Measures of Student Achievement
Reformed Theological Seminary has identified multiple measures for each of its seven degree programs to assess student success. These measures are 1) placement rates, 2) retention rates, 3) ordination exam pass rates, and 4) graduation rates. RTS evaluates and publishes thresholds of acceptability, goals, and outcomes for each of these measures.
Measure #1: Placement Rates – All Master’s Degree Programs
RTS tracks placement rates as a measure of student success for graduates from each of its masters-level programs. (This measure of success is not applicable to doctoral students, who are ordinarily required to be in a pastoral position upon admission.)
RTS considers a graduate as “placed” if he or she has entered a ministry-related vocation within six months of graduation. This six-month period is granted since, within the Reformed tradition, candidates for ministry often need time to complete ordination exams, which are normally administered only after the student obtains the degree. Placement rates are calculated for those known to be seeking a ministry position, counseling position, or further theological education. RTS’s identified thresholds and goals, along with actual outcomes, are presented in the charts below, disaggregated by degree program.
Threshold and Goals – Placement Rates
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Residential)||80%||95%|
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Online)||75%||85%|
Outcomes – Placement Rates
*Denotes a three-year average.
Measure #2: Retention Rates – All Degree Programs
RTS also uses retention statistics for measuring and improving student success. For purposes of this measure, RTS considers a student as “retained” if he or she has graduated or continues to be enrolled after completing two years of study, since the largest attrition historically occurs between years one and three. RTS’s identified thresholds and goals, along with actual outcomes, are presented in the charts below, disaggregated by degree program.
Thresholds/Goals – Two-Year Retention Rates
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Residential)||45%||70%|
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Online)||40%||60%|
Outcomes – Two-Year Retention Rates
|Degree||2017-18 Incoming Class||5-Year Average|
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Residential)||53%||65%|
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Online)||51%||55%|
Measure #3: First-Attempt Ordination Exam Pass Rate of All Sections – Master of Divinity
Seminary graduates that enter ordained ministry in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition are normally required to have a Master of Divinity degree and pass an extensive Presbytery ordination examination. This examination is traditionally separated into several sections, including Bible, Church History, Theology, Pastoral Practice, and Church Polity.
The Master of Divinity is RTS’s primary degree program, accounting for 50% of the seminary’s enrollment. Since the various sections of the examination required for ordination reflect the disciplines included within RTS’s MDiv curriculum, measuring ordination exam pass rates provides an important criterion for student success in RTS’s context.
RTS defines “ordination exam pass rate” as the percentage of MDiv graduates who pursued ordination and passed all sections of their ordination exam on the first attempt. This is an unusually high bar. The vast majority of students who do not pass all sections on the first attempt pass those sections on a second attempt and are subsequently ordained. RTS annually tracks every graduate who takes a denominational exam within six months of graduation and inquires as to which portions were passed. This tracking is confidential and is only used internally within RTS for educational assessment purposes, and it is useful to RTS to make curriculum adjustments as needed. RTS’s identified thresholds and goals, along with actual outcomes, are presented in the charts below.
First-Attempt Ordination Exam Pass Rate of All Sections Threshold – Goal
5-Year Average First-Attempt Ordination Exam Pass Rate of All Sections
Measure #4: Graduation Rates – All Degree Programs
Graduation rate is calculated on a six-year time frame for the MDiv and DMin degrees and a four-year time frame for all MA degrees. These time frames are defined by RTS’s theological accreditor (Association of Theological Schools).
While at first glace the graduation-rate thresholds and goals seem low, RTS welcomes part-time students in accordance with its mission. While these students may not be included in the technical graduation rate (if they have not graduated within the specified time frame), they do persist toward graduation at high rates. For example, although only 44% of MDiv students graduated within the six-year time frame, 69% graduated or continue to take courses in their seventh year.
RTS’s identified thresholds and goals, along with actual outcomes, are presented in the charts below, disaggregated by degree program.
Thresholds/Goals – Graduation Rates
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Residential)||15%||25%|
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Online)||5%||12%|
Outcomes – Graduation Rates
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Residential)*||23%||24%|
|MABS, MATS, MAR (Online)*||11%||10%|
*Data only available for a two-year average