Assessment

Missed Connections

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Contradictions abound in the world of incoming community college students.

Most say they feel welcome at their institutions, but few receive information during orientation that is critical to their success. Most say they have the motivation and skills it takes to succeed, but these same students quickly adopt behaviors that are detrimental to their performance in the classroom. Most meet with academic advisers, but they do not always outline their academic goals and develop plans to accomplish them during these meetings.

No Letup From Washington

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CHICAGO -- If you closed your eyes and listened to the various highlighted speakers at the Higher Learning Commission's annual meeting here this week, you might have thought that Margaret Spellings and her outcomes-focused colleagues were still running the U.S. Education Department.

How to Judge Community Colleges

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SEATTLE -- After leaders of the American Association of Community Colleges revealed details about a new national accountability system to a packed room here Monday, the first question was simple: Who is this system for? Who needs to understand it?

The answer from R. Eileen Baccus, president emeritus of Northwestern Connecticut Community College, and chair of one of the committees developing the system, was also simple: The answers need to make sense for those "who are on our backs."

What the Pledge Means

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SEATTLE – Six influential community college organizations signed a commitment to boost student completion rates by 50 percent over the next decade Tuesday, at the closing of this week's meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Retention, From Beginning to End

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NEW ORLEANS -- A few years ago, most of the enrollment-related sessions at a meeting like the annual conference of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers were related to getting students in the front door. Some still are -- colleges still must keep up a steady flow of entering students, of course.

Using Data to Drive Performance

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ST. PAUL, MINN. -- Pockets of experimentation and potential change are cropping up all over the place in higher education. Here, it's the OpenCourseWare movement. There, colleges are adopting "just in time" remediation. And over here, some states are changing funding formulas to reward institutions for graduating students rather than merely enrolling them.

Community Colleges' Unfunded Mandate

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President Obama, foundation leaders and the heads of advocacy groups all agree that community colleges need to focus on more than access and drastically improve their generally low completion rates. By and large, these leaders believe that these institutions know, whether by research or common sense, just what to do – such as providing better academic advising, outreach to struggling students, financial aid to encourage full-time enrollment, smaller class sizes and so forth. So what’s the holdup?

Middle States Divided

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Accrediting agencies are facing significant outside pressure over their independence and performance, raising questions in some quarters about the viability of education's system of institutional peer review. But one of the country's six regional accreditors of colleges is facing a threat from within, in the form of a nasty internal battle with its parent organization.

The Faculty Role in Assessment

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Amid continuing debate, and sometimes disagreement, about the value and wisdom of measuring student learning outcomes in higher education, a few areas of consensus are slowly emerging.

Institutional Research Roundup

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CHICAGO -- Institutional researchers are higher education's version of a utility infielder. That doesn't mean they lack expertise: They specialize in bringing data to bear on issues and problems, and explaining and interpreting those data to campus constituents who often come at the information from widely varying viewpoints. Their versatility comes, though, in the wide range of subjects they touch and of decisions over which they have some influence.

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