CCRC Report: The State of Reform

One of the major players in the movement to reform community colleges in order to improve student success rates is the highly respected Community College Research Center, at Teachers College, Columbia University. The revenue for pilot programs and initiatives often comes from philanthropic foundations, along with enterprising local and state experiments. But much of the data employed in this project is from CCRC.

A new report provides a nice analysis, with references, on how the reform movement stands right now. You’ll find discussion of guided pathways, developmental education, workforce training, and other salient topics discussed here often.

The researchers at CCRC take care to conform to the standards of sound statistical and data analysis. But this does not mean its reports should be the last word on the topics it covers. As the report itself indicates, faculty members are important stakeholders in the reform movement. As difficult as it might be, you should let those responsible for policy changes know of your concerns.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once noted that the only thing permanent is change. Certainly change is inevitable, but this doesn’t mean every prospective change is inevitable. Some ideas get shot down when exposed to the blinding light of experience. For example, take MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which a few years ago prognosticators were touting as the new paradigm for all of higher education. Well, not so far. Students, especially our students, need real teachers who can interact with them individually. MOOCs have their place, but they have a long way to go if they want to disrupt (the fashionable term these days) higher education, especially at community colleges.

In today’s data-driven policy world, it is always best to use language prized by expert opinion. This means that anecdotes and personal impressions may not be enough to be persuasive. If you don’t have the academic background to evaluate empirical studies and statistics, there are individual faculty members on your campus who do. They can be a valuable resource.

The CCRC report is a commendable update, but it’s clear that there is no magic pill to improve success rates.