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Achieving the Dream


Achieving the Dream Leader College

ATD Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does ATD work with CQI and other ATD initiatives?

CQI and other college initiatives complement and blend very well with Achieving the Dream. ATD is a National Community College initiative that utilizes data to improve student retention and success. The CQI teams have been utilizing data to review and/or modify college policies and procedures and to engage the entire campus community in positive outcomes and events which should lead to students being more successful. The major focus of every college initiative is that faculty and staff members should be doing all we can to help as many of our students succeed as possible, and student success is the ultimate goal of Achieving the Dream.

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2. How does ATD work with my job?

Achieving the Dream is really about student success. Our goal is to help everyone realize that the College must be constantly focused on continuous improvement so that all students can achieve this success. Those of us who have been involved with community colleges for some time remember how innovative the “open door” policy was considered to be. When community colleges were first established, one of their distinguishing characteristics was that the college provided “second chances” for all students. The colleges were established to provide access for all students—for example, students who might not have been able to afford a traditional four-year university program of study, students who faced multiple barriers because of family responsibilities, and students who were underprepared for college level work. The mission of community colleges is changing from institutions just focused on access to institutions focused on access and student success. It is not enough to open our doors to all students; we must focus on helping them succeed.

If this College is going to be successful with all of the students who come through our door, then each one of us must assume responsibility for student success. It means that each of us must constantly question our procedures and processes to ensure that they are appropriate for student success.

You may have heard about the new $1 million Aspen prize awarded to community colleges that are experiencing great outcomes for students. One common trait shared by all of the award recipients was that the colleges were focused on continuous improvement for students. Achieving the Dream is the method this College has identified to help us with continuous improvement for student success.

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3. Why is ATD only focusing on black students when other students are struggling just as much?

Achieving the Dream (ATD) is a national initiative that focuses on individual institutional data. In other words, what does your (our) data say about your (our) institution? The ATD strategy guides institutions in the process of using data the college has gathered to develop programs and strategies to improve overall student success.

DACC’s data shows that African American students are not achieving as well as their counterparts, and, in fact, this student population averaged only a 42% success rate in gatekeeper courses and a 50% success rate in developmental courses. In comparison, the White student population averaged a 59% success rate in gatekeeper courses and a 62% success rate in developmental courses, and the Hispanic student population averaged a 59% in gatekeeper and a 85% in developmental. This data is extracted from the original data used in planning the ATD interventions. Based on this data as well as additional data retrieved from focus groups, support services were identified for this population as the most pressing need to be addressed.

The Equity and Inclusion Team designed two groups to address these needs: African American Males Addressing Life Effectively (A-MALE) and Women Inspiring Success Effectively (WISE). The main goal is to help the African American students remove barriers and increase their success and productivity on campus. At the same time, we are learning from their experiences, sharing the information obtained with our colleagues, and applying that information to all students with similar issues. In the long run, we want all students to be able to open the doors to endless possibilities.

This data is our starting point and the reason why we are addressing this population, but it is not the only thing happening across campus. DACC has identified several other gaps, and they are being addressed as well through the following activities:

  • Early Warning System for students needing immediate assistance;
  • Review and revision of the Success in College course to better meet all students’ needs;
  • Staff training for front-line staff;
  • Professional development on cooperative and contextualized learning and serving the under-resourced college student;
  • and
  • The Teaching Excellence Academy

DACC’s overall goal is to address the needs of ALL students, and we are determined to find the best ways to make this happen. Although working with the African American population is only one step in the process, the information gleaned from working with this student population will better inform us on how to work with other student populations.

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4. What do we know about why people drop or withdraw from gatekeeper courses?

We know a little bit more than we have in the past with the manual Early Warning System put in place last year, but all students are not tracked due to the fact that not all students are put on alert by the faculty. When a student contacts the Admissions/Registration office to drop or withdraw from courses, our admissions specialists ask him or her for a reason as to why the course is being dropped/withdrawn, but some students do not give a reason and others may not always give the true reason. We could gather this drop/withdrawal data from the gatekeeper courses as a start and move forward from there as we see fit.

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5. Is there a student on the First Year Experience team? If not, how does the FYE team get info on how students perceive their experience?

Currently, there is not a student on the First Year Experience (FYE) team, but that is a great suggestion! The FYE team used the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (or the CCSSE), and student focus groups to determine what obstacles students are currently facing when starting school and areas of improvement the team needed to look at throughout Student Services, and other areas on campus, to create a smoother, more informative enrollment process. In terms of the recommended changes to the Success in College (SIC) course, the SIC task force, a sub-team of the First Year Experience team, used student focus groups, student surveys, and past Success in College course evaluations to determine what topics from the class students found helpful and what topics they found to be unnecessary. While these measures gave the FYE team a starting point for many of their interventions, we will need to continue to get student input to continuously improve the first year experience of our students.

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6. Have we considered doing a mock first day for administrators and front line staff so that they actually experience what it is like for students?

This question is very creative and a good idea! However, at this time the ATD teams are not considering utilizing Administrators to participate in a mock first day. Most administrators have general knowledge of what to do on the first day of classes and the registration process. Also, administrators generally know whether they have ‘received’ incorrect information and know where to go for the correct information. The team will revisit this idea at a later date.

To get an accurate assessment of where improvements are needed, the ATD Core and Data team felt it would be best to get the information from students. The team utilized student focus groups to assist in gathering information on the first day of class and the registration experience. Students are the best resource to convey how our practices and procedures are received. Recognizing that each student’s experience is unique to the process, the information gathered informed us where the gaps are in providing the best customer service.

Incorporating data from the general focus groups and the Noel-Levitz survey, the First Year Experience team focused on student comments concerning obstacles faced while registering for/attending college for the first time. This information was the catalyst for two frontline staff meetings involving all Student Services departments, the Business Office, the Bookstore, Adult Education, Corporate &Community Education, Job Training Partnership and the Assessment Center. These meetings were designed to be an information sharing session so that all frontline staff is informed about each of the departments, what these departments provide, and the process to access these services. Additionally, a student survey was developed and will be distributed this spring to all Fall 2011, first time students inquiring about their overall experience of their first semester.

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