College Earns National Recognition for Student Success Work

by Alana J. Mauger

Montgomery County Community College received national recognition for its excellence in leveraging data to impact student success and completion on Feb. 8 during the annual Achieving the Dream Strategy Institute in Indianapolis, Ind.

The special recognition was part of the 2011 Leah Meyer Austin Institutional Student Success Leadership Award, presented by Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count and the Lumina Foundation for Education. The recognition includes a $5,000 award to further the College’s student success programs and initiatives.

“The College uses data to align our budget decisions and strategic plans with student success goals,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, President. “The College’s data-informed decision making is essential for continuous improvement because, unless you have a system-wide structure that collects data, analyzes it, and makes adjustments on a routine basis, you really don’t know if you’re achieving your mission.”

Since joining the Achieving the Dream initiative in 2006, Montgomery County Community College has worked with national experts to identify strategies that improve student outcomes. Examples include improving persistence and success among students who place in pre-college level courses, re-examining targeted college-level courses—called gatekeeper courses, and reducing achievement gaps for specific cohorts of students.

The College will use the $5,000 as seed money to develop a Gatekeeper Course Academy, which, through the creation of inquiry groups, will provide faculty with the resources and support necessary to further examine student performance in each of the College’s 14 identified gatekeeper courses.

“Through our Student Success work, we have significant longitudinal data on student performance in each of the 14 gatekeeper courses,” said Dr. Stout. “The next step in improving student success requires a systematic and in-depth examination of what is happening in each of these courses.”

In addition to its use of data to evaluate and re-design gatekeeper courses, the College has engaged in significant analysis of and curricular changes in developmental education, including a complete redesign of its basic arithmetic course. Under a new approach, called “Concepts of Numbers,” student success rates are consistently 20 percent higher than those in courses taught with the traditional approach. Close to 800 students were impacted by “Concepts of Numbers” to date, and this spring, virtually all of the basic arithmetic courses are using this approach.

The College has also implemented improved processes and programs to bolster students’ first-year experience and transition to college based on systematic data analysis. Examples include improved new student orientation and registration processes, attendance reporting and mid-term grading requirements, reconfigured placement cutoff scores, a mandatory college orientation program for students placing in two or more developmental courses, and a Minority Male Mentoring Program.

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