Students wishing to graduate on time may have an obstacle on the horizon in the form of a standardized test. The College Level Academic Skills Test, or CLAST as it is commonly referred to, is a test that seeks to bring college students that aren’t on college level to achieve college level knowledge.
It includes four subtests: essay, english language skills, reading and mathematics. A student must have made at least a 2.5 GPA in their basic core classes in order to be exempt. Other reasons for exemptions are tests such as ACT and SAT. This semester Michelle Jones, the institutional test administrator, and additional special administrators are preparing for the CLAST testing that will be held on Oct. 4, 2008, at 7 am.
Jones said 737 students have signed up for the test, including people who had taken the test before. “It will be held all over campus in several buildings,” Jones said. “It’s a lot of preparation for the test. We have to hire 25-30 employers to help administrate the test.”
Florida A&M University is the only institution in Florida that offers free testing for the CLAST, Jones explained. Other colleges charge between $30-45 per administration. She expressed sadness that students don’t take advantage of the free opportunities offered at FAMU. In addition, Jones said that students’ avoiding the test only hurts them.
“We are not trying to hurt or hold the students back,” Jones said. “We are trying to prevent them from taking the test by encouraging them to make a 2.5GPA their freshman year in their basic classes and to seek additional help in the labs.”
Some students argue that a “C” average in the core classes should be strong enough to avoid the CLAST. Their arguments are simple – if a “C” grade is passing, then why should they have to take the test? Other students, such as Brandi Johnson, a recent graduate with a BA in Political Science, beg to differ.
“I think its fair to take the CLAST even if you receive two “C’s” in each course,” Johnson said. “I took the test in English realizing it’s a certain standard. It’s a college level assessment test and it helps students get on that level.”
However, Dionne Watley, 22, a fourth-year political science student, said that if a “C” is considered passing within the department it should be good enough to graduate. Watley, a Jacksonville native, explained she took the CLAST for both reading and math and will be taking the math again this October.
“It’s easier to take the test where it’s free than to take the courses over and pay for it,” Watley said. “I thought when I made it to college I was done with standardized tests. It makes you feel the grades you made that were passable still weren’t good enough.”
Watley also said she feels the test is another hurdle for Florida students. She said she believes it’s similar to the FCAT. “I feel like I’m in high school again,” Watley said. “They drill you when registering for the test that if you don’t pass it then you can’t graduate.”
Jones explained that students should know their status from their departments and shouldn’t wait until the last minute to take the test. She said students should visit the CLAST office in the College of Education to sign-up.
“It’s sad to see students walk across the stage knowing their not going to get a diploma and have to fly or drive miles to take the test over and over,” Jones said. “Students shouldn’t wait until the semester upon graduation to take the test.”