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California Looks at Ways to Up Community College Completion

Since California is often a step ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to everything from trends to public policy, it may be smart to follow the discussion happening there about community college completion.

A Student Success Task Force has produced a draft report with 23 recommendations to improve educational attainment for students at the state's 112 community colleges. The plan is being floated around the state at town hall meetings all month to get feedback before presenting it to the board of governors and state legislature by March.

Among the recommendations of the task force, which was convened by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors:

• Have a common,centralized diagnostic assessment for course placement;

• Require students showing a lack of college readiness to participate in support resources and begin addressing basic-skills deficiencies in their first year;

• Mandate students to declare a program of study early in their academic careers;

• Focus course offerings and schedules on needs of students;

• Create a continuum of mandatory professional development for faculty and direct professional-development resources toward improving basic-skills instruction and support services;

• Set local student-success goals, implement a student-success scorecard, and develop and support a longitudinal student-record system; and

• Do not implement outcome-based funding at this time.

The debate in California over how to reform the community college system to encourage more degree completion is worth following. The cost of community college dropouts has been the focus of recent research and stirred some controversy over how to measure student success on campus. Community colleges have traditionally been the sector that has embraced open access, and enrollment has soared in recent years. But with tight resources and calls for greater accountability, there may well be policy changes coming, with California leading the way.

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