Retaining Students at Community Colleges: An Update on the Achieving the Dream Initiative John B. Lee, JBL Associates Inc Lana Muraskin, The Pell Institute Derek V. Price, DVP-PRAXIS LTD Kathleen Whitson, Brookhaven College Presentation to the 2005 Annual Meeting Council for Opportunity in Education Washington, DC September 20, 2005
What is Achieving the Dream? • A national initiative to help more community college students succeed • Through the initiative, participating colleges commit to closing achievement gaps by assessing what is happening on their campuses and make lasting changes in their own practices and cultures
What is Achieving the Dream? • The work of the initiative is premised on a data-driven institutional change model • Participating colleges benchmark key student outcomes - disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and income – adopt strategies to close achievement gaps, monitor their progress, and share their results broadly
Who is participating? • 35 community colleges in 7 states: Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia • At least 50% of first-time freshmen were Pell Grant recipients OR at least 33% of all students were African-American, Native-American or Hispanic
Achieving the Dream: Key Outcomes To increase the percentage of students who accomplish the following: • Complete remedial courses and move on to credit-bearing courses • Enroll in and complete “gatekeeper” courses such as Introductory Math and English • Complete courses with a “C” grade or higher • Re-enroll from one semester to the next • Earn certificates and/or degrees
The Framework for Institutional Change • Identify the achievement gaps with data • Engage the broad campus community to diagnose the arena for intervention • Use evidence to select a strategy to close the gap • Evaluate the impact of the selected strategy • If successful, scale the strategy institution-wide
We call this framework a Culture of Inquiry and Evidence • To use data effectively, colleges need to: • Ask the right questions • Find the right data • Analyze the data with a critical eye • A process of critical inquiry and self-examination using data can: • help identify equity gaps and guide us to solutions • challenge our assumptions and confirm our hypotheses • benchmark our performance and • monitor our improvement
Types of data • Student longitudinal cohort file • Student survey data (e.g., Faces of the Future) • Faculty and student focus groups • Institutional assessment and evaluation reports • Community stakeholder dialogues
Support structure for Achieving the Dream Colleges • National Partnership organizations: American Association of Community Colleges; Community College Leadership Program – University of Texas at Austin; Community College Research Center – Teachers College, Columbia University; Jobs for the Future; KnowledgeWorks Foundation; Lumina Foundation for Education; MDC; MDRC; Nellie Mae Education Foundation; and Public Agenda
Support structure for Achieving the Dream Colleges • Each college works with a coach to develop strategies, set priorities, and implement institutional improvements • Each college also works with a data facilitator –– to analyze student data, and use these data to inform strategies for improvement, monitor progress, and evaluate results
Data Base Design • Longitudinal • All first-time students entering the institution • Includes full and part-time • Goal to determine how minority and low-income students do in college
Framing Achieving the Dream • BHC student receiving tutoring one-on-one tend to out perform those not participating in tutoring • Students in SLA and SI tend to do as well as students utilizing one-on-one tutoring
Goals of Achieving the Dream • Developmental Education • Student Services • Professional Development • Learning Environment
Background- from a perception of great to a perception of good in 6 months • Disaggregating the data • Before Achieving the Dream, Brookhaven had not disaggregated data • We believed we did not have any problems based on “the data” • We determined we had equity gaps and performance gaps with our low socio-economic students and students of color
Findings • Statistically significant performance gaps exist among the following groups when compared: Hispanics and Blacks to majority and Asian students, males to females, 18-24 year olds to older students, first-generation students to non-first generation students, and academically under-prepared students to the total college population. • African-American and Hispanic students are over-represented in the lowest level of developmental studies including math, writing, and reading.
Findings continued • Over 50 percent of Hispanics attending Brookhaven are first-generation and 49 percent of Blacks are first generation, compared to 37 percent of Anglo students. • Brookhaven has an overall low graduation rate (4.2 percent) even though over 30 percent of our students indicate they intend to pursue an associates degree or certificate.
Findings continued • At a significant rate, Brookhaven students tend to leave college after reaching 15 credit hours rather than persisting toward educational goals. • Evidence from student surveys of learning styles indicate that nearly 60 percent of developmental education students are visual learners needing illustrations and graphics while many faculty use lecture methods appropriate for auditory learners.
Findings continued • Using CCSSE data, Brookhaven ranks consistently below the national average for active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, and student faculty interaction. • Noel-Levitz data show significant variations from national comparison groups for academic advising/counseling, financial aid, student orientation and information, career choices, and faculty involvement and concern for students including early notification of poor performance.
3,978 FTIC students 4 semesters later 768 students remain
Achieving the Dream and TRIO What can we learn? What can we use?
Importance of Achieving the Dream for the TRIO community? • Nationally visible advocacy for low income, first generation, at-risk college students • Model of campus-wide community college initiative to improve academic outcomes for at-risk students • Visibility of problems/challenges through data • Senior staff buy-in • Aims to change overall policy and practice
How is Achieving the Dream like/unlike TRIO/SSS? • Goals • Planning process • Student targeting • Use of data • Instruction and services • Resources and staffing • Accountability and “strings” • Timing of interventions • Breadth/depth of reform