The recently released report, Stepping Up for Community Colleges, prepared for The Boston Foundation by Jobs for the Future, presents a number of parallels with the work of Reinvention here at the City Colleges of Chicago. The report begins with the understanding that “In recent years, Massachusetts has mobilized around an increasingly ambitious agenda for more credential completion, smoother transfer and a greater contribution from community colleges to the state’s economic well-being.” Those objectives tie closely to the goals of Reinvention established three years ago for the City Colleges of Chicago.
A tremendous amount of work has been completed on Reinvention and much more is still underway for addressing our goals but it is reassuring to read a research report like this and recognize that we are far from alone. The table below summarizes the research findings and recommended strategies and responses from the Stepping Up report and relates them to actions being taken at the City Colleges of Chicago.
Strategies and Responses
|Students who accumulate credits and enter a program of study early meet with better outcomes.||Move students into program streams and encourage them to declare majors early.||Through Reinvention7 teams, we are currently developing program maps for use in advising students toward individualized education plans based on career intent. The next step is adjusting our advising model to use these maps to put every student on a path as soon as possible.|
|Students need more structure, fewer options and frequent feedback.||Streamline curricula; add mandatory orientation, proactive advising and educational planning.||Beyond the initial work on mapping current programs and adjusting advising, Reinvention7 teams of faculty and staff work with C2C teams on curricular updates.|
|The effectiveness of traditional developmental education is unclear.||Reduce, accelerate, and contextualize developmental education.||In conjunction with the college Directors of Developmental Education, we are coordinating programs underway at each college into a district-wide strategy including plans for evaluation and potential expansion of effective approaches.|
|Not all academic programs and careers require the same skills.||Build multiple, differentiated pathways aligned with the requirements of academic programs and careers.||Specifically within math, we’re working with faculty on developing alternative pathways for STEM and non-STEM students.|
|Assessment tests are high stakes, and they are not the best predictors of success in college.||Use multiple measures to place students, and change test conditions to increase awareness and allow preparation and retest.||Current efforts include outreach to CPS students, adult education students and other members of our community to increase awareness of the placement process. In addition, we’re working to develop better methods of placement through the addition of non-cognitive factors to the skills assessment provided by our use of COMPASS testing.|
|Interventions are expensive, but there is evidence that they lower cost-per-completion.||Make the case for up-front investments that lead to higher completion.||CCC has made a number of recent investments to improve early intervention, starting with addition to the number of advisers and implementation of case load assignments. Additionally, we’ve implemented a district-wide early alert program using GradesFirst. Combined, these changes are allowing for a greater level of intentional advising.To allow for even more effective application of advising resources work is continuing on strategies to define alternative advising delivery methods and help segment adviser loads by level of student need.|
|Small college-level pilots are difficult to scale up.||Begin interventions at scale.||Given our structure, we have the ability to implement initiatives at scale for the entire district or for a given college. Initiatives at the college level are evaluated to determine potential district-wide application.|
|College programs should align with workforce needs, and students should understand career outcomes.||Use labor market information when designing programs and to improve career advising.||The identification of C2C clusters and programs has relied on labor market research and we are currently undertaking work to incorporate similar analysis into our ongoing program evaluation process.Through the Workforce and Economic Development department an increased emphasis has been placed on career planning and advising, which now includes the Career Network website.|
|College programs should align with the requirements for transfer with junior standing, and students should take courses that count toward their major.||Faculty disciplinary teams build core curricula for program streams that introduce students to a field and lead students to the goal of choosing a major.||As we further define academic pathways of stackable credentials, we are working with Academic Affairs to identify and develop transfer opportunities. Our goal is for every pathway to include a transfer option.|
There’s a lot going on but the work is not just being done by the teams of faculty, staff and students at each college and at the district office. Every academic and operational department within the district is working on ways to improve outcomes for our students. Without that level of involvement Reinvention would not be possible. Reinvention is not a team or a department, it is all of us.
– Scott Martyn, Center for Operational Excellence