Six Achieving the Dream Schools Recognized as ‘Leader Colleges’ - Higher Education
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Six Achieving the Dream Schools Recognized as ‘Leader Colleges’

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Six community colleges across the country have earned Achieving the Dream’s (ATD) “Leader College” designation for the first time, demonstrating their campus-wide commitment to closing opportunity gaps and improving overall student success.

Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream

Anne Arundel Community College, Central Alabama Community College, Grayson College, Roane State Community College, Western Technical College and West Hills College Lemoore are the latest institutions that have “shown measurable progress” in areas that support and improve community college students’ success. As Leader Colleges, the institutions are encouraged to support other ATD Network college, state and national efforts to holistically improve student success outcomes.

“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 ATD president and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout. “ATD Leader Colleges’ gains in student success and progress toward improving outcomes for all students make them examples for their peers.”

ATD – a nonprofit organization that champions evidence-based institutional improvement – notes that the newly-minted Leader Colleges excelled in improving student outcomes and metrics in areas such as completion of Gateway math and/or English courses during a student’s first year, fall-to-fall retention from Year 1 to Year 2, courses attempted or completed with a C- or higher grade within a year of initial enrollment and completion of a certificate or degree within four years of initial enrollment.

Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) has been an ATD Network school since 2010. After adapting ATD’s equity definition, AACC implemented its current strategic plan, “Engagement Matters: Pathways to Completion.” The college successfully increased completion outcomes and moved towards closing equity gaps, which was demonstrated by a four percent increase in the percentage of students who earned a credential within four years. AACC’s fall-to-fall persistence outcomes similarly increased from 54 percent to 58 percent.

At Central Alabama Community College, leaders’ student success efforts have increased persistence rates from Year 1 to Year 2 as well as the rate of completion of a certificate or degree within four years. Cross-campus collaborations led to the development of several student success initiatives over the years: the implementation of mandatory advising for all incoming freshmen and a transition to faculty advising; the establishment of career paths to encompass all educational tracks for adult education, Career Technical Education and academic transfers; implementation of mandatory registration in the Orientation and Student Success course for all degree and long-term certificate programs; a summer boot camp; and utilization of Full Measure Education, Inc. technology.

Over four years, Grayson College in Texas increased student completion of both Gateway math and English in their first year from 12 to 17 percent, increased fall-to-fall persistence from 44 percent to 51 percent and raised four-year completion rates from 15 percent to 20 percent, according to ATD. Grayson leaders achieved these metrics by administering ATD’s Institutional Change Assessment Tool (ICAT) and using the results to drive innovative changes in the ways faculty, staff and administrators support students. Officials also note that they established a cross-functional group that meets weekly and they have a Board of Trustees that is committed to being innovative about improving student success and completion.

Roane State Community College has seen improvements in significant areas due to strategies developed by cross-functional faculty and staff teams as well. Notably, the college reduced equity gaps for Black and Hispanic students and low-income students in completion rates of Gateway math and English courses, while reducing gaps in fall-to-fall persistence rates for Hispanic and low-income students. Moreover, Roane State increased its National Student Clearinghouse and its IPEDS three-year graduation rates by four and eight percentage points, respectively. Such outcomes were the results of transitioning to a co-requisite education model, implementing a one-on-one coaching model for student onboarding and employing mandatory academic advising with data-driven, student-centered course scheduling.

Starting with the institution’s president, Western Technical College took an equity-centered approach in its reforms for improved student success. Leaders also make decisions and develop support initiatives based on disaggregated student success data and updates from the institution’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion. Western Technical’s campus-wide efforts to eradicate achievement gaps have proven effective in raising student success rates, ATD said.

West Hills College Lemoore’s (WHCL) analysis of its ATD ICAT results led to the implementation of the “Strong Framework” in alignment with its guided pathways initiative. The institution’s efforts improved student outcomes in Gateway course completion by six percentage points and persistence by seven percentage points. Hispanics, females and other groups are also demonstrating increases in completion and persistence rates.

WHCL president Dr. Kristin Clark said the college – an ATD institution since 2014 – is “honored and grateful” to receive the designation and be recognized as a leader in the implementation of measurable student success initiatives.

“West Hills College Lemoore is committed to our North Star – student learning and achievement, and participating in the ATD Network has helped us build capacity for our work,” Clark said.

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at tpennamon@diverseeducation.com. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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