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ATD Initiative Opens Door to Success for Many STLCC Students
March 26, 2014
Kay McClenney, left, visits with STLCC Trustee Hattie Jackson prior to giving a report about STLCC's efforts with the Achieving the Dream Initiative.
Many of the goals have been achieved, but the work is far from over.
That is the consensus after St. Louis Community College officials evaluated results of the four-year participation in the American Community College Association’s Achieving the Dream (ATD) Initiative.
“I’m here to congratulate and reinforce the work of lots of people that is beginning to show real results for students,” said Kay McClenney, Ph.D., soon-to-be retired director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, at the recent STLCC Board of Trustees meeting. McClenney has served as the college’s ATD coach since 2010.
Through ATD, the college has leveraged its efforts, seeking to strengthen the entering student experience and the transition of students from developmental to college-level work, with the immediate goal of increasing retention and the ultimate aim of enabling larger numbers of students to achieve their desired educational goals.
“I think the most significant results of our ATD work are the increases in first-time-in-college (FTIC) student retention and the number of students earning a “C” or better in their coursework,” said Teresa Huether, professor in mathematics and ATD senior project associate. “Committee members from all locations worked together to create four strategies that are up and running and are part of our STLCC processes, and we have begun the huge task of redesigning developmental education.”
The four strategies include New Student Registration Workshops, New Student Orientation, Smart Start:Student Success and First Four Weeks.
“The key for all students is to start at the front door – if you don’t get it right there, students will not persist,” McClenney said. “If we can keep them here, their success skyrockets.”
After several years of declining trends in retention, STLCC is showing positive results, including a three percent increase in retention for FTIC students as a result of these strategies.
“The first in their families to attend college likely have no one at home who can tell them what they need to do to be successful at STLCC,” Huether said. “With this in mind, the teams made no assumptions when creating their strategies. They thought about what information and skills FTIC students would need from the moment they decided to come to STLCC until they completed their first semester. That information and those skills were incorporated into our ATD strategies. I would never have dreamed that our retention and student success would increase that much in such a short time.”
Redesigning Developmental Education
Developmental education (DE) redesign is under way in reading, English and mathematics, led by department chairs and deans. The goals are to:
Increase the number of students who pass their DE courses with a “C” or better.
Decrease the number of semesters students are taking DE courses.
Increase fall to spring and fall to fall retention rates of students take DE courses.
Increase the number of degrees and certificates earned by students who being their education with DE courses.
“You have hundreds of faculty and staff members ready to get the work done,” McClenney said. “For the numbers of students represented here, their life trajectory is going to be different because faculty and staff are doing the work to make a difference in their students’ lives.”
Huether, who is retiring in June, is confident the work on increasing student success will continue to positively change STLCC.
“I think being part of ATD has been an amazing process for STLCC,” she said. “The courageous conversations we had around our data that first semester were enlightening and gave us the desire to change. The work of the strategy teams was tremendous. To witness my colleagues around the college focus on student success and the student experience in ways they had not done before was inspiring. Today, as a result of our ATD work, I believe faculty and staff are even more willing to work together as one college.”