Friday, November 15, 2013

Community Colleges, Completion Rates, and Bad Craziness

Talk to a person who works in community colleges about their  institutions and the challenges they face, and you will probably get an earful. Most of us love working where we are (if not in the institutional sense, then at least in the Community Cellege - vs. 4-Year institution spectrum).  But we get a lot of attention, rightly or wrongly, for things like completion rates, retention rates, persistence, and whatever other standard gets added to our plate of outcomes to be held accountible for. And in an era of performance-based funding, the disconnect between externally-based definitions and the realities that we work with are serious and somewhat staggering.

Don't get me wrong - accountibility is fine. Showing that what we do makes a positive contribution to people and the society that they live in  is a good thing, and we have different ways of providing that information. The problem comes in creating working definitions for the standards we are to be held to. We are all about helping our students succeed - but not just by the strict definition that the government imposes.

Here is an article from Inside Higher Education that, on the surface, points out a specific challenge that many CC students face - but uses some of those "artificial", externally-imposed terms to determine success and failure. Read the article - but also be sure to read the comments AFTER the article. Comments are sometimes launching points for folks with some "interesting" ideas, but several of these ask COMPLETELY legitimate questions about the article, its premise and assumptions, that folks should definitely consider.

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