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ERIC Number: ED517934
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 17
Performance Incentives to Improve Community College Completion: Learning from Washington State's Student Achievement Initiative. A State Policy Brief
Shulock, Nancy; Jenkins, Davis
Community College Research Center, Columbia University
Amid growing signs of America's weakening position in the global economy, federal and state policymakers and major foundations have set ambitious goals for increasing postsecondary attainment in the United States. Given changing U.S. demographics, it has become clear that these national goals are attainable only with vastly improved outcomes among traditionally less-successful populations, which include academically underprepared students who come from poor primary and secondary schools, adults who are working in low-wage jobs or are unemployed, and immigrants with limited English proficiency. These populations enroll predominantly in the nation's community colleges. Given declining public resources for public higher education and skyrocketing enrollments, better outcomes from community colleges will require gains in productivity. Colleges will need to learn how to increase student progression and success with the same or fewer resources. Doing so will require community colleges to make systemic changes in their policies and practices. It is within this context that the Washington State Student Achievement Initiative (SAI) has attracted national attention. As states strive to increase community college student success, many are looking at two policy levers--data and performance funding--to motivate and guide colleges to implement changes in practice that lead to improved student outcomes. Washington's State Board for Community and Technical Colleges is at the forefront of efforts to develop better measures of student success and to use those enhanced measures as the basis for rewarding colleges for increasing student achievement. In adopting and implementing the SAI, the State Board is seeking to use data and fiscal incentives to drive systemic institutional improvement and thus increase productivity across its 34-college system. This brief examines key policy issues raised by Washington State's experience to date with its vanguard performance incentive policy. It draws on the authors' observations from the first year of a three-year, Gates Foundation-funded evaluation of the SAI as well as from their experience with these issues in a national context. Because the evaluation of the SAI and the SAI policy itself are still in their early stages, it is too early to assess the long-term effectiveness of this effort. However, insights from Washington State's early experience with the policy can help inform the conversation currently occurring in many states on how to use state policy levers to meet ambitious state and national goals for increased college completion. To that end, the brief examines policy challenges and choices that the Washington community and technical college system has grappled with as it designed and is now implementing the SAI, and that policymakers and college leaders in other states will have to address in their efforts to improve community college outcomes. (Contains 15 endnotes.
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: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: Columbia University, Community College Research Center; California State University, Sacramento. Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy
Identifiers - Location: Washington