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ERIC Number: ED546648
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Apr
Pages: 91
Abstractor: ERIC
Moving Ahead with Institutional Change: Lessons from the First Round of Achieving the Dream Community Colleges
Mayer, Alexander K.; Cerna, Oscar; Cullinan, Dan; Fong, Kelley; Rutschow, Elizabeth Zachry; Jenkins, Davis
Each year, millions of Americans enroll in community colleges, seeking to develop the skills necessary to pursue a career or to transfer to a four-year institution. Community colleges serve large proportions of nontraditional, low-income, and minority students, and they are designed to provide access to a postsecondary education at a low or relatively affordable cost. Yet for most students who enter these institutions, academic success remains elusive. In 2004, Lumina Foundation and a group of partner organizations--the American Association of Community Colleges; the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas; the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University; Jobs for the Future; MDC, Inc.; MDRC; and Public Agenda--launched Achieving the Dream, a bold, multiyear national initiative aimed at improving student outcomes in community colleges, particularly among low-income students and students of color. The partner organizations were selected to help Lumina design and operate Achieving the Dream, which set out to foster fundamental changes in the culture and operations of community colleges. Lumina and the founding partners sought to spur a process of institutional change through monetary and professional supports from the initiative, combined with colleges' own investments. This process centered on building a "culture of evidence"--one in which colleges routinely use evidence to help their students succeed academically. The partners theorized that undertaking broad-based institutional efforts would ultimately lead to improvements in student outcomes. Twenty-six colleges (called the "Round 1" colleges) were the first to join the initiative in 2004. In 2011, MDRC, in partnership with CCRC, published "Turning the Tide: Five Years of Achieving the Dream in Community Colleges". That report described the implementation of the initiative and trends in student outcomes among these 26 colleges from 2004 through 2009. This report, the final publication from MDRC and CCRC on the Round 1 colleges, builds on "Turning the Tide" in two ways. First, it extends the analyses of institution-wide outcomes to students who were entering the Round 1 institutions during the latter period of the colleges' five-year implementation grants, when institutions were expected to have more fully implemented many of their Achieving the Dream initiatives. Second, the report explores variation in student outcome trends at Round 1 colleges and reanalyzes the implementation data in order to inform other institutions that are undertaking reforms. This report is a retrospective study of Achieving the Dream as it was implemented between 2004 and 2009 at the first 26 colleges to participate, rather than an assessment of the initiative's direct impact on its student outcomes or current activities and programs. Indeed, the initiative now includes nearly 200 participating colleges. Overall, this report finds that average institution-wide trends in student outcomes remained relatively stable during the period of study, including during the prolonged recession that began in the United States in late 2007. Three colleges, however, stood out for gains on multiple indicators of student success. The practices of these institutions suggest possible lessons for community college practitioners, in addition to new directions for research. In particular: (1) Each college focused on specific student subgroups, and each coordinated multiple reform efforts around their chosen subgroup; (2) In later years, after gaining experience with the initial subgroups, each college expanded its new practices in order to reach larger groups of students and faculty. Targeted professional development for faculty and staff involved in the work supported this focus; and (3) One college used its reaccreditation process to help coordinate its reform efforts and to work toward establishing a common set of goals. This report concludes by discussing the lessons gleaned from the experiences of Round 1 colleges with Achieving the Dream. A section on additional analysis is appended. [This report was written with Donna Chan and Phoebe Richman. See ED516014, for "Turning the Tide: Five Years of Achieving the Dream in Community Colleges".]
MDRC. 16 East 34th Street 19th Floor, New York, NY 10016-4326. Tel: 212-532-3200; Fax: 212-684-0832; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Two Year Colleges; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Lumina Foundation
Authoring Institution: MDRC; Columbia University, Community College Research Center; Achieving the Dream, Inc.