July 1 marked the end of the College-Level Academic Skills Test (CLAST) for Florida colleges and universities. The Legislature has effectively dropped the T from the abbreviation, USF Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield said, removing the test as an option for students to satisfy the College-Level Academic Skills (CLAS) requirements.
In order to earn an AA degree, students must meet CLAS requirements by either scoring a 500 on the verbal and math portions of the SAT or earning a 2.5 GPA in two required math and English courses.
Though the CLAST has been dropped as a third option, the Board of Governors has already replaced it with the College Entry-Level Placement Test (CPT). It’s a temporary solution, but Besterfield said he believes it will become a long-term one.
The Legislature has essentially done nothing but replace one test with another. Even if the CPT does not become a permanent CLAS requirement, some kind of test will be the likely successor to the CLAST. The state hasn’t given universities more freedom, it has given them more work by forcing them to find a test equivalent to the old.
The CPT is no better at determining whether a college student is worthy of an AA degree than the CLAST. Both tests have sections on reading, language skills and mathematics, but the CLAST has an essay portion, making the CPT an arguably easier test to pass.
While the CPT may be a challenge for students enrolled in community colleges, getting accepted to four-year state universities may be harder than passing the test.
According to state data, the CPT pass rate at universities like USF is usually 90 percent or better. Also, the CLAST was designed as an assessment of whether students had learned what was needed to earn an AA degree, while students must take the CPT before they can even start some courses.
Many USF students have the skills needed to pass the CPT before they even start their degree.
Because the CLAST was state-funded, eliminating it may be seen as an attempt to cut costs. But though the CPT was already in place, now that it can be used to meet CLAS
requirements, more students will be taking it. Rather than cutting costs, the Legislature will likely just be shifting funds from one test to the other.
The state’s decision has changed little, created more work for Florida’s colleges and universities, and possibly represents a reduction in educational standards.