Board hears report on rising completion rates, falling engagement scores

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Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems, explains the Community College Survey of Student Engagement results at the board meeting Sept. 16 at the Killen Center. The national benchmark for community colleges is 50.0 in the five areas surveyed. Alamo Colleges has declined in the last two biennials.  Photo by Ian Coleman

Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems, explains the Community College Survey of Student Engagement results at the board meeting Sept. 16 at the Killen Center. The national benchmark for community colleges is 50.0 in the five areas surveyed. Alamo Colleges has declined in the last two biennials. Photo by Ian Coleman

District scores show students want more faculty support.

By Bleah B. Patterson

bpatterson13@student.alamo.edu

The district board of trustees is pleased with improvements in completion, retention and productive grade rates across the five colleges; however, they are now looking to improve falling Community College Survey of Student Engagement scores.

Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance and information systems, presented comparisons of the scores and CCSSE results during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

All but two of the monitored scores have improved since last year, but a comparison of the CCSSE results from the 2013-2014 academic year reveals a steady decline since 2009.

There has also been an increase in district-dubbed “high-risk” courses since last year.

“A course is considered high risk when there are 100 or more students enrolled in it across the district and it has a pass rate of 70 percent or less,” Cleary said.

Student trustee Jacob Wong said: “I see at least a dozen classes on this list where students didn’t realize the skill-set needed to get through these classes.

“For instance, a lot of students I talk to don’t realize how much math they should be comfortable doing in astronomy,” he said.

Astronomy is one of 36 high-risk courses; a third of which are math courses.

Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor for academic success, said not knowing is no excuse: “The course catalog and syllabi are available for students to look into before the class begins.”

Wong interjected, saying the syllabuses and catalog resources are vague and students don’t know what to expect of classes.

“That’s why we need to talk to students,” trustee Gene Sprague said. “If we just talked to them and identified the problems, we could then make a point of solving them.”

Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the new, more intrusive, advising model would prevent those problems.  Students are asked to participate in CCSSE, a national student engagement survey, at the end of every semester. Students receive a link to the survey in ACES email.

The survey revealed only 49 percent of students are benefiting from faculty interaction and support, and only 47.7 percent of students feel challenged in the classroom. Both sections, according to the presentation, began declining in 2012. Some faculty blame recent initiatives, geared toward student success, for distracting them from students, as quoted in The Ranger’s Sept. 15 story “Student success initiative derived from self-help book.”

The most recent FranklinCovey-related initiative adopted by faculty and staff districtwide is the Four Disciplines of Execution, or 4DX.

In November 2011, district officials, including the presidents and vice chancellors committee, or PVC, began initiating a relationship with FranklinCovey, its curriculum and trainers, including The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and 4DX.

According to the presentation, 7,310 graduations are confirmed for the 2013-2014 academic year, surpassing the district’s wildly important goal, or WIG, associated with the 4DX faculty target of 7,000.

Leslie said a new WIG will be configured for the 2015 school year because the colleges achieved this goal one year early.

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