Replace GPT with higher language course standards

Last month, the University’s student Senate passed a resolution to eliminate the Graduation Proficiency Test as a requirement for graduation. Now, it is up to administrators to approve the resolution. Despite claims that the GPT helps students and faculty members by providing an accurate measurement of proficiency in a foreign language, the necessity of the GPT is questionable. To accurately assess a student’s proficiency, a better solution would be to dispense with the GPT and, if necessary, raise the standards in the classroom.
Taking two years to complete a foreign language requirement is already a large time investment for students, despite the argument that two years of study is required to provide the student with the basic knowledge of a language. A single history or philosophy course does not necessarily grant the student the basic knowledge of history and philosophy. In these other cases, the classes are mere introductions, or discipline-specific overviews, such as the history of science. It is not the mission of the College of Liberal Arts to ensure students are fluent in all academic areas, but merely that they are familiar with the discourse and can speak in an intelligent manner regarding these disciplines. The two-year requirement for foreign languages demands a far greater investment than fulfilling other liberal education requirements. Without the GPT, students still dedicate a lot of time and effort to languages. Their dedication deserves acknowledgement without the added pressure, inconvenience and consequence of an exam.
Institute of Technology students take four semesters of calculus, but their aptitude for the language of mathematics is not tested by a single culminating exam. Its requirements are — ironically — less demanding than those of CLA. If the student passes all required calculus courses, they have achieved an adequate proficiency in the discipline. A similar method should be instituted for testing a student’s aptitude for a foreign language. This might require modification of teaching and testing methods but, nonetheless, students should be able to prove their proficiency in the classroom.
Critics of the resolution to eliminate the GPT state that the test originally lowered student apathy in the classroom. If students can glide by without applying themselves, then the solution is to implement more stringent standards in the classroom. Establishing a standard with a culminating exam is not as effective as requiring a constant standard of performance.
Currently, some students can cram for language tests in the classroom without retaining anything. There are better ways to solve this than through the GPT. Rather than promoting cramming by testing recent material, papers and tests should reflect a student’s overall knowledge while still providing a fair judgment of the most recent material in question.
Certainly, CLA should combat apathy, but retaining a comprehensive exam — the culmination of two years of study — is not the best method. Requiring students to pass the GPT to earn diplomas causes unnecessary stress, especially after a time-, money- and effort-intensive commitment of two years of study. If the test can be removed, while still encouraging students by raising the standard for course work, then administrators would be right to approve the resolution.