Wednesday, April 22, 2015

College district chosen to join national network for student success

The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District has been selected for an ambitious, nationwide educational reform network called Achieving the Dream that has a long record of boosting graduation and transfer rates at community colleges across the country.

The East County college district’s participation in the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network begins in June with seminars and an orientation, followed by months of research and planning aimed at developing new strategies to improve student outcomes. The district serves about 30,000 students at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.  

The district has been awarded a three-year, $120,000 matching grant from the Kresge Foundation to take part in Achieving the Dream. The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program focuses on expanding student access to higher education and opening avenues to student success, particularly for those from historically underserved communities.

Achieving the Dream’s vision is to lead the most comprehensive, evidence-based reform movement for community college student success in higher education history, resulting in significantly improved lives and greater global economic competitiveness.

Detailed plans of how the district will move forward will be developed over the next year. As part of the Achieving the Dream Network, colleges receive an array of resources, including expert, one-on-one coaching, grant opportunities to facilitate institutional change, and access to webinars and other professional development programs.

 “The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District has long been committed to boosting student success, and Achieving the Dream has a track record of higher graduation rates and improved test scores,” said District Chancellor Cindy L. Miles. “We are grateful for the opportunity to bring resources to our dedicated faculty and staff who are leading this effort.”

The Achieving the Dream National Reform Network includes more than 200 colleges, 20 investors, and 100 coaches and advisors working throughout 34 states and the District of Columbia to help some 3.8 million community college students have a greater chance of earning a degree and achieving greater economic success.

New programs can include partnerships with industry and collaborating with neighboring education systems. MiraCosta College in northern San Diego County was also selected to join the network.

Achieving the Dream will prove critical in helping colleges synthesize the myriad efforts among different programs, said Christopher Tarman, senior dean of research, planning and institutional effectiveness at the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

"We have great work underway already, and what Achieving the Dream will do is knit these things together and help us focus and really leverage our efforts," Tarman said. He noted that the program also offers organizational and leadership coaching.

Achieving the Dream has helped community colleges boost student success across the country for more than a decade.

“Valencia learned how to turn our aspirations in actionable plans,” said Sanford Shugart, President of Valencia College in Orlando, Fla. “The way Achieving the Dream is led enabled deeper collaboration of the college. It refocused our conversations towards very concrete goals in student performance and helped us to concentrate our resources to achieve these goals. The measureable results have been exceptional.”

After participating in the Achieving the Dream Network, Northern Virginia Community College saw the percentage of students earning a credential within four years almost double from 10 percent to 18 percent. Trident Technical College in South Carolina saw fall term course completion rates rise from 62 percent to 76 percent. And the College of Ouachitas in Arkansas more than doubled its graduation rate and transfer rates from 20 percent to 47 percent.