Retrieving the Dream

By David Moitz

Champions of Achieving the Dream, a nationwide initiative designed to boost the academic success of community college students, received some humbling news last month, when an independent evaluation revealed that overall trends in student outcomes at the first 26 institutions to join the effort remained relatively unchanged after five years, despite the use of a variety of strategies to improve them. The critical appraisal also suggested that the participating institutions need to do more to involve adjunct and full-time faculty in their efforts, concentrate more on teaching and learning in the classroom, learn to scale up promising strategies to reach more students, and help institutions that have “very weak data capacity” assess their work.

In response to the critique, Achieving the Dream is releasing a series of guides and workshops designed to “provide a framework, principles and practices” to help community colleges overcome the four major challenges to reform identified in the recent evaluation. Last week, it released a publication and held a national workshop to discuss how its institutions can work to engage more adjunct and full-time faculty in their student success-driven initiatives. Though Achieving the Dream officials admit that their new suggestions may not engage many more professors overnight or win over the persistent skeptics among their ranks, they argue that they are learning from their project’s “struggles” and are more cognizant than ever that “moving the needle” is hard work.

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