Tacoma Community College named education 'leader'

Tacoma Community College (TCC) was recognized as a leader in the national student completion movement by “Achieving the Dream,” a national nonprofit that helps 3.5 million community college students stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.

TCC, one of 23 institutions designated as a 2011 Leader College, was recognized for demonstrating sustained improvement and accomplishments on key student achievement indicators. Highline Community College and Renton Technical College were the only other Washington schools on the list. The College Spark Foundation has helped fund Achieving the Dream efforts in Washington state.

“We are pleased to see our completion efforts paying off for our students,” said TCC President Pamela Transue. “We have built systems from first point of contact through graduation to help students succeed. Data show that it’s working.”

Achieving the Dream officials cited TCC’s “Declared and Prepared” initiative as an example of how it earned its Leader College designation. By creating an array of support tools for both advisors and students, fall-to-fall retention rates for students enrolled in two or more developmental courses increased from 47 percent in 2005 cohort to 58 percent for the 2009. TCC efforts include a completion-focused advising approach that includes an advising dashboard, an improved and expanded student success course, new student orientation focused on hands-on educational planning, and the welcome week where staff are stationed throughout campus the first week of each quarter to answer questions.

This is the third year that Achieving the Dream has recognized Leader Colleges. Leader Colleges have demonstrated commitment to and progress on the four principles of Achieving the Dream: committed leadership, use of evidence to improve programs and services, broad engagement, and systemic institutional improvement. They have also shown three years of sustained improvement of student success on at least one of the following measures of performance: course completion, advancement from remedial to credit-bearing courses, completion of college-level math and English courses, term-to-term and year-to-year retention, and completion of certificates or degrees. Additionally, each college has successfully implemented at least one student success intervention or initiative that is advancing student outcomes that are of sufficient scale to benefit a substantial proportion of students.

“The work of improving student success is very difficult, critically important, and urgent,” said Achieving the Dream President & CEO William Trueheart. “Tacoma Community College has carefully analyzed student outcomes evidence and has implemented sustained positive student-centered changes. They deserve enormous recognition for their focus on equity and excellence and for their extraordinary contributions to their communities and our nation.”

Conceived in 2004 as a national initiative by Lumina Foundation for Education and eight national partner organizations, Achieving the Dream has evolved into an independent nonprofit working with 160 institutions in 30 states and the District of Columbia, helping 3.5 million students. Achieving the Dream is focused on creating a “culture of evidence” on community college campuses in which data collection and analysis drive efforts to identify problems that prevent students from succeeding — particularly low-income students and students of color — and develop programs to help students stay in school and receive a certificate or diploma or transfer to a four-year institution.

The Leader Colleges include institutions large and small, rural and urban, single campus and multi-campus that are working to address a variety of student success challenges. These colleges have identified workable solutions to issues such as enhancing the experience of first-year students, improving developmental education, closing achievement gaps, strengthening academic and personal advising for students in need of additional support, strengthening links to high schools and four-year institutions to improve student preparation, and increasing retention, persistence rates, and the number of certificate and degree recipients. To learn more about Leader Colleges, visit http://www.achievingthedream.org .

Achieving the Dream includes coaching to help colleges’ administrators, faculty, and staff lead institutional change and analyze quantitative and qualitative data. Institutions that wish to be considered a Leader College are rigorously assessed by Achieving the Dream on the five indicators of student performance. Together with the assessment of the college’s coach and data coach, a review team determines whether a college has earned the Leader College designation.

“We expect these exemplary colleges to serve as mentors within the Achieving the Dream community of learners, as well as advocates for the values, principles, and mission of Achieving the Dream,” Trueheart said. “Creating and implementing student success initiatives that have an enduring impact takes time and patience. It’s critical that we get it right and that we learn from institutions — Tacoma Community College — that have demonstrated success in key areas and have been able to sustain progress over time.”