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10/03/2017 News Release Image

The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Can a 20-Minute Test Tell Employers What a College Degree Cannot?"

Goldie Blumenstyk from "The Chronicle of Higher Education" interviewed Pace President Marvin Krislov at their offices in Washington, D.C. She quotes him in her article about whether hiring practices should include tests and whether those tests can be more of a determining factor of employment readiness than a college degree. 

While sympathetic to the goals of these efforts, he worries that the tests, however well intentioned, could screen out good candidates too. "I would hope employers would have holistic hiring practices in the same way as colleges do in admissions," says Mr. Krislov, who was general counsel at the University of Michigan during its legal fights over affirmative action. Colleges teach in many ways, he adds, and "you can’t replace the set of experiences with a one-shot test."

 

From "The Chronicle of Higher Education:"

Can a 20-Minute Test Tell Employers What a College Degree Cannot?

By Goldie Blumenstyk 

OCTOBER 03, 2017 

 

When it comes to hiring, many employers still lean toward graduates from name-brand institutions. Yet those employers don’t entirely trust what a college degree represents. Does it really mean you can get the job done?

More and more, their answer is no.

That’s a problem, and some education groups and companies think they have a way to fix it. Their idea: simple tests that employers can use to measure whether college graduates and others are really ready for the jobs they apply for.

Few of the backers of these tests say — not publicly, at least — that their assessments would replace the degree and everything it signals. But they do argue that the assessments, often taking no more than 20 minutes to complete, can make up for information that the degree doesn’t seem to communicate. And, they say, the tests could also help to level the playing field in hiring.

Too many graduates "don’t get a shot at the high-value jobs they should be getting," says Roger Benjamin, president of the Council for Aid to Education. "That’s a big deal in a liberal democracy."

Fifteen years ago, the council created the Collegiate Learning Assessment, now called CLA+, a standardized test that measures graduates’ thinking and communication skills. Now the group is one of several educational organizations working to develop a screening test to assure employers that job applicants have the critical reasoning and writing skills employers want from applicants with a bachelor’s degree. At the urging of Mr. Benjamin, who has been quietly crusading on this issue for several years, the council is studying whether it could adapt its CLA+ into a leaner, employer-friendly version.

"It’s not a direct attack on the institutions or the B.A.," says Mr. Benjamin. He sees it instead as a way to open up opportunities at less-selective institutions "and the human capital they represent."

A short test is essential. The CLA+ takes 90 minutes to complete, and it is scored by humans. The council is weighing a version, scored by machine, that would take about a third of the time to complete.

That’s because most employers won’t consider requiring anything longer than about 20 minutes at the first stage of hiring for fear of alienating potential applicants, says Monica Herk, vice president for education research at the Committee for Economic Development. The 75-year-old organization, now part of the business-focused Conference Board, is promoting the use of an easily administered screening test that it hopes will be "a game changer for low- and middle-income job applicants, for employers, and ultimately for the postsecondary sector."

"We’re not claiming to measure everything that colleges teach by any means," says Ms. Herk. The experiment is known as the Essential Competencies Project and is backed by several education-focused foundations. The project has begun to enlist employers who will administer an existing assessment and then measure whether it is a better screening tool than standard information, including academic credentials.

The project has already identified the online test it will ask employers to use, but Ms. Herk declined to name it. The test measures what the companies consider foundational skills, "not whether you can program Python," says Ms. Herk, and will be used by companies hiring for so-called middle- and high-skill jobs. (High-skill jobs are those in which 80 percent of the current occupants have a bachelor’s degree; middle-skill jobs are those in which 80 percent don’t.)

The goal is to see if the assessment "provides a more precise signal" than a degree would in identifying people who perform well in their jobs and stick around for a while, Ms. Herk says. "Is it a complete assessment of what they learned? No, it isn’t. But right now, employers are judging on much less."

Like Mr. Benjamin, she sees the screening test as a way to bring more fairness into the hiring system. When employers rely on the prestige of a college to determine who gets considered for jobs, says Ms. Herk, it "reinforces all sorts of socioeconomic inequalities in our country."

Holistic Hiring?

None of this activity is taking place in a vacuum. Companies and others already spend $1 billion a year on hiring assessments. But most of that testing identifies whether applicants have skills for a specific job, not whether they are critical thinkers. And those targeted tests come into play later in the hiring process, not at the screening stage. That’s because under fair-employment laws, employers can’t use tests unless they are relevant to the job.

The interest in finding an ideal pre-hire screening test comes because companies and public-policy groups are concerned that employers rely too heavily on the bachelor’s degree as a screen for filling jobs, even when the jobs themselves don’t require that level of skills. It also arises from a broader societal push for more hiring based on proven competencies rather than academic pedigrees, with companies like Google and Ernst & Young having famously declared that they would no longer require a degree. A 2015 survey from Gallup found that only 13 percent of Americans strongly agree that college graduates in this country are well prepared for success in the workplace.

At the same time, higher education has begun rethinking the way it recognizes students’ skills. More institutions have turned to competency-based degree programs or the use of badges and other new forms of credentials to signal students’ skills to employers and others.

Still, the idea of using simple tests from outside parties as a check on the college degree opens up a potential new challenge to the value of a college education, even if the test advocates insist they’re not looking to use these assessments as a stand-in for the degree itself.

To be sure, the degree still matters. Employers pay a premium in salary for people with bachelor’s degrees, says Sean Gallagher, who studies credentials and hiring issues as executive director of Northeastern University’s new Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. But the interest in these tests, he says, is another sign that "people are trying to break the monopoly" higher education has in certifying job candidates.

The move toward general pre-hiring screening tests has drawn a mixed response from some education leaders and others who study the employment scene.

Marvin Krislov, who was formerly president of Oberlin College, is now president at Pace University, which is less selective. While sympathetic to the goals of these efforts, he worries that the tests, however well intentioned, could screen out good candidates too. "I would hope employers would have holistic hiring practices in the same way as colleges do in admissions," says Mr. Krislov, who was general counsel at the University of Michigan during its legal fights over affirmative action. Colleges teach in many ways, he adds, and "you can’t replace the set of experiences with a one-shot test."

But in this era, by some estimates, job openings attract an average of 250 applications, and employers spend about six seconds reviewing each one. Digitized applicant-tracking systems and automated keyword searches for screening résumés do much of the initial dirty work. If there’s holistic hiring taking place, it often comes much later in the process.

And winning over employers and applicants won’t be easy.

"There’s a lot of appeal to the notion of a leveling across brands" of colleges, says Matthew Sigelman, chief executive at Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job-ad data. But Burning Glass hasn’t seen much interest in tests that aren’t skill-specific.

He points to the National Career Readiness Certificate, or NCRC, a credential that students can earn through ACT’s WorkKeys program, which is used primarily by high schools and community colleges. In 2016, only 4,831 job postings called for the certificate, out of nearly 26 million unique job postings analyzed by Burning Glass.

(An ACT spokesman says much of the demand for the test comes from employers working directly with ACT and local colleges to fill particular employment gaps, so many of those jobs don’t necessarily appear in the Burning Glass analysis.)

"Skills are more easily evaluated in context," says Mr. Sigelman. He questions whether tests of general college-level skills can gain currency in the hiring marketplace. They’ll have to crack the chicken-and-egg cycle, he says. "Employers aren’t going to ask for something for which there isn’t a lot of supply," he says. And "learners don’t want a certificate no one asked for."

Corporate Upstarts

None of that is discouraging to advocates like Mr. Benjamin of the Council for Aid to Education. Two-thirds of the jobs that call for a bachelor’s degree require the kinds of problem-solving, critical-thinking, and writing skills that the CLA+ has reliably measured for 15 years, he says. The Italian version of the CLA+ has already been used in hiring there, he notes.

It’s hardly alone. Indeed, Suzana Delanghe, chief commercial officer at ACT, says that the number of people passing the three 40-to-60-minute tests required for the NCRC credential has grown steadily over the past five years. (More than 488,000 people earned the certificate in 2016.) "There is a huge demand to find a standardized test" that communicates applicants’ skills to employers, especially overseas, she contends.

Several newer companies on the hiring-assessment scene say they are trying to deal with the same hiring-preference issues that Mr. Benjamin’s and Ms. Herk’s efforts aim to address.

These newcomers include:

  • Koru, a "predictive hiring" company, sells an assessment to companies that it says can evaluate potential employees based on seven competencies. Josh Jarrett, a co-founder, says its "grit over grades" evaluation is a way to test if a candidate will "be effective when there’s not a syllabus anymore."
  • Pymetrics, a company founded by two neuroscientists, provides a series of 12 online games, taking one to three minutes each, that companies can use to screen applicants’ suitability for jobs. Pymetrics now works with more than 40 companies, and at least one, Unilever, is using the gamified testing system as a first screen for all of its entry-level hiring, rather then visit a select number of college campuses. Frida Polli, a co-founder, says she created the company after seeing "the mess that was recruiting" while at business school, to bring more "objectivity and fairness" into the process.
  • EquitySim, a start-up, provides students and others the chance to simulate the experience of investing a multimillion-dollar portfolio, while underlying software evaluates them on the steps they took in making their decisions. Now used in more than 220 college classes, EquitySim is both an educational tool for professors and a screening tool for several investment banks that work with the company to identify promising job candidates. Justin Ling, a 29-year-old recent graduate of Simon Fraser University, says he co-founded the company in 2016 because he was frustrated that the "brand name of your school matters a lot when comes to investment banking." Mr. Ling says he hopes to expand EquitySim’s scope to other industries and eventually create a simulation that would allow students to demonstrate their skills directly to employers.

All of these efforts bear watching, says Northeastern’s Mr. Gallagher. "It’s a hot market right now," he notes, and while the ramifications for colleges are not clear, there’s no doubt that there will be some.

"It’s hard to say the degree is completely broken and going the way of the dodo," he says. But this movement shows, he says, that "there are some cracks in the foundation."

Goldie Blumenstyk writes about the intersection of business and higher education. Check out www.goldieblumenstyk.com for information on her new book about the higher-education crisis; follow her on Twitter @GoldieStandard; or email her at goldie@chronicle.com.

Read the article on the website of "The Chronicle of Higher Education."

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Alumni Mike Adenuga ranks 3rd in "Business Insider's" world's richest black billionaires of 2018

02/26/18

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Alumna Andrea Marra wants to be NY’s first transgender state senator featured in "City and State New York"

02/26/18

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Vanya Quinones has been appointed provost of Pace University, effective July 1, 2018

02/26/18

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Executive director of Pace University’s publishing program in Dyson College of Arts and Sciences and president of the Women’s National Book Association Jane Kinney-Denning featured article in "Publishers Weekly" speaks out on sexual harassment

02/26/18

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Pace Law School Alumni Kerry Lutz featured story in "Newsmax Finance" speaking about the Rise and Fall of Bitcoin

02/26/18

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Jessica Bacher, executive director of Pace University’s Land Use Law Center featured in "Westchester Business Journal" talking about the new “Land Use Development Playbook”

02/21/18

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Pace University Business Marketing and Management major Angilee Sewkarran answers questions about getting into college in "Westchester Magazine"

02/21/18

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President Marvin Krislov profiled in "Westchester Magazine" speaking about "How to Get Into College"

02/21/18

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Pace University graduate Nabiyah Be feature film debut "Black Panther" featured in "Westchester Magazine"

02/21/18

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Pace University's theater alumna Nabiyah Be superhero role in "Black Panther" featured in "Caribbean Life"

02/21/18

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Schimmel Center presents New York Theatre Ballet in Mother Goose on Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. featured in "Broadway World"

02/21/18

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Professor Bennett Gershman from New York’s Pace University Law School is quoted in "Bloomberg" about jury's verdicts

02/21/18

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Pace University is offering new donor funded scholarships featured in "Westmore News"

02/21/18

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Pace University announced it is offering new donor-funded scholarships that will benefit incoming honors students, called the "Opportunity Scholarship" featured in the "Gazette"

02/21/18

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Pace University has hired communications strategists Marie Ternes and Jesse Oxfeld featured in "The Holmes Report"

02/20/18

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"The New York Times" Highlights Increase in Pace Applicants and New Scholarships for New York Students by David W. Chen

02/20/18

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Pace Students Rally in Albany for Student Aid Funding During the Annual New York Student Aid Alliance Advocacy Day with More than 1,000 High School and College Students from Across New York featured in "Pleasantville Patch"

02/20/18

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Mimi Rocah, Pace Law's & Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice, was interviewed on MSNBC's 11th Hour on possible Russian election interference

02/20/18

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Pace School of Performing Arts acting alumna Nabiyah Be makes her film debut in “Black Panther” featured in "Pleasantville Daily Voice"

02/16/18

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Pace School of Performing Arts acting alumna Nabiyah Be makes her film debut in “Black Panther,” the mega-hit movie produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures featured in "Pleasantville Patch"

02/16/18

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Darrin Porcher, a law enforcement professor at Pace University spoke to Fox 5 about reporting odd or threatening behavior to police

02/16/18

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Assistant Professor Brenna Hassinger-Das, a psychologist at Pace University who leads Urban Thinkscape is featured in "Smithsonian" transforming public spaces into places where kids and their caregivers could engage in “playful learning"

02/16/18

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Professor Jay Duckworth from Pace Performing Arts is props master on Hamilton and more at The Public Theater in NYC featured in "Broadway World"

02/16/18

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Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University Benjamin Ferencz keynote address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 25th anniversary dinner on Jan. 30 featured in "Palm Beach Post"

02/16/18

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Karl Rabago, executive director of the Pace University Energy and Climate Center in New York at The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University is featured in the "Houston Chronicle" about Oklahoma wind power

02/16/18

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Former Rockette, Performing Arts Adjunct Professor in the Commercial Dance Department at Pace University Holly Evans is set to teach a series of free, 'Rockette-style' Dance Master Classes hosted by The Connection on Sunday, February 25 featured in "Tap Into Summit"

02/16/18

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Legal expert Bennett Gershman of Pace University Law School is featured in "Courier Journal" with other legal experts

02/16/18

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Economic development and business advocacy group Westchester County Association has teamed with Pace University's Land Use Law Center to put together the Land Use Development Playbook featured in "Bisnow"

02/16/18

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John R. Nolon, Distinguished Professor of Law at Pace University, wrote a Blog about Low Carbon Land Use in "Law Professor Blogs Network"

02/16/18

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Press Release: Pace Alumna Shines in Black Panther Nabiyah Be plays criminal associate to Erik Killmonger in the highly anticipated Black Panther film

02/16/18

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Marie Ternes and Jesse Oxfeld have joined Pace University as Executive Director of Media Relations and Director of Executive Communications featured in "Pleasantville Patch"

02/16/18

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Mimi Rocah, distinguished criminal justice fellow at Pace’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law opened a conference at Pace Law titled “Child Sex Trafficking – It’s Happening in Westchester County.” featured in "Westchester Rising"

02/14/18

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Christen Cupples Cooper, Ed.D., R.D.N., assistant professor and founding director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the College of Health Professions at Pace University is quoted in "Aaptiv" speaking about small diet changes

02/14/18

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Pace University's Dean of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law David Yassky and Professor Bennett L. Gershman are featured in "Politico Magazine" with an opinion piece on "Trump Can Fire Mueller, But Not a Grand Jury"

02/14/18

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Pace University's Schimmel Center Presents Niyaz: The Fourth Light Project featured in "Broadway World"

02/14/18

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Psychologists at Pace University found that couples with similar texting styles were happier in their relationships overall than their counterparts featured in "Romper"

02/14/18

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Pace Dyson College of Arts and Sciences Psychology Professor Leora Trub explains why texting in relationships is so complicated featured in "Business Insider"

02/14/18

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First Tech Challenge "Lego League Tournament" Sponsored by Pace's Seidenberg School of Computer Science Featured on "News 12" and "Pleasantville Patch"

02/13/18

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Bennett Gershman, Professor of Law, is featured in "Law & Crime" with an opinion piece on "Star Prosecutor Turned TV Commentator Just Got Caught Doing Some Dirty Tricks"

02/13/18

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Cindy Kanusher, executive director of the Pace Women’s Justice Center at Pace University Law School is featured in "Westchester Magazine" about sexual harassment

02/13/18

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Audrey Hoover, Director of Pace's University Health Care in the College of Health Professions, Quoted in Story on Flu Prevention

02/12/18

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Kyle Coker, adjunct professor at Pace University in Commercial Acting, joins Binder as Sr. Casting Directors featured in "Broadway World"

02/12/18

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Jonathan Ohadi and fellow researchers at Pace University explored the use of text messaging for ongoing maintenance in romantic relationships featured in "The Vindicator"

02/12/18

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Pace University President Marvin Krislov featured in "E-Learning Inside News"

02/12/18

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Pace University sponsored a gala celebrating Black activism in "Workers World" featuring Monica Moorehead and Karina Ross, vice-president of Pace University’s BSU, Feb. 1

02/12/18

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Pace University chose to expand its support for the Pace Women’s Justice Center in "Westchester Magazine"

02/12/18

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Christen Cupples Cooper, EdD, RDN, assistant professor and founding director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the College of Health Professions at Pace University is quoted in "Reader's Digest" about Cooking Mistakes

02/12/18

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Christen Cupples Cooper, Ed.D., RD, the director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at Pace University’s College of Health Professions is quoted in "Men's Health" about healthful shopping at the best prices

02/12/18

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President Marvin Krislov profiled in Education Dive as a champion for diversity and access

02/08/18

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Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law Professor Mimi Rocah is featured in the Journal News regarding child sex trafficking

02/08/18

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Pace University's Law Professor Mimi Rocah talks with Brian Williams on MSNBC about possible interview of President Trump by the Special Counsel and how prosecutors plan for interviews by knowing their facts & witnesses

02/07/18

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Pace University President Marvin Krislov has announced that Vanya Quiñones, Ph.D., a neurobiologist and biopsychologist will assume the role of Provost of Pace, effective July 1 featured in Daily Voice

02/06/18

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Pace University’s new ‘Opportunity Scholarship’ for students from New York entering its Pforzheimer Honors College responds to free public college tuition featured in Westchester County Business Journal

02/06/18

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Press Release: Pace University Hires Marie Ternes and Jesse Oxfeld

02/06/18

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Pace University President Marvin Krislov has announced that Vanya Quiñones will assume the role of Provost of Pace, effective July 1, 2018 in the Pleasantville Patch

02/05/18

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Law School Professor Bennett Gershman's opinion piece on "Why Do Police Defendants Want to be Tried by Judges, and Not By Juries?" in Law & Crime

02/05/18

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Pace Law School professor Mimi Rocah speaks with Richard French on RNN about the impending release of the Nunes memo

02/05/18

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Press Release: Pace University President Marvin Krislov Names Neurobiologist Vanya Quiñones as New Provost

02/05/18

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Online Learning Successes (The New York Times)

02/02/18

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Pace University Announces New Scholarship for Honors Students who are New York State Residents

02/02/18

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These Dogs Are Solving Cybercrimes (Westchester Magazine)

02/01/18

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Third Public Workshop Set for Tarrytown’s Comprehensive Plan (The Hudson Independent)

02/01/18

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Richard Foreman’s Avant-garde Piece ‘Lava’ is Reconstructed in ‘In the depths of LAVA’ in New York City (Huffington Post)

02/01/18

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Florida High School Students Performed a Musical About Publix (Food & Wine)

02/01/18

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FBI: 'Grave Concerns' About Accuracy of Classified Russia-Linked Surveillance Memo (Voice of America)

02/01/18

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Law firm eyes Wynn Resorts for possible securities fraud (Boston Herald)

01/31/18

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State of the Union: what to look for from Donald Trump (Financial Times)

01/31/18

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Fatal high school stabbing leaves Westchester enclave shaken to its core (New York Post)

01/31/18

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WNBC: Students and President Krislov Sing New York's Praises

01/29/18

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INTERN BLOG: I did It! (Z100)

01/29/18

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Different Ways to Get More Fiber in Your Diet: Does Added Fiber Count? (VeryWell)

01/29/18

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Amsterdam to Teaneck to London: Lost Tefillin Returned Thanks to Social Media’s Jewish Community (Jewish Link)

01/29/18

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RNN's Richard French speaks with Pace Law School Professor Mimi Rocah about child sex trafficking occurring just outside of New York City

01/25/18

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Pleasantville Names New Administrator (Patch)

01/24/18

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Amazon gives in to Massachusetts tax officials and agrees to turn over third-party seller data (CNBC)

01/24/18

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CBSI Digital Architect Not ‘Just a Media Guy’ (Broadcasting & Cable)

01/22/18