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One-Shot Deal? Students' Perceptions of Assessment and Course Placement in California's Community Colleges

March 14, 2019

This report examines the assessment and course placement practices across California's community colleges for incoming students and recommends strategies for overall improvement.Community colleges have processes in place for new student orientation, counseling, assessment, and course placement. Nonetheless, students, by and large, view their matriculation process as a one-shot deal—an isolated event that happens one day with minimal to no advance information.Yet the assessment and placement process involves very high stakes for students and can negatively impact their future success. Course placement affects not only how quickly students can earn a certificate or degree—a factor affecting the cost of their program of study—but also their likelihood of completing a credential at all.Drawing from quantitative analyses and interviews with counselors and students, the authors uncover substantial variance in assessment and placement policies statewide, as well as confusion among both students and counselors about the policies. The authors provide recommendations directed toward making assessment and placement part of overall diagnostic and learning processes that span high school and college.

Connection by Design: Students' Perceptions of Their Community College Experiences

November 1, 2016

As community colleges work to improve student completion rates, it's not often that college leaders can learn the collective views of their students about what's working and not working for them at the institution.

Improving the Yields in Higher Education: Findings from Lumina Foundation's State-Based Efforts to Increase Productivity in U.S. Higher Education

September 1, 2015

In 2008, Lumina asked SPEC Associates (SPEC) to evaluate the foundation's grant making aimed at improving the productivity of higher education through statewide policy and program change. The initiative was initially known as Making Opportunity Affordable and later became known more broadly as Lumina's higher education productivity initiative. Eleven states received planning grants in 2008 and a year later seven of these states received multi-year grants to implement their productivity plans. In 2009, Lumina published Four Steps to Finishing First in Higher Education to frame the content of its productivity work. In 2010, the foundation, working with HCM Strategists, launched the Strategy Labs Network to deliver just-in-time technical assistance, engagement, informationsharing and convenings to states. Lumina engaged SPEC to evaluate these productivity investments in the seven states through exploring this over-arching question: What public will building, advocacy, public policy changes, and system or statewide practices are likely to impact higher education productivity for whom and in what circumstances, and which of these are likely to be sustainable, transferable, and/or scalable?

Providing Structured Pathways to Guide Students Toward Completion: Game Changers Series

June 11, 2013

Many students arrive at community college without clear goals for college and their careers. They receive little guidance prior to matriculation, do not meet with advisors, and/or accumulate many course credits that do not count toward their eventual program of study. Some even drop out of college before selecting a program.To address these kinds of issues and to help students reach their college completion goals, some community colleges are creating structured pathways that allow students to explore their education and career options while also making progress toward a credential.This report, produced by the Completion by Design initiative at WestEd, outlines some of the major issues that colleges are discussing or experimenting with that are related to the creation of more structured student pathways, including:Mandating intake processes that provide education and career counseling, inform students about programs that are related to their interests, and help students explore and develop education goals, career goals, and a degree planBalancing flexibility and prescription in student selection of courses and majorsDefining clear instructional programs enabling students to complete a program as quickly as possibleProviding proactive and ongoing education and career advising, supports, and planning across each stage of student progressIncreasing program alignment with employment and transfer opportunitiesProviding more structured pathways has the potential to affect all support services and instructional programs by requiring better communication and integration of services.This report explains terms, provides examples of current efforts, and offers suggestions to help colleges with implementation.Note: This is the second report in the Game Changers series, designed for use by colleges to generate discussion about innovative models for increasing completion rates substantially. Each topic is addressed through five sections—an overview, examples in practice, implementation challenges, sample engagement questions, and references. The sections are intended to be used separately or as a whole, depending on the audience and needs.Other reports in the Game Changers series include:Acceleration in Developmental EducationIntegrating Student Supports and Academics

Acceleration in Developmental Education: Game Changers Series

June 11, 2013

Acceleration in developmental education is a strategy used by community colleges to reduce the amount of time students spend in remediation and allow them to enroll more quickly—or immediately—in courses leading to certificates or degrees.This report, produced by the Completion by Design initiative at WestEd, describes the importance of acceleration, explains how it raises college completion rates, and highlights the key principles of successful acceleration models, including:Helping students avoid developmental education whenever possibleRevising the developmental education curriculum to shorten the sequence, align it with transfer-level and career technical coursework, and make it more rigorousProviding additional student supports that are integrated with courseworkProviding remediation simultaneously with courses that lead to credentialsCustomizing and contextualizing remediation along multiple academic and career pathways so that students learn math or language arts concepts based on their specific needs and on their desired instructional programsMonitoring progress at regular intervals based on demonstrated competency rather than on seat timeNote: This is the first report in the Game Changers series, designed for use by community colleges to generate discussion about innovative models for increasing completion rates substantially. Each brief contains five sections—an overview, examples in practice, implementation challenges, sample engagement questions, and references. The sections can be used separately or as a whole, depending on the audience and needs.Other reports in the Game Changers series include:Providing Structured Pathways to Guide Students Toward CompletionIntegrating Student Supports and Academics

Integrating Student Supports and Academics: Game Changer Series

June 11, 2013

Many community colleges are working to integrate student support services (such as academic advising, education and career planning, and academic tutoring) more closely with instruction, with an eye toward expanding student use of support systems and creating a more seamless and engaging learning experience for all students.These efforts seek to ensure that support services become a more integral part of students' ongoing experiences in courses and in other aspects of college life, rather than an option that students have to seek out actively.By providing support to all students, this reform strategy is being viewed as a way to increase student success in courses and contribute to improved students' college completion overall (achieving certificates, degrees, and transfer).This report, produced by Completion by Design at WestEd, explores how the integration of student supports and academics fit within an overall strategy to raise completion rates, and covers:Embedding supportOffering Integrated Student Success CentersCoordinating first-year experiencesUsing technology to connect student supports and academicsEngaging instruction and support services staffData useCostPolicy issuesNote: This is the third report in the Game Changers series, designed for use by colleges to generate discussion about innovative models for increasing completion rates substantially. Each topic is addressed through five sections—an overview, examples in practice, implementation challenges, sample engagement questions, and references. The sections are intended to be used separately or as a whole, depending on the audience and needs.Other reports in the Game Changers series include:Acceleration in Developmental EducationProviding Structured Pathways to Guide Students Toward Completion

Changing Course: A Guide to Increasing Student Completion in Community Colleges

October 3, 2011

Most community colleges, as currently designed, are not fully set up to maximize student completion rates. Instead, many students are overwhelmed with the array of academic sequences, workforce programs (career training programs), transfer options, and continuing education opportunities available to them—thus hindering their success in college.This guide helps community college faculty, staff, and administrators rethink and redesign their systems, programs, and instruction to increase student completion, and:Identifies the goals of Completion by Design, an initiative that works with community colleges to increase completion and graduation rates for students, particularly those from low-income familiesSummarizes key design principles for improving completion rates

Changing Course: A Planning Tool to Increasing Student Completion in Community Colleges

October 3, 2011

This planning tool is designed to help community colleges facilitate productive conversations and develop comprehensive plans to significantly raise student completion rates.This resource draws from Changing Course: A Guide to Increasing Student Completion in Community Colleges and serves as a companion to that guide.While the guide introduces the key goals and principles of the Completion by Design initiative at WestEd, this companion planning tool provides:A series of self-reflective questions to help community colleges examine their own areas of strength and their emphasis on increasing student academic successInformation about the range of practices that community colleges have used to improve student completion rates

Building Open Educational Resources from the Ground Up: South Africa's Free High School Science Texts

October 1, 2007

This paper presents a case study of the development of the South African project Free High School Science Texts (FHSST), an initiative to develop a free high school science text for all teachers and learners in South Africa. The goals of the case study were two-fold: to examine and analyze the practices associated with the successes and challenges encountered by FHSST; and to encourage a participatory, analytical process that will assist other open education projects in thinking about and sharing their practices, processes, and strategies. Beyond its implications for South African education, the FHSST project can serve as a model for peer production of open content, offering insights into planning and decision making around 1) recruiting volunteers; 2) sustaining their participation; 3) using technology to create effective workflow; 4) conducting hackathons; and 5) facilitating teacher trials. Findings from this study offers insights into overall approaches and goals that may prove instrumental across open education projects, serving as a reference for development of assessment tools and resources that may assist open education projects in tracking, sharing, and advancing their learnings and success.

An Anatomy of School System Improvement: Performance-Driven Practices in Urban School Districts

April 1, 2005

"Anatomy of School System Improvement: Performance-Driven Practices in Urban School Districts" is the first report in a three-year effort to define how educators are beginning to embrace performance-driven practices in order to transform public education systems into learning organizations. We examine how this process of change is unfolding in 28 medium and large urban school systems, and illuminate the major barriers and needs that educators and school systems must overcome in order to create true performance-driven organizations.

Accountability and Information Practices in the California Community Colleges: Toward Effective Use of Information in Decision-Making

April 1, 2005

A comprehensive assessment of the effects of performance-based funding is not yet available. Yet according to early national survey results, the impact of performance-based funding on overall campus outcomes has been moderate at best (Burke and Minassians, 2002). These national findings may mirror experiences within California. In 1998, the State of California and the California Community Colleges inaugurated a performance-based funding program called the Partnership for Excellence (PFE). The program launch represented a commitment by the state legislature to earmark additional funding for the community colleges, in exchange for the colleges' agreement to develop, track, and achieve, by 2005, system-wide performance goals to improve student learning and success.Through 2000-01, the state appropriation to the community colleges for the PFE program was allocated by the Chancellor's Office to local college districts based on enrollment. There were conditions in place for moving from an enrollment-based to a more performance-driven formula, but before those conditions were fully triggered, the program was not re-funded. The Legislative Analyst's Office issued an analysis that was critical of the effects of the PFE program on system performance in the community colleges. In its analysis of the 2002-03 state budget, it stated that the program was "failing to meet objectives" and that the measurement of results were "hindered by methodological disagreement and conceptual vagueness" (Legislative Analyst's Office, 2002).During the time period when the Partnership for Excellence (PFE) program was still being funded by the Legislature, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) conducted two district-wide studies, representing eleven colleges, that examined the needs and patterns of data and information access, sharing, and use in two community college districts in California. As part of these studies, a wide range of administrators, faculty, and staff were interviewed about their use of information in decision-making on campus. Given the state's continuing interest in developing an accountability system for the California Community Colleges (Office of the Chancellor, 2005), these studies provide illuminating insights into the complex relationship between external mandates for accountability and internal practices of information and knowledge retrieval, use, and management at the district level.

Knowledge Management in Education: Defining the Landscape

March 26, 2003

This monograph, drawn from the dynamic discussions at the Knowledge Management in Education Summit, seeks to build from the insights of presenters and participants, in an effort to share with a wider community the most recent understandings about knowledge management in education today.