Weekly Update – October 24, 2010

on October 23, 2010 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

This week I spent several days with three of the College’s Trustees at the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Leadership Congress. This was the 41st annual conference, and its theme was: Community Colleges are Indispensable to Reinvigorating the Economy: Renewing Our Commitment to Access, Excellence, and Student Success. Throughout the conference activities, there was an excitement regarding the increased national focus on community colleges and the growing realization that community colleges play an extraordinary role in reinvigorating the economy.  There were many discussions around the imperative for community colleges across the country to emphasize and focus on student success as we continue our mission of access and opportunity. All community colleges were called to action – the action to be deliberate about student success and to join the National Community College Completion Challenge.

There was a noticeable change in the conversations from prior ACCT conferences.  The change was a clear focus on student success, and what trustees need to know about how their colleges are performing around this national agenda item.  Another discussion was around the need for full engagement throughout the organization on the student success agenda.  This conversation was focused on how best to ensure that all faculty, staff, and administrators understand their role in implementing and achieving results on a student success agenda while maintaining the highest levels of excellence and quality. 

Our Board Chair (Marie Flickinger) and I presented what San Jacinto College was doing around our student success agenda. We described the process used to develop our strategic plan. You will remember that we utilized widespread input and consideration processes, which included retreats with the Board of Trustees to establish college-wide strategic goals, the College Community Day earlier this year allowed all full-time employees to provide feedback and input on the goals, the Planning Council with representation throughout the college community provided prioritized recommendations, and several retreats with the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) led to detailed conversations and timelines around all components of the strategic plan. We know that the implementation of the annual priorities and the achievement of the strategic goals will require a commitment from each employee; and many, many work groups, committees, task forces, and councils across the College will be engaged to inform the various initiatives and activities of our work.

Ms. Flickinger and I also discussed with the ACCT conference attendees the various activities targeted to improve student success that have been or are in the process of being implemented at San Jacinto College. We received many positive comments about our work, and both of us were pleased to find that several of our initiatives were included on a list of proven practices for student success.  The list included the following six items:

  1. Student Orientation
  2. End Late Registration
  3. Mandatory Assessment/Placement
  4. Reduce Hours for Working Students
  5. Make Financial Aid Student Friendly
  6. Evaluate Developmental Education Courses

While we have much work to do, the strategies and annual priorities under our Strategic Goal on Student Success are definitely in line with the proven practices and model programs discussed at the ACCT conference. Let me highlight, three of our Student Success strategies and the related annual priorities.

First, Strategy #1 is to “Institutionalize the Achieving the Dream strategies to improve student persistence and successful completion rates and to reduce achievement gaps among student groups.”  Highlights of the2010-2011 annual priorities related to this strategy include:

  • Broaden the culture of evidence by creating college-wide and campus data teams to engage all areas, departments, and employees of the College in the “San Jac Data and You” initiative (i.e. we are collecting and reporting data, but we need to understand, at all levels throughout the College, what that data is telling us about how we respond to, educate, and serve our students). 
  • Eliminate late registration after the start of classes for college preparatory students (fall 2010) and for all students (fall semester 2011).
  • Expand course offerings in order to provide a broad and full range of offerings, including addressing specific concerns related to individual technical programs, to accommodate those students enrolling after the start of the regular term.
  • Pilot a mandatory Student Success Course for college preparatory students testing into two college prep courses (fall 2010) and develop a plan to implement  Student Success Course options for all college prep students and honors students (fall 2011) and all first-time-in-college students (fall 2012).
  • Develop a teaching cadre at each campus to deliver the Student Success Course.
  • Implement continuous improvement changes for New Student Orientation and the Retention Calling Program, including integration with other early alert initiatives.
  • Create an online Knowledge Center for employees that details resources and services available to students.

Second, Strategy #4 under the Student Success Goal is to “Align courses and curricula from college preparatory through transfer courses.”  Highlights of the 2010-2011 annual priorities related to this strategy include:

  • Review and develop a plan to implement recommendations for the general education core.
  • Research and develop an outcomes assessment plan based on analysis of data from the top ten courses in highest student achievement, lowest student achievement, and highest enrollment in order to identify areas for discussion and improvements.
  • Review entry assessment methods and policies to ensure students are placed in the appropriate competence level.
  • Engage in a systemic review of student learning outcomes and related skills levels for college preparatory courses and college-level courses to ensure no curricular skills gaps occur within sequential courses in mathematics and writing.

Finally, Strategy #5 under the Student Success Goal is to “Maximize success in college preparatory courses.”  Highlights of the 2010-2011 annual priorities related to this strategy include:

  • Continue the course re-design process for college preparatory math, identify best practices and effective delivery strategies, and implement throughout the college preparatory math instructional program.
  • Pilot and propose implementation timeline to deliver college preparatory courses in a variety of innovative modalities to meet the needs of diverse learners.
  • Prepare faculty and staff to deliver enhanced learning experiences and support to students in college preparatory curricula.
  • Review facilities and equipment needs for college-wide implementation of innovative modalities.
  •  Establish on-campus partnerships with adult basic education providers to offer instruction to students with lowest entry skills.

Our Student Success Goal includes a total of five strategies. The remaining two will be addressed in next week’s update. The three presented above demonstrate the comprehensive and deliberate approach that we are taking with our students.  We know students rarely take advantage of optional choices so we are becoming more prescriptive in our work in order to support a student success agenda that helps students achieve their goals. In the end, we know that students must take an active role in their learning process, and we are providing more resources and tools to assist them with that role.    

If you are interested in understanding more about the National Community College Completion Challenge and President Obama’s national goals for 2020 which include America having the highest proportion of graduates in the world and 5 million more community college graduates, go to the following resources:

White House Summit:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/CommunityCollege

AACC PDF:  http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Advocacy/aginitiative/Documents/talkingpoints.pdf

National Community College Completion Challenge: http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Pages/calltoaction.aspx

Have a great week!


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