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ERIC Number: ED504244
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jan
Pages: 52
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Formative Evaluation of the Student Achievement Initiative "Learning Year"
Jenkins, Davis; Ellwein, Todd; Boswell, Katherine
Community College Research Center, Columbia University
In September 2007, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) officially launched the Student Achievement Initiative, a system-wide policy to reward colleges for improvements in student achievement. Developed by a task force comprised of State Board members, college trustees, presidents, and faculty representatives, the policy emphasizes three overarching principles: (1) improved educational attainments for students, particularly those shown by research to be correlated with the earning of higher future wages by students; (2) sufficient flexibility for colleges to improve student achievement according to their local needs; and (3) identification and implementation of successful practices to improve student achievement system-wide. Researchers from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, conducted an independent qualitative review of the Student Achievement Initiative during the 2007-08 learning year. The purpose of this formative evaluation was to assess the extent of awareness and understanding of the initiative among college personnel, examine the initial responses to it by the colleges, and identify opportunities for and potential barriers to the further development of the initiative. In-person and telephone interviews were conducted with college personnel, stakeholders and policymakers. Reported findings include: (1) Colleges strongly supported the initiative's goals and the principles of the achievement point framework; (2) Awareness of the initiative was limited among the colleges' rank and file; (3) Colleges grappled with their performance data throughout the learning year; (4) Most colleges had not yet used an analysis of their performance data to plan new strategies to improve student achievement; (5) At many colleges, student services staff led efforts in response to the initiative; (6) Several colleges focused their initial efforts on basic skills and developmental education; Some colleges were planning to implement measures with a likely one-time effect; (8) Several colleges were beginning to link the initiative to strategic planning and accreditation activities; (9) Colleges were concerned that use of the achievement point framework and the incentive funding model may produce unintended effects and place some colleges at a disadvantage; (10) College presidents emphasized that, in order to be effective in improving college performance, the initiative must bring new funding to colleges, over and above base budget funding; and (11) While state policymakers indicated strong support for the initiative's model of performance accountability and improvement, there is limited awareness of the initiative and no strong champions for it among state legislators; the looming fiscal crisis further threatens the SBCTC's legislative request for new funding to support the initiative. Because colleges are just beginning to analyze their data and consider changes in practices that would improve student achievement, the authors recommend that extending the learning period would give the Board and the colleges a chance to deepen awareness and support of the initiative among faculty and staff, use the data to identify areas of weakness, and implement and evaluate strategies for improving student achievement. This would also increase the opportunity to examine to what extent and in what ways colleges change their practices in response to the initiative. Given the interest in the initiative by other states and funders nationally, the authors suggest that the State Board well be able to raise private foundation funds to supplement state funding of the initiative during such a period of further experimentation and evaluation. (Contains 11 footnotes.) [Additional funding provided by College Spark Washington.]
Community College Research Center. Available from: CCRC Publications. Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street Box 174, New York, NY 10027. Tel: 212-678-3091; Fax: 212-678-3699; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Ford Foundation; Lumina Foundation for Education
Authoring Institution: Columbia University, Community College Research Center
Identifiers - Location: Washington