Background on the California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force

  • Vice Chancellor for Student Services and Special Programs
    California Community Colleges, Chancellor's Office, Sacramento, CA
    Linda Michalowski, Vice Chancellor, Student Services and Special Programs, California Community Colleges, Chancellor's Office

In 2010, Senate Bill 1143 called on the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges to convene a task force to make recommendations on how to improve student success. This article provides the background on the rational and the recommendations that resulted from this legislation. It is a companion piece to the lead article on Ten Reasons to Support the Recommendations of the Student Success Task Force by Linda Michalowski.

Improving Student Success

In 2010, Senate Bill 1143 called on the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges to convene a task force to make recommendations on how to improve student success.  This legislation was in response to concerns about the large numbers of our students who never make it to the finish line: 

  • Only 53.6 percent of our degree-seeking students ever achieve a certificate, degree, or transfer preparation.  For African-American and Latino students, the rate is much lower (42 percent and 43 percent respectively).  
  • Of the students who enter our colleges at one level below transfer level in Math, only 46.2 percent ever achieve a certificate, degree, or transfer preparation.  Of those students entering four levels below, only 25.5 percent ever achieve those outcomes. 
  • Of our students who seek to transfer to a four-year institution, only 41 percent are successful. For African Americans, only 34 percent succeed.  For Latinos, the figure is 31 percent.

Student Success Task Force

iJournal Community College Student WritingA 20-member Student Success Task Force composed of faculty, students, administrators, researchers, staff, and external stakeholders worked for seven months to identify best practices for promoting student success and to develop statewide strategies to take these approaches to scale while ensuring that educational opportunity for historically under-represented students would not just be maintained, but bolstered.

During October and November of 2010, the Task Force held public hearings and presented to dozens of stakeholder groups to get input and refine its recommendations.  In January 2012 the Board of Governors adopted the 22 recommendations of the Student Success Task Force.  The recommendations can be summarized as follows:

  • Give students the tools they need to succeed.   All students will be required to participate in a diagnostic assessment, orientation, and to develop an education plan to guide them toward completion of their educational goals.  Without these services students face an uphill battle to navigate the system and ultimately succeed.    In order to accomplish this, the system will place a high priority on funding a student success and support program in the annual budget. 
  • Prioritize student enrollment to reward and incentivize progress.  Currently, registration priority is generally given to students who have the most units.  This is a disservice to first-time students who are the most likely to be turned away due to a lack of space. The new policy will give priority to continuing and new students who have taken a diagnostic assessment, participated in orientation and developed an educational plan.  To retain priority, students will be expected to declare a specific major or program of study after three semesters and to remain in good academic standing.  Students will also have to make academic progress to maintain eligibility for a Board of Governors Fee Waiver.
  • Increase transparency and close the achievement gap. The SSTF recommendations direct the system Chancellor to work with college districts to establish state and local student success goals.  Each campus will have a score card highlighting a select number of metrics that show student progress and outcomes. The score card will be disaggregated by ethnicity and gender to monitor the degree to which the achievement gap is being widened or closed.  
  • Focus on basic skills instruction and support.  More than 70% of community college students who enter the system are under prepared to do college-level work. Faculty will be supported in developing new and innovative approaches to teaching basic skills and colleges will be required to focus their class schedules on the courses students need. 
  • Use technology to help students and create greater efficiency.  Student-friendly technology will be leveraged to better support student needs.  Technology applications will generate efficiencies, and help students navigate the college system more effectively.   All colleges will have access to common online assessment tools for English, mathematics and ESL and to pre-testing programs that help improve assessment outcomes.  In addition, students will be able to develop education plans online and regularly monitor their progress in completing courses necessary to complete their programs of study, thus reducing their dependence on face-to-face meetings with counselors.  This will also enable counselors to spend more time working with students to address more complex issues.

Student Success Act of 2012, SB 1456

The Chancellor's Office is pursuing a phased-in, coordinated implementation of the recommendations that will include both formal and informal consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.  The Student Success Act of 2012 has been introduced as SB 1456 (Lowenthal) to frame the system’s approach to student success and to give the Board of Governors authority to implement some of the recommendations.  Most of the recommendations can be implemented by the Board of Governors through regulations and some will be only a matter of identifying and supporting colleges to adopt effective practices.  Working groups are being identified and have begun developing strategies for effective implementation.

The full text of the Student Success Task Force report and recommendations can be accessed at this link:  http://californiacommunitycolleges.cccco.edu/PolicyInAction/StudentSuccessTaskForce.aspx.

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