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Calvin Ranks High in ISI Study
September 27, 2006

Calvin College ranks third in the country at adding to student understanding of American history and essential institutions according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute project.

The study was administered by the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy. In it college freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities, including Calvin, were asked 60 multiple choice questions about America's history and its government, about America and the world and about the market economy.

Calvin College professor Doug Howard is chair of the school's history department and says the improvement at Calvin can be credited to a "classic liberal arts education."

He says: "We have a required course in world history at Calvin which certainly puts American history into a global context. But our students also take courses in political science, economics and many more. Even a course in American literature or a sociology course on American diversity contributes to a student understanding of America's history, its government and how this country fits into the world."

The study showed schools where students took more courses in American history, political science, and economics outperformed those schools where fewer courses were completed. The study also showed that students who demonstrated greater learning of America's history and institutions were more engaged in citizenship activities such as voting, volunteer community service, and political campaigns.

Calvin was among a group of 50 colleges and universities surveyed as part of the ISI project. The goal was to see which schools showed improvement from freshman to senior year. The average overall score for college seniors was 53.2 percent, just 1.5 percent higher than the average overall score for freshmen, which was 51.7 percent. At almost one third of the schools freshmen scored higher than the seniors.

The top three schools in the study were Rhodes (with a +11.6% difference between seniors' scores and freshmen scores), Colorado State (+10.9%) and Calvin (where the difference between seniors and freshmen was +9.5%).

Grove City College was fourth at +9.4% and the University of Colorado was fifth at +8.9%. Spring Arbor, another Michigan school, was sixth at +8.3%.

An op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal notes that: "Among college seniors, less than half--47.9%--correctly concluded that 'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal' was from the Declaration of Independence. More than half did not know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the governmental establishment of an official religion, and 55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end (more than one quarter believing that it was the Civil War battle of Gettysburg that had ended the Revolution)."