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State pushing success

Task force suggests application methods

Published: Friday, December 13, 2013

Updated: Friday, December 13, 2013 14:12

Last September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1456, known as the Student Success Act of 2012, a statewide initiative that has begun to change how community colleges throughout California serve students.

With recommendations for implementation orchestrated by a 21-member Student Success Task Force appointed by the state Board of Governors, SB 1456 is geared toward strengthening and supporting college student preparedness with emphasis on technology, increasing transfer and degree completion rates and implementing a better system for funding. The changes implemented by the act have started shaping, and will continue to shape, the California community colleges for the next two years or longer.

Returning students at Contra Costa College should expect a shift in enrollment priorities by fall 2014, when first time students will experience a new orientation process that entails the mandatory development of an educational plan. Changes that have already been implemented include that students are now required to declare a course of study by the time they complete 15 degree-applicable units or their third semester and course repeatability has been limited to make access more equitable.

“The Student Success Act is about completion, not just access, and to have students completing goals as efficiently as possible,” CCC President Denise Noldon said.

Dr. Noldon said the act is a step in the right direction and, that while some recommendations of the state task force may prove challenging to implement, there is no individual part of the act she disagrees with.

A District-wide Student Success Task Force divided into three working groups has been discussing, researching and working to implement the state Student Success Task Force Recommendations for over a year.

“The act is very positive for students,” district Chancellor Helen Benjamin said. “The district task force is doing a good job of implementing the recommendations and working together as a team to better promote student success.”

Coming away from the recent economic downturn and major cuts to state-provided funding, it is hard to tell how exactly the California community colleges will fund the promotion of student success, the accomplishment of goals and the enhancing of resources like online technology and programs, counseling and assessment.

“It’s going to take all of us working together toward the same goals,” CCC Vice President Tammeil Gilkerson said. “I believe it will make the system better in the long run.”

Changes to come

Implementation of the Student Success Task Force Recommendations is broken down into phases that take place statewide over the next two years, a few phases of which have already been introduced to community colleges.

Returning California community college students should expect to feel the effects of such changes as early as next fall, while first semester students will become acquainted with the system in the only fashion they will know.

“(The Student Success Act) is going to change the way new students experience the college on first contact,” Norma Valdez-Jimenez, counselor and counseling department chairperson, said.

Beginning fall semester 2014, all incoming CCC students will be required to participate in a diagnostic assessment, attend a six-hour orientation to college through a new course, Counseling 108, and develop an educational plan to promote the completion of educational goals, Valdez-Jimenez said. As a counselor, her role will change to involve helping students set and complete educational goals, she said.

“The legislation will provide the opportunity to streamline services from the counseling perspective,” she said.

A standardized statewide assessment for the California Community Colleges is in the development process and will potentially be implemented sometime in 2014. Creating such an assessment will allow students to take their test results to any community college in the state.

Also beginning next fall, returning students will experience new enrollment priorities.

Registration priority is currently given to students with the most units, which rewards unit accumulation rather than progress in their program of study. New and returning students who complete orientation, assessment and have a student education plan will receive higher enrollment priority.

As well, students accumulating 100 or more degree-applicable units or being on academic or progress probation for two consecutive terms will result in the loss of enrollment priority.

“I believe students who are registering now that come in, decide on a plan, stick to it and move through that educational plan are the most likely to be successful and maintain priority,” Gilkerson said.

As one of the challenges CCC faces is diminished enrollment numbers, Gilkerson encourages students to register for spring classes now, if they have not already, while registration is still open and many core classes are still available.

To increase transparency and close the achievement gap, the state task force recommends that the California community colleges Chancellor’s Office work with individual college districts to establish state and local student success goals. Each campus would then be required to post a scorecard highlighting a select number of metrics that display student progress.

The Board of Governors is currently considering how to establish system-wide goals that are expected to be implemented in 2014.

“One of the clearest measures of student success is how many students are transferring and graduating, but it’s not the only measure,” Valdez-Jimenez said. “There are several markers along the way.”

The Student Success Task Force Final Report suggests six “key momentum points” on a student’s pathway to success: successful course completion, successful completion of basic skills preparation, successful completion of first 15 semester units, successful completion of first 30 semester units and, finally, certificate, degree and/or transfer.

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