CLA panel votes today on GPT options

by Jenna Ross

The College of Liberal Arts Assembly will vote today whether to modify CLA students’ second-language requirement, dropping the Graduation Proficiency Test.

If a proposal created by the college’s committee on second language education passes, CLA students will no longer have to pass the GPT to graduate.

The plan also defines the role of a new standardized test, the language proficiency exam, which students would not be required to take.

The curriculum instruction and advising committee unanimously approved the proposal Dec. 18, said Arlene Carney, associate dean for academic programs in CLA.

The CLA Assembly, the college’s elected body and legislative arm , will vote on the modification of the second language requirement today, said Carney, who has played a guiding role in the proposal’s process.

“Through the entire process, the goal has been to improve the curriculum,” Carney said.

“There’s logical reasoning behind this proposal,” said Dan Weiske, former CLA Student Board president and current Student Senate chairman. “The students who serve on these boards are excited about it.”

Nine undergraduates sit on the CLA Assembly, the 78 members of which also include faculty and professionals.

If the assembly approves the proposal by a simple majority, it will go into effect immediately, Carney said. The Assembly can also reject the proposal or send it back to the curriculum committee for changes.

The CLA Assembly will decide if the college’s students will satisfy their second-language requirements in one of two ways. According to the proposal, these options include the “completion of a fourth-semester college language course with a grade of C- or better or S at the University of Minnesota or equivalent course to demonstrate functional language proficiency; or certified proficiency, demonstrated by passing the language proficiency exam.”

“From the entire concept to the wording, we were very careful,” Carney said. “We consulted and got support from the department chairs, the faculty and the instructors at every step along the way.”

In earlier meetings and communications, faculty members discussed this exact language of the proposal.

In a letter to the curriculum committee, Asian language and literature professor Joe Allen expressed concern about the phrase “or equivalent course.”

“To establish equivalency of a course, especially in difficult Asian languages, is difficult,” Allen said. “We discussed the issue, and I hope that if the proposal passes, we find a good way to judge that equivalency.”

Carney said the modified requirements put the focus on an understanding of a different language and culture – not a test.

The move from the GPT to the voluntary language proficiency exam works for the same goal, Carney said.

“We want to have a low-risk exam rather than a high-risk examination,” Carney said. “Right now, the GPT is very high-risk.”

The language proficiency exam tests the same reading, writing, listening and speaking standards as the GPT, but under the proposed change it will not be required to graduate.

Students who choose to take the test and pass will be credited in their transcripts.

“Ninety-seven percent of students who take the GPT pass,” Carney said. “We want to make sure that those students are rewarded with a special line on their transcripts.”

Carney said she hopes current students who have already passed the GPT will earn similar recognition.

“All of this will require a lot of change,” Carney said. “We’ll see how quickly the registrar can gear up.”