by Alana J. Mauger
Montgomery County Community College was selected as one of 40 community colleges in the country to pilot a new Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) that is designed to redefine the term “success” for two-year institutions nationwide.
The VFA is the first national system to provide accurate data, operational transparency and the ability for colleges to benchmark student progress and completion data against peer institutions. It is being developed by the American Association for Community Colleges (AACC) in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and the College Board, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education.
“It’s important for Montgomery County Community College to be engaged in the VFA pilot, not only to provide insight regarding the framework, but also to learn from and share best practices with other institutions across the country,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, President. “This initiative is consistent with the College’s focus on data-informed decision making, and supports the anchor of the College’s strategic plan—to expand access and increase student success.”
Dr. Stout has taken a national leadership role in the initiative, working with a team of community college professionals to develop custom metrics for the pilot in the area of student persistence and outcomes. She has also helped to position the VFA as a critical tool among colleague presidents and trustees through presentations at AACC and ACCT.
Starting in mid-January, the College, along with the other pilot institutions, will begin to test the custom metrics in the VFA. Because it is being developed in stages, project leaders will propose additional measures as the participating institutions report outcomes and assess how well they gauge institutional effectiveness.
In late January, the AACC will make available all the resources provided to the pilots so that any institution will be able to calculate the proposed VFA measures, understand the pilot testing process and learn more about the VFA. Added to the pilot testing, AACC will develop mock-ups for what could be built as the VFA data collection and display tool, and share the preliminary designs during the AACC annual meeting and via virtual meetings in the second half of 2011.
Pending the outcomes of the pilot testing, reaction to the VFA among AACC member institutions, and future funding, a full-scale rollout to the nation’s close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges could take place starting in 2012.
The VFA project fills what community college advocates have seen as a void in measures appropriate to the unique two-year college mission.
“Many traditional measures of institutional effectiveness don’t work well for community colleges,” said Walter G. Bumphus, AACC President and CEO. “For example, most are pegged to full-time students, and the majority of community college students attend part-time. Our overarching goal is to develop measures appropriate to our mission that clearly tell students and policy makers how we’re doing.”