The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Dream program focuses on data for success goals

By Shelly Williams/editor-in-chief

TCC has spent the fall semester preparing the college for its newest initiative for student success, Achieving the Dream.

The college is touting the nationally recognized program everywhere from its stationary to its website to its voicemail messages. It has been Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley’s big push since she took over the job earlier this year.

But some TCC faculty members are concerned whether the program is focusing on the right angle to achieve student success.

TCC took on Achieving the Dream in June, but for some, the program seems to focus too much on fixing school efficiency issues and not enough on how to keep students motivated.

“The externals like parking lots, better equipment and more staff will make our jobs as faculty run smoother — allowing us to focus on our students’ success,” said NE Campus associate art professor Cynthia Hurt. “But we’re all challenged with daily issues like engaging the student.”

TCC is one of 130 colleges across the country and one of 33 in Texas that have made a commitment to increasing student success through the program, said Katie Loovis, director of communication for Achieving the Dream.

Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count is a national nonprofit organization that aims to help more community college students succeed, particularly students of color and low-income students, she said.

The organization works on multiple fronts, including efforts on campuses and research, public engagement and public policy, she said. It emphasizes the use of data to drive change.

“TCC believes in a ‘culture of evidence’ for assessing institutional policy and creating an educational environment for assuring student success,” said TCC’s interim director for Achieving the Dream Alma Martinez-Egger. “TCC is breaking down data to determine whether students are making progress or whether there are achievement gaps among some segments of the student population.”

TCC has gathered data so far by measuring student outcomes through completion of developmental courses and progression to credit-bearing courses, completion of credit hours, students’ retention rate from term to term and year to year and the number of students who actually attain their credentials.

Though data gathering and processing is ongoing, TCC has already found some achievement gaps among student groups involving ethnicity and gender, Martinez-Egger said.

The college has two teams of researchers extensively studying barriers that involve policies, procedures, publications, communication, support services and instructional barriers as well as business services, facilities and technology barriers. The teams are also looking at research barriers and administrative barriers.

Achieving the Dream is just beginning for TCC, but some faculty believe that the initiative should focus more on ways to inspire students instead of on administrative issues.

“Students — prepared or not, having the requisite academic skills or not — pass my course when they want to,” NE history instructor Andrew Hollinger said in an e-mail. “The students who are fresh out of jail, the ones from Southlake driving BMWs, the ones with three kids and a job — yes, the ones who want to pass find a way. I fought for everything I have. So did you. So will they.

“The question is not of bureaucratic bungling snafus to be fixed, but one of motivation.”

He then suggested putting the news of successful students on the college halls after they’ve graduated to help keep students reaching for their dreams. One idea included creating 500 Facebook posters every year to hang around the campuses and classrooms with short bios, backgrounds and sayings on work and success.

“We, both faculty and students, are within the halls of the successful. If they can make it, so can I,” he said.

He received an e-mail one year from a man fresh from prison, saying Hollinger’s class inspired him to want to reclaim his family and be admitted to the bar in Texas, even though he legally can’t as a felon.

“You know, the fact that he’s willing to try is what we do this for, isn’t it?” he said. “Don’t worry about the small stuff. I believe it was Erich Fromm who observed the first secret to surviving is the will to live. Maybe for us, the first element of student success is the will to achieve.”

In an article by the Texas Tribune, Mark Escamilla, president of Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, said Achieving the Dream would call the colleges participating to have what he called “courageous conversations” — openly acknowledging and discussing where the schools’ faculty and leadership have failed in moving students toward graduation.

Martinez-Egger said these conversations refer to facing “not-so-pretty data” without pointing fingers of blame and better understanding why a certain barrier may exist and what can be done to fix it.

“To paraphrase Chancellor Johnson Hadley, we do well at serving those students who don’t need us but not so well at serving those who do need us,’” she said.

Some faculty wondered whether Achieving the Dream differs from the college’s long-term goals called Strategic Plan, TCC Vision 2015.

“Achieving the Dream is not separate from Vision 2015,” Martinez-Egger said. “The discussion regarding the national movement of Achieving the Dream occurred because of Vision 2015, conversations regarding student success. TCC is all about access and success. This yin-yang is the foundation of Vision 2015 and Achieving the Dream is teaching us to be a data-driven, decision-making institution.”

The data gathered as a part of the Achieving the Dream process will be presented Jan. 24 to all TCC stakeholders for interpretation and input, Martinez-Egger said.

One change could include a new attendance policy for students in developmental courses. TR vice president of teaching and learning services Bryan Stewart said this proposal is a part of Achieving the Dream. Though the attendance policy is still in discussion, it could be implemented in the next fall term. The policy would automatically drop students from a course if they miss a certain number of classes.

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