Catalyst Fund

Despite the implementation of innovative and promising student success interventions at Achieving the Dream Institutions, the reach of these interventions is too often relatively modest compared to the total number of students at the college in need of the supports. The Achieving the Dream National Reform Network is committed to investigating ways to scale promising interventions to ensure that more, and ultimately most, students attain the skills and credentials necessary for success in the global economy.

Through a competitive grant program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by Achieving the Dream, Inc., a select group of Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges – known for their commitment to student-centered evidence-based reforms and outstanding increases in student outcomes are scaling their proven interventions to reach a significantly large population of their students. The program – called the Catalyst Fund – provides grants of $215,000 and technical assistance to four Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges from November 1, 2012 to October 31, 2014 to spur the expansion of these proven interventions. Recipients are expected to support two additional years of implementation after the initial grant funds expire. Lessons learned throughout the grant cycle will be compiled and shared with the larger Achieving the Dream National Reform Network.

Resources

  • Learning how to scale innovative practices to serve most students more effectively is the major challenge facing institutions of higher education. The Catalyst Fund colleges provided a setting to examine diverse institutions wanting to scale various practices, more deeply within their campuses and more broadly to other colleges. 

    This evaluation report of Achieving the Dream’s Catalyst Fund initiative builds on the emergent research on scale, and its reconceptualization from replication to transformation. The literature suggests that achieving scale requires colleges to identify levers for institutional transformation that can create conditions for altering organizational structures and norms of behavior and interaction. Informed by the author's decade-long work evaluating implementation and scale nationally, these levers are identified as “transformative ingredients” that can enable college stakeholders to redefine the idea of scale as a process of change to alter the beliefs and norms of social interaction among college leaders. The evaluation of the Catalyst Fund provided a case-informed opportunity to examine these “transformative ingredients” at four colleges that committed to scaling a targeted, innovative practice to serve most students. In addition, the author used the Catalyst Fund evaluation to identify nine factors for consideration by stakeholders seeking to scale an innovative practice from one college to many.

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  • August 2012 Leader College Call Presentation on the Catalyst Fund

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    Leader College presentation.pdf408.02 KB
  • From research and experience, Completion by Design identified the critical junctures in students’ college experience are points at which many students drop out. Preventing Loss, Creating Momentum Framework outlines approaches to support colleges in analyzing their data to pinpoint when and where they are losing students, and to identify strategies to address those student loss points.

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  • Key loss or momentum points along the continuum from Connection to Entry to Progress and finally to Completion.

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  • Templates used for the Catalyst Fund RFP

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    ATD Catalyst Fund RFP_Templates.xls50.5 KB
  • The Catalyst Fund Request for Proposals (deadline has passed)

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    ATD Catalyst Fund RFP_FINAL.doc265 KB
  • Community colleges play a vital role in advancing educational and economic opportunity for many Americans, especially low-income students and students of color. Without these institutions, our higher education system would be inaccessible to a large portion of our citizenry. Today, America is counting on community colleges to help students, regardless of background and level of preparation, obtain a credential or degree and put them on the path to economic security; community colleges are spending more time in the spotlight — and facing increased scrutiny — given the current status of the economy, of national college completion rates, and an increasing mismatch between available jobs and the skills of those available to work. Colleges across the country are responding in innovative ways, but sustaining the services, instruction, and training to meet these challenges will require colleges to move beyond small programs, no matter how successful. We’re not just asking community colleges to soothe some of our toughest educational and economic woes, we’re asking them to do it “at scale.”

  • This publication is the second in a three-part series of practical guides to address specific, common challenges community colleges face. The origin of this series is the recent interim report by MDRC and the Community College Research Center called “Turning the Tide: Five Years of Achieving the Dream in Community Colleges.” The interim report identified areas of great progress as well as aspects of Achieving the Dream’s work that need deeper focus. The report concluded with recommendations for next steps, specifically paying more attention to scaling promising initiatives to reach more students. Achieving the Dream designed this series with our founding partner, Public Agenda, to address those challenges and ensure that every Achieving the Dream institution has the tools necessary to move the needle on student success and completion. This particular guide provides an overview of the most common barriers to scaling, principles to help position community colleges for successful scaling, and a checklist of critical questions to guide each step of the way. Overall, this new guide should help community college leaders better anticipate and address the roadblocks to successful scaling.

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    CuttingEdgeNo2Scaling.pdf428.46 KB

Updates

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