Students reject proficiency test

by Liz Bogut

For many students in the College of Liberal Arts, four semesters of foreign language and a required proficiency test are just two more obstacles on the path toward graduation.
But soon, cramming for the foreign language Graduation Proficiency Test to earn a diploma could be a thing of the past.
The University’s Student Senate approved a resolution last month eliminating the GPT as a requirement for graduation. The resolution needs administrative approval before it can be enacted.
Jason Reed, Student Senate Consultative Committee chairman created the resolution. Reed is also a member of The Minnesota Daily Board of Directors.
“Two years of class time should be enough. It is redundant for students to take another test to prove themselves,” Reed said.
But Monica Eden, director of the CLA Language Center, said the proficiency test is a key component to how students learn foreign languages.
“Without an evaluation-based system, there is really no way to assess if students reached the required level, measure the effectiveness of the system or ensure a uniform standard,” Eden said.
The senate’s proposal made several arguments in favor of eliminating the GPT as a requirement for graduation:
ù Two years of class time should be a large enough time commitment for students.
ù Many students are anxious about standardized tests, which lowers test scores.
ù The final course in each language covers the same material as the GPT test.
ù Institute of Technology students are required to take four semesters of calculus and are allowed to progress without a proficiency test.
“I support the test because it does have a value and a function,” said Ann Waltner, associate dean of CLA. “But I do acknowledge that it is a big source of stress for students.”
According to a document prepared by members of the Committee on Second Language Education, the GPT was first adopted in 1986 on the recommendation of a task force.
After the implementation of the GPT, the task force determined the test had beneficial effects on student and instructor performance.
Before the GPT was used, student apathy in courses was high and class sizes were large, the document stated. The test gives students a meaningful goal to reach at the end of two years of language study.
Aaron Street, SSCC vice chairman, said the senate passed the resolution on to University President Mark Yudof for approval.
“If it doesn’t go through this time, we will collect more information and continue to work with students, faculty and administration to try to get this passed as soon as possible,” Street said.
Street said it is very important the SSCC do everything they can to get rid of a test that is needlessly stressful for students.

Liz Bogut covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.