Learning Communities Show Promise in Improving Student Success

One-semester learning communities can have long-term benefits for community college students and can even boost graduation rates, according to recently released studies from MDRC and the National Center for Postsecondary Research.

After six years, a one-semester learning community program at Kingsborough Community College(KCC) in New York boosted graduation rates by 4.6 percent, the study reported. That initiative was also found to be cost effective: The cost per degree earned was lower for students in that program than it was for KCC students not in the program.

Modest impact

Despite those figures, the results of a companion study evaluating a learning community demonstration project that targeted developmental education students found only a modest impact on credits earned in English or mathematics.

“Implementing learning communities at scale is challenging but possible,” MDRC said. “Learning communities with high levels of curricular integration are particularly hard to establish and maintain.”

Learning communities are aimed at boosting persistence by grouping small cohorts of students together in two or more thematically linked courses, usually for a single semester, while they are also given additional academic support. By giving students a chance to form stronger relationships with one another and their instructors, the premise is that they will engage more deeply in learning and thus will be more likely to pass their courses, and ultimately, graduate. (Read more.)

Via Times Staff, The Community College Times.

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AACC Begins Work to Implement 21st-Century Blueprint

With its recommendations on setting a new course for community colleges for the next decade on the table, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has started work on developing strategies to implement those plans, beginning with workforce development.

AACC last week convened community college leaders from across the country to discuss workforce development and the implications of the recommendations in AACC’s Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future. The participants reviewed AACC initiatives, how the association can best support member colleges in workforce and economic development, and policy considerations in the field.

“Workforce is so important to our country and to what we do at AACC,” said Walter Bumphus, the association’s president and CEO, noting that he will use input from the implementation teams to help him develop priorities for the report’s recommendations.

The report, released in April by a blue-ribbon commission, focused on three broad areas of improvement: redesigning students’ educational experience, reinventing institutional roles and resetting the system. The commission included seven recommendations under those three areas, from improving college readiness, to strategically targeting public and private investments. (Read more.)

Via Matthew Dembicki, Community College Times.

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Preparing High School Students for Community College Success

Today I want to share an article I recently came across regarding the above mentioned topic. It was originally published in the Fall 2005 edition of the Trustee Quarterly, a publication of the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT). The article is written by Stephen J. Handel who was then the Director of community college initiatives at The College Board. While I recognize it may be an outdated article, I do believe that the information is still pertinent to today’s high school students.

Click here to download the article. Adobe Reader is required as the article is a .pdf.

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Dual Enrollment Not Just for High Achievers Early College Improves Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students Too

Dual enrollment—in which high school students take college courses for credit—was once considered the exclusive province of college-bound high school students seeking more challenging classes. However, a new study from the Community College Research Center that I authored has found that dual enrollment can offer tangible benefits for students who are historically underrepresented in higher education.

The three-year study looked at eight career-focused dual enrollment programs across California and found that participating students demonstrated improved performance on a range of high school and college outcomes. Sixty percent of participants were students of color, forty percent came from non-English speaking homes, and at least one third had parents with no prior college experience.

The programs were created through partnerships between community colleges and local high schools.  While they varied in structure and course offerings, all gave students in high school career-technical programs the opportunity to take college classes, and provided additional academic and non-academic supports. The programs were funded primarily with a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.

Our study analyzed outcomes of approximately 3,000 dual enrollment students through spring, 2011, and found that the dual enrollment students were more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in four-year colleges, and persist in college than similar students who did not participate.  Participating students also accumulated more college credits than non-participants, and this effect grew over time. (Read more.)

Via Katherine L. Hughes, Columbia University on California Progress Report.

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State Governing Board Over Community Colleges Rethinks Enrollment Methods

The way students register for classes at California community colleges is being examined for potential changes by a statewide governing board.

Jasmin Kissinger, 21, sat waiting for an appointment in the counseling office at Sierra College in Rocklin Tuesday. The Grass Valley native is taking classes at Sierra to work her way up to a master’s in speech therapy.

Now that Kissinger has some classes under her belt, registering every semester has gotten easier, but it hasn’t always been that way. Priority is currently given to students with more units under their belt than freshmen and some underclassmen.

“It was really difficult getting into classes at first because I was low priority and things filled up really quickly,” Kissinger said.

That might change if the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges decides to approve changes to the rules it is considering regarding when certain students can and can’t register for classes. The idea to change the way community colleges approach enrollment priority is one of many suggestions made by the Student Success Taskforce last January.

The community college panel met Tuesday to hear the first reading of the proposed rule change, opening a comment period on the proposed changes that lasts until Aug. 17. The panel will hear a second reading of the rule and potentially vote on it at its meeting in September.

According to a summary of the proposed rule change, students who already get top priority when it comes to registering for classes will not be affected if the changes pass. Students who are in the military, are veterans, or foster youth or former foster youth fall under this priority and will still get to register first. (Read more.)

Via Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer, Auburn, California.

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