Six Community Colleges Receive Recognition for Increases in Student Success

Six community colleges in the ATD Network have earned Leader College status, a designation awarded to institutions that have shown measurable progress in areas critical to improving success for all community college students. 

“I’m very proud to recognize a new group of Achieving the Dream Network colleges that are advancing equity, offering a more impactful student experience, and achieving stronger, measurable results,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “ATD Leader Colleges’ gains in student success and progress toward improving outcomes for all students make them examples for their peers.”

The following colleges have earned Leader College status for the first time in 2018:

  • Anne Arundel Community College (MD)
  • Central Alabama Community College (AL)
  • Grayson College (TX)
  • Roane State Community College (TN)
  • Western Technical College (WI)
  • West Hills Lemoore (CA)

These colleges showed institution-wide improvement in critical areas including completion of Gateway math and/or English in a student’s first year, persistence from Year 1 to Year 2 (fall-to-fall retention), courses attempted/completed with a C- or higher grade within one year of initial enrollment, and completion of a certificate or degree within four years of initial enrollment.

Each of the six colleges selected by ATD to receive the Leader College designation excelled in their work to improve in areas critical to student success. Examples follow.

Anne Arundel Community College undertook a planning process where commitment to equity, pathways, and completion served as the framework for developing their new strategic plan. Nearly 37 percent of their students taking course for credit were nonwhite students in fall 2017. Part of their work was the administration of ATD’s Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT). The ICAT results allowed the leadership team to understand the mindset of different groups. Strategies were then created to address concerns raised by faculty and staff within each of the seven capacity areas addressed in the ICAT. To help guide and focus their work, the college adapted Achieving the Dream’s definition: “Equity is grounded in the principle of fairness. Equity refers to ensuring that each student receives what they need to be successful through the intentional design of the college experience.” The result of all these efforts was a new strategic plan, Engagement Matters: Pathways to Completion (FY 2017–2020). They were successful in increasing completion and closing equity gaps with the percentage of students who earned a credential within four years (4 percent increase). They also increased their fall-to-fall persistence metric, which increased from 54 percent to 58 percent.

Central Alabama Community College has strived to create an educational environment that fosters student success. With the co-curricular efforts of the Instructional and Student Services Divisions and campus wide collaborative efforts with IE and IT, the college saw an upward trend in two student success metrics: persistence from Year 1 to Year 2 and completion of certificate or degree within four years. Their strategic initiatives have included establishment of career paths to encompass all educational tracks for Adult Education, Career Technical Education, and Academic Transfers, Fall 2017, implementation of mandatory advising for all incoming freshmen and transition to faculty advising, Fall 2015, adoption of mandatory registration in the Orientation and Student Success Course for all degree and long-term certificate programs, Fall 2015, implementation of Summer Boot Camp, Summer 2014, and Adoption and implementation of Full Measure Education, Inc. technology.

After participating in ATD’s 2014 DREAM convening, Grayson College merged the work of Achieving the Dream with its strategic planning processes, integrating the student success work of ATD with the college’s strategic plan. In spring 2016, the college administered ATD’s ICAT and held a World Café. Utilizing the ICAT results, the college engaged faculty, staff, and administrators in a complete review of its capacities identifying its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. The college has implemented a cross functional team, G8, which meets weekly to review tactical and strategic issues. They take time to pause, formulate future action plans, and review changes that have been implemented to identify improvements. They saw great progress. For example, over the next four years, the percentages of students who completed both Gateway math and English in their first year rose 5 percent, (from 12 percent to 17 percent; fall-to-fall persistence rose 8 percent (from 44 percent to 51 percent); and four-year completion rates rose 5 percent, from 15 percent to 20 percent. The Grayson has immersed itself fully in Pathways practices, has a Board of Trustees devoted to innovation regarding student success and completion, and in general, has been dedicated holistically to addressing different capacities that need improvement.

In addition to increasing both their NSC and IPEDs three-year graduation rates by four percentage points and eight percentage points respectively, Roane State Community College reduced its equity gaps for Black and Hispanic students and Pell recipients in the areas of Gateway math & English and for Hispanic and Pell recipients for fall-to-fall persistence. With the development of the ATD Implementation Plan in 2015, the college created a roadmap, included in its 2015-2025 strategic plan, for the accomplishment of a success agenda including mileposts for transforming student support and academic success. Transformation required significant changes to long-standing policies and practices for remedial education, on-boarding of entering students, academic advisement, and scheduling. Many of these changes were especially challenging to bring to scale at an institution with nine campuses in two time zones; however, results have been transformative. The transition from a traditional model of remediation to a co-requisite model has resulted in the academic gains reported in this application. The implementation of a one-on-one coaching model to onboard students at the campus of their choice, eliminating barriers of time and geography, has contributed to an increase in retention. More recent policy changes to keep students on the path to completion include implementation of mandatory academic advisement and development of data-driven, student-centered course scheduling. All of our strategies have been developed through engagement of cross-functional teams of faculty and staff with strong support from senior leadership.

Student success rates at Western Technical College are rising and achievement gaps are narrowing because of the institution’s equity-focused paradigm shift. Western’s new president stresses the importance of equity, emphasizing the institution’s obligation to address achievement gaps, and college leadership now relies on disaggregated student success data for decision-making. Since joining ATD, Western institutionalized a strategic plan that calls for eradicating achievement gaps; a Director of Diversity, Equity (DDEI), and Inclusion Services position; and an Equity Plan, detailing actions and timelines. Using the equity audit process recommended by ATD, Western rewrote policies and practices for clarity and alignment with student success. The DDEI updates college leadership regularly on ATD metrics including disaggregated student success data paired with population projections to underscore the importance of a focus on underserved populations. Western’s 2014 ATD Implementation Plan established an evidence-based vision for rapid institutional reform and an integrated, aligned, data-driven cross-college commitment to equity. Since then, student success rates have steadily risen.

West Hill College Lemoore reviewed its ATD ICAT in the fall of 2017, and credits the tool for being instrumental for the decision making process and capacity building within each of the areas addressed in the tool. As a result, the college implemented the Strong Framework - a visionary concept complementing the Guided Pathways Initiative, which prescribes activities, workshops, and intentional implementations to help students succeed. They are making considerable progress in areas such as  improving overall gateway course completion and persistence with six and seven percentage points overall respectively. They also improved overall completion and persistence rates for Hispanics, females, and other groups.

Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges are eligible to compete for all grant-funded learning initiatives and are encouraged to provide leadership and support to other colleges in the ATD national Network, disseminate lessons learned, support state and national efforts to advance the student success agenda, and continue to improve student outcomes. New for 2019, Network institutions must now be Leader Colleges in order to compete for Achieving the Dream’s top national award, the Leah Meyer Austin award, a $25,000 prize for an institution in the ATD Network that successfully implements whole-college approaches to improving student success and achieves notable increases in student outcomes.

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