Achieving the Dream Announces New Regional Professional Learning Communities Project

Project will align pathways from K-12 through college to careers

SILVER SPRING, MD—Achieving the Dream (ATD) announced a new regional Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) project aimed at strengthening the crucial role that community colleges play as connectors between education and employment. ATD will support four communities through the creation of PLCs that will bring together high school educators, community college faculty, workforce development professionals, community-based organizations, and employers. The four communities participating in this two-year initiative are in Genesee County, Michigan with Mott Community College; Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with Cuyahoga Community College; Tallahassee, Florida, with Tallahassee Community College; and Tyler, Texas, with Tyler Junior College.

“This effort anchors the next climb for our student success and equity work as community colleges recognize that to adopt an urgent and bold new access agenda and to build the capacity of our colleges to be hubs for catalyzing equitable, anti-racist, and economically vibrant communities, we must find new ways for our full and part-time faculty to collaborate with K–12 leaders, local workforce leaders and agencies, and local employers,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, ATD president and CEO. “We will be learning together with these teams, documenting their experiences, and sharing the learning to influence the development of professional learning communities across our ATD network colleges.”

Each of the four communities identified gaps in their local education pipeline that are preventing low-income young people from achieving economic mobility and they demonstrated a strong connection between this project and the local community colleges’ strategic priorities.

While there are consistent elements across each of the PLCs, there are also opportunities to learn from the diversity among the communities’ specific needs. For example, the PLC in Tyler, Texas, is creating youth apprenticeships for computer networking and IT. In Flint, Michigan, the PLC is strengthening STEM pathways by removing barriers to high school students earning college credits. In Cleveland, Ohio, the PLC is collaborating with healthcare employers to develop academic and workforce programming to address unmet demands in the local labor force. And, in Tallahassee, Florida, the PLC is building a Business & Industry Leadership Team to address the lack of economic opportunity for its lowest-income ZIP code.

During the two-year project, funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, ATD will offer professional learning and technical assistance in the design and facilitation of regional PLCs; support the relationship-building and case-making needed to establish collaborations between local school districts, community colleges, community-based organizations, and employers; and provide stipends to participating colleges to subsidize the costs of designing and hosting the regional PLCs. A virtual PLC kickoff meeting was held on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

“We are excited to support our network colleges and their communities with a unique professional learning methodology for this work,” said Jonathan Iuzzini, ATD’s director of teaching and learning. “This approach is needed now more than ever, as we seek to foster cross-sector collaborations built on meaningful relationships that leverage the unique expertise each partner brings to the table. By grounding this work in a spirit of professional learning, our students’ success will be the guiding light for these regional PLCs.”

With ATD’s support, PLCs will develop aligned pathways for students from high school to college to local workforce and career opportunities. While many communities pursue this type of work, barriers persist that separate K–12 schools, higher education institutions, and workforce agencies — often, each institution is measured by separate standards. The PLCs aim to provide incentives and resources for cross-institutional work. 

By the end of the two-year project, the PLCs will have created a sustainable structure that allows for the scaling of the project. Additionally, ATD will develop a guidebook that can be used to scale this work in the future.

Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 300 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing equity gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with nearly 75 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 45 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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