Standardized test data show that at more than half of 100-plus colleges and universities, “at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Moreover, the average graduate of “some of the most prestigious flagship universities … shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.”

The Journal filed public-records requests for 2013-16 data from the nonprofit Council for Aid to Education’s College Learning Assessment Plus test, whose “full results … are seldom disclosed to the public.” The test requires using various documents “to answer questions, make a point or critique an argument.” The difference in a school’s average freshman and senior scores for the same academic year “is considered a valid way to reflect the value added during four years of college.”

Though the majority of students showed “measurable progress,” a third of seniors who didn’t is far too many. And schools “that added the most value aren’t necessarily highly ranked”: The University of Kentucky and the University of Texas at Austin “showed little improvement,” while New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University had “the biggest point gain.”

Half of employers surveyed by PayScale Inc. say college grads “aren’t ready for the workplace,” citing “poor critical-reasoning skills” as their top complaint. Until higher education refocuses on actual education, too many students won’t get their money’s worth.

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(c)2017 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

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