3. The guarantee does not imply that the graduate will pass any licensing or qualifying examination for a particular career.