The Collegiate Learning Assessment (which includes the CLA, CCLA, and CLA+ assessment initiatives) was developed by the Council for Aid to Education to provide colleges with a means to measure their ability to improve the critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving and written communication skills of their students from when they enter as freshmen to when they exit upon graduation.

Students today can no longer rely solely on mastery of discipline-based information. They need to be able to analyze and evaluate information, solve problems, and communicate effectively. Beyond just accumulating facts, they must be able to access, structure, and use information.

CAE has pioneered the use of performance-based tasks in our Collegiate Learning Assessment to evaluate critical thinking skills of college students. CLA+ measures critical thinking, problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, writing, and the ability to critique and make arguments.

Over 700 institutions—both in the United States and internationally—have used the Collegiate Learning Assessment to benchmark value-added growth in student learning at their college or university compared to other institutions.

Each year the CLA is administered to samples of freshmen and seniors at over 150 colleges across the United States. This allows individual colleges to put the performance of their students in the context of the performance of all other colleges and students participating in that year's CLA. They can see if the amount of change they observe in their students from the freshman to senior years is as expected compared with that observed at other colleges with similar characteristics, (e.g., public/private, small/medium/large, non-minority-serving/minority-serving, or bachelors/masters/doctoral), and with students of similar entering academic abilities as indicated by their high school SAT and ACT scores.

Colleges need to use this contextualizing information when assessing their results and in interpreting the differential performance of groups of students within their own college.

When the CLA is administered at community colleges, it is referred to as the CCLA. The assessment tasks that the students take are the same as that of the CLA, but the comparator schools consist of other associates degree institutions only.

For more information on the CLA, the following links within the Council for Aid to Education website are recommended.