College to engage research, policies to close student achievement gap
With a goal of creating a culture of completion, Jefferson Community & Technical College is one of only 30 community colleges nationwide selected for the Achieving the Dream 2011 cohort.
Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count is a national nonprofit organization focused on helping colleges improve student success, particularly students of color and low-income students, by removing barriers while maintaining academic rigor. The organization works on multiple fronts, including efforts on campuses and in research, public engagement and public policy.
Launched as an initiative in 2004 with funding from the Lumina Foundation for Education, Achieving the Dream focuses on broad institutional change, informed by student achievement data.
Selection to Achieving the Dream is considered an honor. To date, only 160 intuitions among about 1,200 community colleges nationwide are members of the Achieving the Dream network. Jefferson is the only Kentucky college to be selected.
To qualify, colleges must demonstrate a commitment to recognizing and addressing achievement gaps. Jefferson’s leadership in the 55,000 Degrees initiative to improve the region’s educational attainment levels and the college’s innovative Change Makers Partnership, Health Care Career Pathways, Early College at Western High School, Jefferson Counts (math remediation) and Student Support Services programs, all directed at supporting the success of at-risk students, helped propel Jefferson’s selection to this year’s cohort.
“Closing achievement gaps and improving student outcomes is extremely difficult work. The ambitious commitment of JCTC is commendable,” said William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “Adding 30 colleges to the Achieving the Dream national reform network means that an additional 300,000 students now have a better chance of earning a certificate or degree, realizing greater economic opportunity, and achieving their dreams.”
As an Achieving the Dream college, Jefferson will embark on intensive analyses of the college’s strengths, problem areas and achievement gaps. The college has committed to assessing the effectiveness of policies and practices, institutionalizing the approaches that prove successful, and sharing the findings widely.
Through Achieving the Dream, Jefferson will have the opportunity to learn from other Achieving the Dream institutions and receive assistance from experienced practitioners. The goals are to identify problems, set priorities and measure progress toward increasing student success.
“We believe that our active participation in the Achieving the Dream network, with its focus on student outcomes, assessment and accountability and its deep knowledge of national best practices, will be the key to achieving our own dream of becoming our region’s most successful pathway to degree completion, helping thousands of students each year out of poverty and into self-sufficiency,” said Tony Newberry, Jefferson president and CEO of Jefferson.
As a public open access community college, Jefferson reflects national norms for comparable institutions. Seventy-six percent of incoming students require one remedial course and 50 percent are placed in two. The average income of a Jefferson student is $23,000 a year, which is 50 percent less than the average Kentucky university student. These barriers, along with the challenges of jobs and families, keep many students from completing a college credential.
At its core, Achieving the Dream seeks to help more students reach their individual goals, which may include earning a community college certificate, diploma or degree, attaining a bachelor’s degree, and/or obtaining a better job. Achieving the Dream colleges maintain a high degree of access for historically underrepresented groups while working to increase the percentage of students who accomplish the following:
- successfully complete the courses they take;
- advance from remedial to credit-bearing courses;
- enroll in and successfully complete gatekeeper courses;
- enroll from one semester to the next; and
- earn degrees and/or certificates.