Building a Culture of Evidence: A Case Study of a California Community College
This case study focused on one California community college six years after it began its effort to build a culture of evidence. A culture of evidence was defined by Brock et al. (2007) as a college culture where administrators, faculty, and staff “gather, analyze, and use data to transform their practices and cultures in order to help more students succeed” (p. 6). The college’s accrediting commission revised its standards in 2002 to accentuate the importance of student learning outcomes and other practices associated with data-informed decision making for the purpose of increased student success. The new standards provided the impetus for the college’s change initiative. The study targeted faculty perceptions of the progress made toward building this culture.
The problem under investigation in this study was how a culture of evidence is created and its practices are implemented as a new paradigm at the community college level. There are numerous obstacles to building a culture of evidence and implementing its practices, including the need for institutional support in the semblance of vision, personnel, and funding, and faculty concerns such as workload and adequate time to fully master the concept and carry out this research-based mission (Brock et al., 2007; Morest & Jenkins, 2007). The process requires acceptance and trust by all stakeholders and the access and delivery of meaningful data and research in order to be fully implemented.
- What was the perceived level of implementation of practices consistent with building a culture of evidence at Alpha College?
- What were the documented practices consistent with building a culture of evidence at Alpha College?
- How did the stakeholders perceive this organizational culture change?
For over twenty years there have been accountability efforts underway for institutions of higher education in terms of student success and institutional effectiveness measures. In their seminal study on how community colleges use these data, Roueche, Johnson, and Roueche (1997) found that few community colleges were actually using the data for local decision making; rather, the data were used primarily for reporting purposes. In two large national studies, Brock et al. (2007) and Morest and Jenkins (2007) found that faculty were reluctant to use these types of data for common reasons. Issues included commitment to the value of the practice, the need for relevant and actionable data, assistance with using the data, adequate time to process the data, and assurance with how the data would be used by the institution in relation to the faculty member.
In addition to considerations for the actual tasks associated with building a culture of evidence were considerations for culture change, specifically in the higher education environment. Tierney (1988) found that each college has its own institutional culture and that it has significant impact upon any culture change. Bergquist (1992) found that there are four cultural archetypes that define institutions of higher education, and that each college has a unique combination of these characteristics. Kezar and Eckel (2002) combined the work of Tierney and Bergquist and found that it is essential to build change around local, individual culture, and to do otherwise is to invite failure. In short, change must be locally designed and implemented according to institutional culture. Schein (2004) advised that culture change is measured in years and can take ten to fifteen years to accomplish.
Kotter (1995) identified eight stages to any successful transformational change effort. These include: identifying a sense of urgency; creating a guiding coalition of stakeholders; articulating a shared vision of what the change will entail; consistently communicating about the change; empowering stakeholders to act within the vision; planning for and creating short term successes, consolidating improvements; and institutionalizing the new practices.
This study used a mixed method approach, which is appropriate for a study of culture and culture change (Creswell, 2003; Schein, 2004). It included a survey, individual interviews, and document analysis in order to triangulate the data. Evaluation criteria included the perceived level of implementation of practices consistent with building a culture of evidence, and considerations of culture, higher education culture, culture change, and transformational change theory.
All tenured and tenure track faculty at the college were included in the survey. Twelve faculty members, representing each of the college’s schools, and including both junior and senior faculty, and leadership and non-leadership faculty, were selected for a twelve question semi-structured interview. Publicly available documents and websites were evaluated for the document analysis.
Findings were consistent with those identified in the literature. In terms of using data-informed practices, those closest to the practitioner’s locus of control were the most fully implemented and most highly valued by the faculty. This included how data were used in their professional practice. Faculty were not averse to using data, but wanted to include both quantitative and qualitative measures that were relevant to their work, and were readily actionable. They also wanted assurance with how assessment data would be used relative to performance evaluation. Adequate resources and support for using data-informed practices, including workload considerations, professional development, and institutional research support, were important for many faculty.
In terms of culture and transformational change implications, findings were also consistent with the literature. The need to follow local culture was identified, as was the need for consistent communication.
Components necessary for building a culture of evidence were compiled from input provided by faculty and yielded a framework that included the following themes: Come Together, including broad dialogue, creation of a shared vision, and articulation of a robust plan; Honor Local Culture; Communicate Widely; Create Structure; Offer Appropriate Professional Development; Use Relevant Data; and Assure that Resources Meet Needs.
When deploying an initiative such as building a culture of evidence, models of change such as Kotter’s (1995) should be consulted to assure that each essential step is considered in planning the change in order to assure that all components of the change are addressed. Likewise, in building a culture of evidence, models of practice and evaluation for data-informed decision making such as those developed by Brock et al. (2007), McClenney, McClenney, and Peterson (2007), and Morest and Jenkins (2007) should be consulted to understand the nature of practices associated with building a culture of evidence, strategies that have worked for others, and those that have not. Obstacles and supports should be proactively identified and addressed.
For successful outcomes, all change efforts must begin and continue in a manner consistent with established cultural processes and decision making at the college (Bergquist, 1992; Kezar & Eckel, 2002; Schein, 2004; Tierney, 1988). A clearly identified leader and guiding coalition are essential for keeping the initiative on track and serving as points of contact and support for participants. As the initiative matures, leadership needs to assess, re-focus, and re-energize progress. Communication is essential to making this happen as the purpose of the initiative must be constantly reiterated, and progress needs to be demonstrated and celebrated. Adequate resources and support services are required to meet the needs of the organization, and issues such as workload should be addressed from the beginning.
Recommendations for future studies include an evaluation of how the initiative at this college evolves over time, as this is a long term culture change. Other studies that would be beneficial include comparing two or three colleges as they build their cultures of evidence, and in-depth studies of individual components of building a culture of evidence, such as Student Learning Outcomes, planning, and resource allocation.
The First-Year Experience Impact on Student Success in Developmental Education
Developmental education is perhaps one of the most important topics in higher education today. Over half of the undergraduates in the United States are enrolled in community college, with a majority who are in need of remediation. Unfortunately, the success among the diverse population of community college students who enroll in developmental courses is dismal, with most who never complete them, much less graduate or transfer. Much of the research in the field has been focused on traditional student populations enrolled in four-year universities. Understanding the factors that contribute to the early success of developmental learners in a community college setting warrants focused attention. Improving the educational outcomes of community college students enrolled in developmental education is particularly critical to the economic health of our nation.
Increasingly, students are entering college more unprepared to take on college-level work, and like many states, in California a large proportion of underprepared students are enrolling in community college. While over half of California community college students are enrolled in developmental education courses, data show that they are not succeeding (Shulock & Moore, 2007). This lack of success is particularly pronounced in the first year of college, and is especially impacting students of color given their overrepresentation in developmental education.
The problem under investigation in this study was to determine student success (academic performance, retention, and persistence) based on the first-year experience of community college students directed to developmental education at an urban community college in southern California. Additionally, this study sought to understand the students’ perspectives relative to the impact that a First-Year Experience program had on their success.
- Is there a difference in academic performance (cumulative grade point average within a semester), retention, and persistence of first-time students in developmental education who participate in the First-Year Experience program and those who do not participate? Are there differences in academic performance, retention, and persistence of students who participate in the First-Year Experience program based on ethnicity?
- What are participants’ perceptions about the First-Year Experience program and the impact that it has on their success?
- There is no statistically significant difference in academic performance (cumulative grade point average within a semester), retention, and persistence of first-time students in developmental education who participated in the First-Year Experience program compared to students in developmental education who did not participate at the .05 level.
- There is no statistically significant difference in academic performance, retention, and persistence among students in the First-Year Experience program based on ethnicity at the .05 level.
This study drew upon literature in the areas of developmental education, the First-Year Experience, and student retention as it relates to diverse student populations. A number of states and national foundations have focused recent attention on developmental education. In the state of California, the Basic Skills Initiative (BSI) has served as a catalyst in the movement to better understand developmental education in community colleges. Research undertaken by the Center for Student Success (2007) in California which authored “California Basic Skills as a Foundation for Student Success in California Community Colleges” has played an instrumental role in the BSI. Additionally, at the national level, the Lumina Foundation’s Achieving the Dream initiative has made major contributions to research focused on developmental education in community colleges. The importance of focusing on diverse student populations in developmental education cannot be emphasized enough. As Boylan, Sutton, and Anderson (2003) pointed out, “the fact that so many minorities pass through developmental education makes them the de facto arbiters of minority enrollment” (p. 13). The theoretical framework for this study, drew upon the student retention theories of Astin (1984), Tinto (1975; 1993), and Rendon (1994).
While fairly new to the community colleges, First-Year Experience programs, with a personal development course as the cornerstone, have the potential to improve student success in developmental education. A large proportion of students fall through the cracks within the first year of college, by either not enrolling in the developmental courses in which they place, by not successfully completing the courses, or by not persisting from one term to the next. While limited, the research that does exist shows that when students take developmental courses early on and have the academic and social support they need, it is possible for them to feel validated (Rendon, 1994), therefore making the likelihood of retention and persistence possible.
To carry out the study, a mixed methods, Embedded Experimental design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006) was employed with the dominate methodology being quantitative, with qualitative methods “embedded” within the overarching quantitative design. Additionally, the study employed the use of a nonequivalent comparison group making the study “quasi-experimental” (Campbell & Stanley, 1963). Statistical analyses, including the analyses of variance (ANOVAs) and the chi-square statistic, were conducted to compare the academic performance (term grade point average), retention, and persistence of students who participated in the program, as compared to students who did not participate in the program. Further analyses were conducted to understand differences based on ethnicity. In addition to the aforementioned statistical analyses, additional quantitative and qualitative analyses were conducted using survey and focus group methodologies to understand the students’ perspectives as they relate to the program impact on their success.
The results revealed that persistence rates from the fall to spring term were significantly higher for First-Year Experience program students as compared to students who did not participate in the program. Additionally, in the area of academic performance, participants of the First-Year Experience program as a whole fared better than students who did not participate, although no statistically significant differences were found. On the other hand, retention rates for First-Year Experience program students were only nominally higher than non-participants in the fall, but significantly lower rates of retention were realized for First-Year Experience students in the spring. When factoring in ethnicity, Latino students in the First-Year Experience program appeared to be more successful in the program more so than other ethnic groups, particularly in the areas of academic performance and persistence.
Support and Validation was a dominant theme that evolved from the qualitative portion of the study and may have played a major role in the statistically significant results in persistence. Transitions and Learning to Navigate College and Individual Growth and Responsibility were other themes that emerged that may have been contributing factors in the success of students in the First-Year Experience program.
Overall, students appeared to have experienced a great deal of support and validation, primarily from counselors and peers, while in the program. Additionally, students seemed to have valued the individual growth and sense of responsibility that they acquired in their first year of college. With a large majority of students in the First-Year Experience program who were the first in their families to attend college, understanding the college culture and resources that it had to offer appeared to be critical to their success. Understanding initial college processes as students transitioned in to the college appeared to be especially important for their early success. Finally, while students primarily spoke of the benefits of the program and ways in which it helped them to succeed, some offered suggestions for improvement and raised issues, particularly as they related to their peers.
The findings from this study have implications for the urban community college being studied and for other community colleges where the importance of first-year success among a diverse population of developmental learners is recognized. Based on the findings and conclusions of this study, the following recommendations for practice are offered.
- Community college practitioners should design and implement First-Year Experience programs that promote both social and academic integration among a diverse population of developmental learners. Social and academic integration may promote higher levels of academic performance, retention, and persistence among program participants.
- Community college administrators should establish systematic organizational practices and policies that facilitate the success of developmental learners in the first year of college, such as policies that mandate assessment and placement into developmental coursework in the first year of college.
Community College Learning Communities: Impact on Student Success in Developmental English
This investigation was a case study to measure the effectiveness of the linked course learning community model in developmental English courses at an urban community college. This study used student demographic and course outcome data to quantify the extent to which learning community participation could contribute toward remedying the historically low success, retention, and persistence rates among diverse student populations in community colleges. The learning communities in this study consisted of developmental reading and writing courses linked in pairs at the same level, considered to be one and two levels below college level English.
The problem under investigation in this study was whether learning communities were effective ways to improve student success in developmental community college English courses, and whether there were differences in learning community outcomes among gender and racial/ethnic groups. Student success was defined, for the purpose of this study, as successful course completion, retention within the semester, and persistence to the following semester.
- Was there an increase in retention and persistence rates among students in developmental English courses conducted as learning communities versus students in the stand-alone course format?
- To what degree did students who participated in learning communities have higher or lower success rates in developmental English courses (measured by developmental course grades and term GPA) compared to similar students who did not participate in learning communities?
- What were the differences in learning community retention, persistence, and student success outcomes (measured by developmental course grades and term GPA) by gender and race/ethnicity?
- There are no significant differences (p<.05) in retention rates overall and among gender and race/ethnicity categories for students in developmental English classes taught in the learning community format compared to the non-learning community format.
- There are no significant differences (p<.05) in persistence rates overall and among gender and race/ethnicity categories for students in developmental English classes taught in the learning community format compared to the non-learning community format.
- There are no significant differences (p<.05) in successful course completion rates overall and among gender and race/ethnicity categories for students in developmental English classes taught in the learning community format compared to the non-learning community format.
- There are no significant differences (p<.05) in term grade point averages overall and among gender and race/ethnicity categories for students in developmental English classes taught in the learning community format compared to the non-learning community format.
The researcher found a limited number of references in the literature that included concrete examples of quantitative outcomes for learning communities in community colleges. Although learning communities have been considered an effective practice for improving community college student success, evidence of this was mostly anecdotal or based solely on qualitative studies or on studies of learning communities at universities Research has shown that almost half of students who graduate from high school are academically underprepared for college-level work (McCabe, 2003). Almost half of community college students also were first-generation college students (Achieving the dream, 2005), and community college students tend to be older, more ethnically diverse, and more likely to work than students who attend universities. Latino and African American students have historically needed more remediation than students from other ethnicity groups (McCabe, 2003). Students who needed remediation when they entered college have been shown to be less successful than students who entered college without the need for remediation (Basic skills as a foundation for student success in California community colleges, 2007; Boylan & Saxon, 1999; Weissman, Silk, & Bulakowski, 1997).
Learning communities have been defined broadly as the linking of courses with enrollment of a common cohort of students, and have often been thematic in nature or targeted to a group of students having similar traits. The rationale for the cohort model is based on research from Tinto, who reported that learning communities and collaborative learning activities were effective in improving academic performance and persistence of developmental students (Tinto, 1997b, cited in Basic skills as a foundation for student success in California community colleges, 2007, p. 58), and Astin (1993), who reported the importance of peer relationships in college success.
This quantitative study compared outcome data between two groups of students, those taking developmental English courses in a linked-course learning community format versus those taking developmental English courses individually, in a non-linked format. Data were combined for four semesters, by course level (lower level English 042/043, higher level English 051/056), and by ethnicity (African American, Latino, all other ethnicity The study included all students enrolled in developmental English learning communities from fall 2007 through spring 2009. The total number of students in this population was 760. The comparison group was also 760 students, and consisted of a random sample of students who took English 042 and/or 043 or English 051 and/or 056 in a non-linked format at the college during the same semesters.
Findings showed a relationship between learning communities and improved outcomes in many key areas, including retention in developmental writing courses and retention and persistence for Latino students, and learning communities were most effective when utilized at the higher level developmental English courses.. This study also revealed differences in grade distributions among ethnic group categories and at different levels of English. Learning communities may have been more effective in improving course retention in developmental writing courses (English 043 and English 051), as retention was significantly improved only in those learning community courses. There was a non-significant increase in retention in developmental reading classes (English 042 and English 056). Persistence was also increased for students who took developmental English in learning communities.
These analyses found that students at the lowest developmental English level (English 042/043) had lower success in learning communities than in non-learning community courses. Comparing grades using analysis of variance showed that mean developmental English course gradeswere significantly lower for learning community courses compared to non-learning community courses at the English 042/043 level. There was no significant difference between mean term grade point averages for learning community and non-learning community courses at this English level. However, at the English 051/056 level, grades in learning community courses were higher than in non-learning community courses. For numeric course grade, mean grades in learning community courses were significantly higher than in non-learning community courses and term grade point averages for students in learning community courses were significantly higher as well.
Learning communities, in this study, appeared to be a more effective pedagogy for students with higher levels of writing and reading skills than for lower skill levels. Learning communities also seemed to be most effective for Latino students at this college. This finding may be because Latino students were the majority of students in the learning communities, and this critical mass may have influenced their outcomes within the cohort. Unfortunately, learning communities, especially at the lower English levels, did not seem to benefit African American students.
Additional research should be conducted in the areas of placement levels and assessment instruments, differences in performance among ethnic and gender groups, and higher versus lower-level developmental English performance. To determine ways to better meet the needs of students having low levels of English preparedness, the college may wish to consider bringing together the English faculty who taught the various levels of English within the learning communities to discuss their curriculum and teaching strategies and to exchange ideas to improve student outcomes in the English 042 and 043 courses. Results of the study also indicate that a thorough review of community college assessment and placement practices may be warranted.
Outcomes-Based Assessment Program Evaluation: A Bridge for Successful Transfer from Community College to University
The state’s educational systems must collaborate together to enable transfer students to gain the necessary skills that support degree completion strategies. Given the current economic state, an investment in California community college transfer students that provide the best possible university transition would seem wise and fiscally responsible. This outcomes-based assessment program evaluation focused on the evaluation of a new transitional program for transfer students at Western State University (WSU), called Transfer Bridge.
In this study, the results are discussed of the learning outcomes as evaluated by qualitative tools and reinforced with quantitative tools. The outcomes informed the design of the evaluation tools in this outcomes-based assessment program evaluation methodology. Data collected from this evaluation describe what the program accomplished and failed to accomplish, and for whom, and thus clarifies the trade-offs of resources and benefits that managers ultimately have to make (Weiss, 1998).
This outcomes-based assessment program evaluation involved the collection and consideration of a variety of program data which provided strong evidence that all four learning outcomes were achieved for most participants with 88.9% overall student agreement. The program evaluation identified the effectiveness of the Transfer Bridge program in relation to the learning outcomes, and in a manner that allows for program improvement which supports student success and retention.
Factors Affecting Educational and Personal Success in Deaf or Hard of Hearing Individuals
The purpose of this research study was to examine the support strategies and mechanisms that led to academic and personal success for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Historically, deaf or hard of hearing (D/HOH) students have struggled to meet their personal or academic goals within postsecondary educational institutions. For example, individuals who have a hearing loss represent only 4.8% of the California community college campus student population. This study described how deaf or hard of hearing individuals utilized effective support strategies to assist them with meeting their personal and/or academic life goals.
The problem that this study addressed is directly related to (D/HOH) students, specifically prelingual (D/HOH) students form hearing families who pursue higher education and do not reach degree completion or personal goal attainment. This may be due at least partially to their need for remedial coursework in English. Due to the fact that most college classes are not accessible in their natural, visual language, American Sign Language, deaf or hard of hearing students’ academic success may be compromised not only by remediation in Basic skill courses, but also by the non-existence of curriculum which utilize a direct instruction model.
1. What are some of the strategies and support mechanisms used by deaf or hard of hearing individuals that lead to academic or personal success?
2. What are the implications for practice in institutions of higher education in serving deaf or hard of hearing individuals to ensure success?
Student equity and access are fundamental to the goals of postsecondary education. It is equally important that students are successful in meeting their personal and academic goals. Subsequently, deaf or hard of hearing students are not attaining their educational goals at rates comparable to their hearing counterparts.
Lang (2002) discussed factors which affect success in higher education for these students. He stated that there are numerous of reasons why deaf students do not complete baccalaureate and other degree programs, including inadequate academic preparation and the challenges of learning through support services. Furthermore, leaves of absences, program lengths, difficulty in carrying full load courses, dissatisfaction with social life, and changes in career interests were identified as additional barriers to degree completion (Lang, 2002). Although, access and support services are provided to students with hearing impairments (i.e., note taking assistance, preferential seating, classroom amplification, sign language interpreters, real time captioning services, etc.,) the failure rate for deaf or hard of hearing students continue to be alarming.
Another critical factor to examine in regards to the personal or academic success of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing is the idea of social capital. Condeluci, Ledbetter, Ortman, Fromknecht, and DeFries (2008), defined social capital theory as an array of support offered by friends, family, and acquaintances and is available to all individuals including those with and without disabilities. It has been suggested that social capital may be limited to people with disabilities and therefore may contribute to their inability to develop networks and or friendships.
Subsequently, it is important to understand the conceptual framework as it specifically relates to goal attainment for individuals with hearing loss in order to ensure that higher education institutions are providing the support needed to assist these individuals with meeting their personal, professional, and academic goals. This study utilized the social capital theory as the framework to better understand those influences that led to personal or academic success for deaf or hard of hearing individuals who participated in this research.
A grounded theory method of inquiry was conducted to analyze the data for this study. This research approach was selected to investigate learning outcomes for deaf or hard of hearing individuals who obtained gainful employment, completed a workforce training program, or a degree in higher education. One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with deaf or hard of hearing individuals who had attained personal or academic success as defined by the study criteria.
Specifically, participants were purposefully selected based on being prelingually deaf or hard of hearing. Consideration was given to the following characteristics in an effort to obtain maximum variation in the study: race; ethnicity; gender; age; and communication modalities. Additional criteria for participation in the study included having either a unilateral/bilateral severe to profound hearing loss or a unilateral/bilateral moderate hearing loss, and the use of a primary communication modality which involved American Sign Language or another signed system, or the use of spoken English.
As part of the methodology of grounded theory, I thoroughly analyzed the data gathered from seven interviews. The analysis process for the seven interview transcripts resulted in 70 codes, which were collapsed into 23 categories. Further analysis resulted in 12 distinct themes that emerged from the data. Those themes are as follows: Family Support, Parental Involvement, Early Exposure to English Print and Language, Frustration with Communication, Code Switching, Feelings of Isolation and Exclusion, Role of Interpreter/Real Time Captioning Services, Direct Communication and Social Capital, Early Identification of a Personal or Academic Goal, Role Models, Persistence, and Cultural Identity.
Research findings indicated that the strategies and support mechanisms used by deaf or hard of hearing individuals to achieve success were: Strong Personal Support, Academic Support, Communication Strategies, and Social Support. These support and strategies were significant factors in assisting the study participants with achieving personal and academic goal attainment in their personal and professional lives.
This study utilized the social capital theory as the conceptual framework to better understand the factors and or mechanisms that led to personal or academic success for deaf or hard of hearing individuals who participated in this research study.
As colleges continue to have discussions regarding access and success for all students in higher education, they must consider that students with disabilities face similar challenges in the attainment of personal and academic success. Moreover, deaf or hard of hearing individuals enter our college campuses and workforce training programs in an effort to gain independence through completing their goals. This study has identified specific strategies and support mechanisms that lead to personal and academic success. It is imperative that educators and community based service providers develop and implement best practices to assist this population with attaining personal, academic, and employment success. It is my hope that this study will serve as an effective tool to impact positive changes in the lives of deaf and hard of hearing individuals who aspire to reach their dreams.
Little research exists regarding the best practices from the perspective of deaf or hard of hearing students in postsecondary educational settings. This study shed light on strategies and support mechanisms that led to the personal and academic success of seven deaf and hard of hearing individuals. A future area of focus for a research study might examine those barriers that exist for deaf or hard of hearing students at the postsecondary level, which prevented personal or academic success. Such studies might include surveys, focus groups, and interviews to determine those factors that negated goal attainment for deaf or hard of hearing individuals in higher educational settings. Future studies might investigate primary and secondary educational experiences in an effort to determine if those experiences had an impact on the individual’s ability to meet their personal or academic goals.
Evaluation of Integrated Planning Systems in Southern California Community Colleges
California community colleges in the twenty-first century serve an increasing number and diversity of students with fewer state financial resources. Limitations in both state and federal funding for these institutions require new models of planning and resource allocation. The diverse mission of community colleges has become more difficult to support as funding has become scarce. Identification and implementation of effective planning models may assist colleges to maintain high quality educational programs in this challenging financial environment. Efficient planning and budgeting methods described in this study will be essential to maintain open access and financial equity for students served by the California Community Colleges.
A Survey of Mental Health Practices in the California Community Colleges
In a memorandum from the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (2007), “increased numbers of students who need mental health services…have overwhelmed the capacity of colleges and universities to respond”. The purpose of this research study was to identify the mental health services available in California community colleges and to identify effective practices that would support students with psychological disabilities in this setting to be successful.
With the passage of Proposition 63 in California, the Mental Health Services Act of November 2004 became law and a taxpayer’s taxable income in excess of one million dollars now has an additional 1% tax. These funds were to be used to transform the public mental health systems without supplanting existing mental health budgets. These funds would support the development of new services in the community colleges in conjunction with the California Department of Mental Health. This study will analyze the data from a survey that collected information on services currently available at the community colleges in California and services that are desired by college staff to provide necessary support to students with psychological disabilities. The research questions to be answered are:
- What supports and services were students with psychological disabilities receiving on the California Community College campus?
- Were services for students with psychological disabilities in California Community Colleges comparable to services for students with psychological disabilities in the four-year institutions in the United States?
- What services did administrators, faculty or staff think were needed on the college campus to support students with psychological disabilities?
- What recommendations for practice should be implemented by the California Community College campuses in order to provide effective mental health services?
A quantitative analysis was conducted on the data, collected in May, 2009, through a survey of the 110 community colleges throughout the state of California. The survey selected by the California Community College’s Chancellors Office was modified from previous surveys under the title of a National Survey of Counseling Center Directors in four-year colleges and universities by adding questions. Selected individuals at the Chancellors office maintained most of the questions in the survey and inserted additional questions in the area of location of services, services to student veterans and campus clubs. A chi-square was done to analyze observed responses with expected frequencies. Comparison of California results with the National Counselor Center Directors used descriptive statistics to evaluate trends in the two different college systems.
Surveys were sent out by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office listserves and responses received in spring, 2009. The data from the responses were shared by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and specific questions were selected to answer the research questions in this study. There were 192 participants that responded to the survey. Of those, 146 responded that they were the primary provider of services for students with psychological disabilities and those responders were asked, in question eight (8), to complete remaining questions in the survey. Of the 146 responders, 67 responded to the additional questions, providing the data for this study by answering the remaining questions with few missing values.
Findings indicate that dividing the community colleges by department affiliation was necessary for the collection of responses, but did not provide for significant differences in services among the four departments. The frequency of responses to a survey question provided valuable information when identifying trends for the community colleges. The survey revealed the department affiliations in the community colleges that served persons with mental health needs, what activity was seen in the departments, and numbers and types of students served. Questions also revealed events such as obsessive pursuits, suicides, and policies and procedures that were in place at the community colleges. The data reveal some similarities in the descriptions of responses when comparing the California Community Colleges with the National four-year colleges with the use of college size. Trends that are similar include serving increased numbers of students already on psychological medications, the need to train faculty and staff on how to deal with students with mental health needs, the concern that there are limited external resources to help students and limited fiscal support to meet the growing needs on campus.
Based on these findings, recommendations for practices and processes were made including: the collaboration of services both internal and external, the development of training materials for faculty and staff, and the need for the development of standards in California for the type of information collected on services for students using mental health supports.
Impact of Learning Communities on Underrepresented Students Success in a Prealgebra Context
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2006), 36% of all college students have taken at least one basic skills course. The students who took basic skills courses were more likely to be underrepresented students as well with 43.1% of all African American, 43.9% of all Native American, and 41% of all Latino students compared to only 32.7% of all White students having to take remedial courses (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). Of those who took basic skills courses, 76.9% were in mathematics (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). The achievement gap involving students of color and those from low-income families “demonstrate that too many students are left behind” (McClenney & Greene, 2005, p. 2).
According to Gablenick, MacGregor, Matthews and Smith (1990), learning communities change how students experience the curriculum and the way in which they are taught. Tinto (2002) showed four positive effects of learning communities: students work together more often outside the classroom by forming a supportive group; students participate more in the classroom, including after class; the quality of student learning is increased; and students persist at a much higher rate compared to students in a traditional classroom. By linking a section of prealgebra with a student success course that focused on study skills in math as well as time management, the researcher created a cohort of students in the hopes of increasing the retention, success and persistence of underrepresented students enrolled in prealgebra.
The success rates of underrepresented students in basic skills mathematics continue to be dismal and the achievement gap between underrepresented students and those not underrepresented will continue to widen if something is not developed to help increase the success in basic skills math classes. Because of this it becomes clear that only a small percentage of students who start in a developmental math course persist to an associate degree or transfer level math course. In addition, many students in developmental math courses do not have the study skills necessary to succeed since a student may need a slightly different set of skills to succeed in math than in other subjects.
The research questions are summarized below. The confidence level alpha was set at .05 for the hypotheses statements associated with the quantitative research questions.
- Does the learning community experience increase the retention, as measured by those students who complete the course; success, as measured by individual course grades; and persistence, as measured by the number of students enrolled in Math 090 (Elementary Algebra) the following semester, for students who took Math 088 (Prealgebra) in a learning community compared to students who took Math 088 (Prealgebra) in a non-learning community format?
- What do students enrolled in a Math 088 (Prealgebra) class linked with PDC 130 identify as the critical aspects of the learning community experience?
- Does involvement in the learning community affect the retention, as measured by the number of students who complete the course; success, as measured by individual course grades; and persistence, as measured by the number of students taking Math 090 (Elementary Algebra) the next semester, of students from underrepresented groups?
- Can retention, as measured by the number of students who complete the course; success, as measured by individual course grades; and persistence, as measured by the number of students taking elementary algebra the next semester, be reliably predicted from the knowledge of an individual’s gender, age, ethnicity, and participation in a learning community?
Developmental education is primarily done through community colleges with over 60% of all community college students enrolling in at least one developmental education course. In addition, most underrepresented students enroll in higher education through the community colleges and the majority of the students in developmental education are underrepresented. Furthermore, more students require remediation in mathematics than other subjects. While the retention, success and persistence of developmental students have been extremely low, historically underrepresented students have fared much worse, with even lower rates of retention, success and persistence. Tinto (1993) and Jehangir (2008) concluded that a student’s involvement with faculty and peers is related to learning and persistence. One way to increase student involvement is through learning communities since at the community college level most student engagement is centered around the classroom (Engstrom & Tinto, 2008; Jehangir, 2008; Tinto, 1993). Overall the literature reportedthat learning communities have a structure that helps increase the chance of success for students, especially underrepresented students. While much of the research shows that learning communities help increase the retention, success and persistence of underrepresented students (Brown, 2003; Jehangir, 2008; Lardner, 2003; Laufgraben & Shapiro, 2004; Moore, 2000), there is very little research on the effects of a learning community in developmental classes or on underrepresented students and even less on math classes.
This investigation was a quasi-experimental, mixed methods study to demonstrate whether learning communities have a positive impact on performance of students in prealgebra, especially for underrepresented students. The learning community for this study was a prealgebra course linked with a student success course at a southern California suburban community college into which students self selected. The quantitative part of the study used student outcome data to determine whether learning community participation contributed to an increased rate of retention, success and persistence for students in prealgebra as well as student demographic and outcome data to determine if retention, success and persistence in prealgebra could be predicted based on a student’s age, ethnicity, gender and learning community participation. Lastly this study used qualitative data in the form of surveys and focus groups to determine what students enrolled in a prealgebra course identified as the critical aspects of the learning community experience.
The results of the study showed there was no statistical significance with regards to retention or success in prealgebra for all students or underrepresented students. It turned out that not being underrepresented was a predictor of success in the prealgebra learning community. There was no statistical significance with regards to persistence into elementary algebra the following semester for all students or underrepresented students, but persistence into elementary algebra the following semester for students who were not underrepresented was found to be statistically significant. In addition, learning community participation was found to be a predictor of persistence into elementary algebra the following semester.
The survey found several results including a significant difference for students who said they wanted to improve basic skills in the learning community compared with those in the control group. There was a significant difference between the two groups of students for the following barriers to learning math: difficulty reading word problems, the way math was taught before coming to college, math anxiety and lack of support from the teacher. All of the skills listed for student success course were learned by at least 41.5% of the students. Students identified three themes as the critical aspects of the learning community experience: community environment, study skills and overcoming math anxiety. Overall, students indicated the learning community experience as well as the skills learned in the student success course were beneficial and would help them in their future endeavors.
While not necessarily statistically significant, learning communities help increase student success rates. The results for underrepresented students were mixed, but promising and being not underrepresented was a predictor of success. Learning communities help increase student persistence to the next course and may be a predictor of persistence. A learning community may not be as helpful for underrepresented students in terms of persistence as previously thought. Learning community students identified more barriers indicating the right students enrolled in the learning community. The learning community helped change students’ experiences by knocking down the barriers that have stood in their way. Reading was a problem for many students. Nearly 25% of students said it was not important to take math. Students believe learning communities and student success courses help increase their chances of success and persistence.
In general faculty, especially within math, should be encouraged to use learning communities. It is important to include a student success course within the linked course format. More research is needed using mixed methods to help determine not only whether learning communities help underrepresented students in developmental math courses, but to identify some of the critical aspects of their learning experience. Due to the issue regarding reading and the number of ESL students enrolled in prealgebra, it is recommended to link a developmental math course with a developmental reading course or an ESL course. A longitudinal study of all students and underrepresented students enrolled in learning communities is needed and this particular study should be replicated with larger samples. Learning communities need to be tweaked and constantly evaluated to increase success of underrepresented students. More qualitative research broadening the feedback with regard to underrepresented students and their relationships with the community college institution as well as the math department is needed. In general faculty, especially within math, should be encouraged to use learning communities. It is important to include a student success course within the linked course format.
Jill Moreno Ikari
Environmental Sustainability Curricular Theme: Impacts on Developmental English Students
Community college students are underprepared for academic success, especially students of color, and are often required to enroll in developmental education courses, where academic success is a major challenge for students. Environmental sustainability is a movement that is not being introduced to community college students, especially students of color, who are most impacted by environmental injustice. This study identified and assessed the impacts of an instructional practice for developmental education students, especially students of color, in English studies using environmental sustainability as a thematic approach to teaching developmental English.
The problem under investigation in this study is that there is little known about the effect on student success and attitude using environmental sustainability as a thematic approach in developmental English courses at the community college level.
1. What is the effect in terms of academic success (i.e. retention, grades, and re-enrollment plans) on students, particularly students of color, in a developmental English course using environmental sustainability as a thematic approach to instruction compared to that of students, especially students of color, in a traditional developmental English course?
2. To what extent does enrollment of students, particularly students of color, in a developmental English course that incorporates environmental sustainability as a thematic approach impact their involvement in the campus community compared to that of students, especially students of color, in a traditional developmental English course?
3. What is the effect in terms of student attitudes and perceptions about how the class curriculum related to course instruction, and how it prepared students, particularly students of color, for academic success and future employment chances in a developmental English course using environmental sustainability as a thematic approach to instruction compared to that of students, especially students of color, in a traditional developmental English course?
1. There is no significant difference in the retention of students in a developmental English course with environmental sustainability as a thematic approach compared to that of students in a traditional developmental English course at the .05 level.
2. There is no significant difference in the grade point average of students in a developmental English course with environmental sustainability as a thematic approach compared to that of students in a traditional developmental English course at the .05 level.
3. There is no significant difference in the number of students who plan to transition into the next English sequence course when enrolled in a developmental English course with environmental sustainability as a thematic approach compared to students in a traditional developmental English course at the .05 level.
4. There is no significant difference based on ethnicity in retention, GPA, and the numbers of students who plan to enroll into the next English sequence course for students when enrolled in a developmental English course with environmental sustainability as a thematic approach compared to students in a traditional developmental English course at the .05 level.
5. There is no significant difference based on ethnicity in the students’ involvement in the campus community through the enrollment in a developmental English course that incorporates environmental sustainability as a thematic approach compared to students in a traditional developmental English course at the .05 level.
6. There is no significant difference based on ethnicity in the attitude and perception about how the class curriculum prepared students for academic and career success in a developmental English course that incorporates environmental sustainability as a thematic approach compared to students in a traditional developmental English course at the .05 level.
Student success in community colleges, with specific information on retention, persistence, and student diversity was an important area for research in this study. According to Tinto (1975), “the greater the student’s level of academic integration, the greater the level of subsequent commitment to the goal of college graduation,” (p.110). So, when understanding retention and persistence, examining the involvement of students on campus was a goal for this study on the impacts on student success in both the traditional and theme course. Within the area of developmental education, examining student success and non-success was essential, especially for students of color, where students of color comprise most of the students in developmental education. “In 2006-07, about 40 percent of basic skills students (credit and noncredit) were Latino, 20 percent were white, 20 percent were Asian, 10 percent were African-American, and the remaining 10 percent of students did not report an affiliation,” (Hill, 2008, p. 6). Also, the study of English, with an emphasis on composition and developmental writing, was at the center of this research study since developmental writing is occurring more often at community colleges than other institutions of higher education. “Further at public two-year colleges 23 percent of freshman enroll in developmental writing classes compared with 7 to 9 percent at public and private four-year institutions (NCES, 2003),” (Rose, 2007, p. 2). Finally, thematic teaching in general, as well as in English, with an emphasis on how environmental sustainability as a theme could be incorporated in English courses was a major focus. “Themes immerse students in particular topics, enrich their reading, and deepen their understanding,” (Gaughan, 2003, p. 20). However, using environmental sustainability as a theme in developmental English courses is an area that is not as well researched, especially at the community college level.
This study compared the results of using environmental sustainability as a thematic approach to teaching developmental English composition versus a traditional method, analyzing the performance of students based on ethnicity, to improve academic success of community college students. The quasi-experiment, non-equivalent group design provided the researcher with the opportunity to discern answers to the research questions. The dominant quantitative, less-dominant qualitative analysis studied the effects of using environmental sustainability as a thematic approach to teaching students in developmental English. Data were run separately and combined for two semesters, by course type, and by ethnicity (students of color and white students), in order to ensure sufficient population sizes and to enhance statistical validity in analyses of subsets of independent variables. The study included students, who self-selected or were counseled into stand-alone courses, in four classes (two classes were taught with a traditional curriculum and two classes were taught with the theme of environmental sustainability). All students were enrolled in English 49 (a developmental English composition course that is one level below transfer level) during the spring and fall 2009 semesters. The total number of students who were surveyed in this population was 75. In addition, a total of 98 student records were collected and sixteen one-on-one interviews were held at the college campus. This study utilized data that were collected from the surveys, instructor records (grade and attendance rosters), and one-on-one interviews.
A review of the original hypotheses yielded no statistically significant findings, except one – re-enrollment plans. Students who took the theme course had more often agreed to plan to re-enroll in the next English sequence course in the following semester compared with students who had taken the traditional course, and students of color had more often agreed to plan to re-enroll in the next English sequence course in the following semester compared with white students. In this study, variables such as final course grade, retention, and campus involvement did not have statistically significant associations. Instead, qualitative analysis found campus involvement, course instruction, academic success, and employment success to be central categories with important themes such as usefulness, motivation, and sense of purpose. Of those students the researcher interviewed, more students of color in the theme courses compared to white students expressed benefits of the course in regards to campus involvement and course instruction. Whereas, of those the researcher interviewed, more white students compared to students of color, regardless of course type, expressed benefits of the course concerning academic and employment success.
The study involving the use of environmental sustainability as a theme in a developmental English course did not improve the success or retention of students, especially students of color. For the measures of retention and passing the course, students in the environmental sustainability course did worse than students in the traditional course, though not statistically significant. For students of color, the only statistically significant positive impact was intent to enroll in the next level English course. Also, students of color appeared unable to make the connections between the theme and their present or future careers.
Recommendations for practice:
1. Implement in-service for English faculty who are interested in learning how to use the theme of environmental sustainability in their curriculum
2. Facilitate discussions among English faculty about their role as both stewards of the environment and advocates for student learning concerning sustaining the environment
3. Establish institutional commitment to environmental sustainability both in terms of facilities and the curriculum, since appreciating one area complements the other in a global approach to environmental stewardship
4. Seek grant funding to increase awareness for students, faculty, administrators, and board members about environmental sustainability
5. Redesign curriculum to integrate the theme of environmental sustainability with English composition courses by implementing assignments, readings, and activities that engage student learning with the theme of environmental sustainability
6. Tie in theme course with the basic skills initiative (BSI), so that resources can be used to increase awareness of environmental sustainability with developmental English students, of whom many are students of color and most affected by environmental pollution
7. Link theme course with a personal development course to address short and long term academic and career planning to emphasize the student’s role in the new green economy, such as careers that support environmental sustainability
Recommendations for further study:
1. Longitudinal studies of students taking all courses in the English composition sequence, from basic skills through transfer level, and comparing impact of instructional practices on student learning
2. Actual persistence studies of developmental English students in the composition sequence and in the college to determine degree and/or credential attainment
3. Counterbalanced design studies between two classes, where one class receives an environmental sustainability theme learning module, then a traditional module, while the other class receives the traditional learning module first, then the theme module, in order to compare impact of instructional practices on student learning
4. English faculty attitude surveys toward environmental sustainability to establish a focus group of committed individuals, as well as facilitate awareness for those who may not be aware of the relevance of this theme for student learning
5. Larger sample sizes, especially white students, since the majority of students in the developmental English courses are students of color
6. Content analysis of student work, such as essays, group projects, and in-class assignments, produced in traditional and theme courses could be used to evaluate the impact of instructional practices on student learning.
Basic Skills and Global Competencies for Business Major Graduates: A comparative study of California community colleges’ and employers’ perspectives
The high school graduating class of 2010 will be the largest in California’s history; ARCC data (2009) indicate that a majority of the 2.9 million students enrolled in California community colleges need instruction at the basic skills level in mathematics and English; statewide, 33.9% of students who assessed into basic skills English courses placed into the course one level below transfer (CB21-A), the focus of this study. The purpose of this study was to show how student and faculty perceptions about the process of being engaged with teaching and learning in a basic skills composition course one level below transfer (CB21-A) affect – and are affected by – the larger institutional culture. The problem under examination in this study is how the interplay between basic skills writing students and their instructors influences – and is influenced by – institutional culture at the macro (mission/culture) and micro (curriculum) levels.
What perceptions do students enrolled in a basic skills writing course one level below transfer have about their preparedness for college-level writing?
What perceptions do basic skills writing faculty have about student preparation for writing at the college level?
How does institutional culture contribute to shaping those perceptions?
1) Community college mission and the culture that attends to it: Under constant pressure, but constantly adapting within specified parameters.
2) Basic skills as institutional function: Pride of place, but a sometimes uncomfortable place nonetheless.
3) Basic writing and the institutional context: Gatekeeper or facilitator?
4) Institutional culture and the process of engagement: Hidden in plain sight.
Qualitative: Constructivist Grounded Theory Student Interviews / Focus Groups: (n=16) All students interviewed were enrolled in English 49 during fall 2009 semester. Students from all three campuses participated. Individual Faculty Interviews: (n=17) Both part- and full-time faculty selected for participation; all three campuses in district participated; all faculty participants were teaching a section of English 49 during the fall 2009 semester. Document Analysis: Course Outline of Record for English 49 Faculty and student interviews took place during the fall 2009 semester; interviews were recorded digitally; interviews were conducted until a level of saturation occurred; interviews were transcribed by a professional transcriber. Interview transcripts read; interview transcripts coded (open and in vivo coding) marginally on interview hard copies; open codes fed into ATLAS.ti for selective and axial coding; themes culled.
Student and Faculty Perceptions of:
Preparation for College Level Writing
These sub themes led to the overarching theme of “engagement as process,” and the following theory:
Engagement doesn’t exist in isolated pockets of institutional culture (e.g. student advising or curriculum committees). Engagement is a continuously occurring process (rather than a product) that ushers students and faculty toward intended outcomes; it affects students, faculty, and institutions differently, but simultaneously. Engagement is an elusive but absolutely essential element in the continued success of basic skills writing students – as well as the success of the institutions and instructors serving those students. A culture of engagement is by its nature a culture of inquiry. Developing this culture is a time-consuming process. However, there are simple and practical ways to give impetus to the initiative. The community of practice concept comes to the fore in that it is broad and far reaching
Communities of Practice: Authentic and Sustained Coordination Between High School and Community Colleges.
Briefer Curriculum Review Process for Basic Skills Courses: Current Practice Can’t Keep Pace With Reality -- The Speed of Our Students’ Lives and the Rate of Faculty Desire for Innovation.
“Desiloing”: Integration of Student Services and Instruction for the Assessment and Placement of Basic Skills Writing Students.
Gather qualitative data from students at the point of matriculation and track it longitudinally from basic skills to transfer level coursework. Such data gathering could provide “dashboard indicators” for the communities of practice. Formative assessment through the process of engagement, via the writing portfolio, could track student progress through the composition sequence, providing further fodder for the communities of practice.
Exploring the Implementation of Characteristics of Quality Service-Learning Programs in a Two-Year and a Four-Year Institution
The purpose of this cross-case comparative study was to explore through a constructive lens, the characteristics that lead to sustainable, high quality service-learning programs and how they are implemented at Western Community College, a public two-year institution and the University of the Coast, a private four-year institution. The findings from this study may be noteworthy for educators at community colleges and universities, who are at various stages in developing service-learning programs, or who are transforming faltering programs, trying to make them sustainable.
As part of the study at the University of the Coast and Western Community College, the researcher conducted one-on-one interviews with students, faculty, and/or staff, and community partners in addition to conducting student focus groups, document analysis, and observations. The researcher determined that the University of the Coast and Western Community College have implemented sustainable service-learning programs by developing strong collaborative partnerships, connecting curricular and co-curricular experiences, providing reflection opportunities, eliciting feedback, and conducting assessments.
Although more institutions of higher education are offering service-learning programs, not all of them have components that are successful and sustainable. While there are certain characteristics that may be present in quality service-learning programs, which may lead to sustainability and add a new and extremely meaningful dimension to the entire college educational experience, there are also certain factors that can hinder its success and sustainability. If colleges are not diligent in avoiding pitfalls that will have a negative effect on even the most successful service-learning programs, there will be no sustainability, much to the detriment of students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community. Without flourishing partnerships between all entities, proper oversight and assessment, incentives, and, of course, commitment, service-learning programs will not be institutionalized, and therefore, they will not be sustainable.
Responses from the participants’ (students, faculty or staff, and community partners) perspectives addressed the following research questions:
- What are the important characteristics of quality service-learning programs in a two-year and a four-year institution, and how does the implementation and quality of their service-learning programs differ?
- How does an outcomes-based assessment process contribute to the creation of sustainable service-learning programs in a two-year and a four-year institution?
The researcher found numerous references in the literature regarding how service-learning programs may create a sense of community for students both on and off campus and how this pedagogy continues to evolve and play a pivotal role in promoting academics and civic responsibility. The service-learning pedagogy, which “links academic study to public-service activities” (Furco, 2002, p. 39) incorporates academic scholarship, off-campus learning discoveries, reflection, civic engagement, and meaningful community service. “It [service learning] is a teaching tool that fosters the development of democratic principles such as tolerance, fairness, concern and respect for others, and a sense of responsibility to be civically knowledgeable and active”(Chapdelaine et al., 2005, p. 5).
There are no shortages of definitions of service learning, and in 1990, Jane Kendall counted 147 of them in the literature (Eyler & Giles, 1999). Even though a proliferation of definitions exist, the concept of service learning is clear, and it enables educators to incorporate classroom studies with humanitarian efforts, enhancing the academic experience. According to Eyler and Giles (1999), service learning helps students to bond with their college both on an academic and social level; service learning may also give students the opportunity to join forces with faculty and administrators, while helping to improve their communities.
The researcher selected a qualitative cross-case comparative study at Western Community College, a public two-year institution, and the University of the Coast, a private four-year institution, for the purpose of gathering a detailed description of their service-learning programs. These particular institutions had long established programs with strong ties to their respective communities. Based on the literature review, the researcher formulated specific questions to gain insight from the participants’ perspective in order to help college leaders create service-learning programs that provide service to the community and that are sustainable over time. Data collected from the responses of the participants was used to determine the degree assessment practices played in the development of sustainable service-learning programs. Another essential component of the study was learning how colleges assess their service-learning programs to determine not only the value of these assessments in improving the programs, but also how best to institutionalize the programs.
The researcher utilized multiple sources and used techniques, such as (a) one-on-one interviews with students, faculty/and or staff members, and community partners and (b) focus groups sessions with students to gather data, (c) observations at four community partner sites, and (d) a document analysis at both institutions. The participants in the study had (a) different backgrounds in service learning, (b) different educational backgrounds, and (c) different levels of experience. Since there was a broad cross section of service-learning programs at these two institutions of higher education, the researcher also wanted diversity in the selection of community partners. For example, the researcher interviewed community partners from (a) both small and large non-profit organizations, (b) long established and newly formed non-profit organizations, and (c) those working with different age groups, different socio-economic groups, and different ethnic groups.
There were 26 participants in the study, five of whom are males. The researcher conducted one-on-one interviews with 18 persons including (a) five students, (b) six faculty members, (c) three staff members, and (d) four community partners. In addition, the researcher conducted two focus groups with a total of eight students. The researcher also analyzed various documents relating to the service-learning programs at Western Community College and the University of the Coast, including (a) students’ journals from class, (b) faculty or staff reports, (c) student assessments, (d) faculty or staff assessment, and (e) partnership assessments.
Even though the University of the Coast is a four-year institution that has strong religious ties and attracts student from throughout the United States and overseas and Western Community College is a two-year institution with a local student body and relies on public funds, both institutions’ programs reflect an appreciation for the importance of teamwork by students, faculty, administrators, and community partners. In addition, both schools encourage educational excellence while serving the needs of a diverse community. For example, the service-learning programs at both institutions rely on (a) their collaborative partnerships, (b) connecting curricular and co-curricular experiences, (c) reflection, and (d) feedback and assessment for (e) sustainability. Both institutions encourage leadership through their service-learning component.
The researcher was able to determine that both two-year and four-year institutions can incorporate excellence into their service-learning programs. The researcher concluded there are more similarities than differences in the operation of the service-learning programs at the University of the Coast and Western Community College, which may be attributed to the fact that they both have strong institutional support, including stability in their funding sources. The key factor is not the length of time it takes to earn a degree, but in the understanding and inclusion of the characteristics that lead to high-quality service-learning programs. Since both cases explore the inner workings of service-learning programs at a two-year and a four-year institution, the findings from the study may be significant for community colleges and universities, private and public alike, throughout the United States by providing information applicable for educators, who are contemplating service learning, and for those who may want to expand existing programs.
The findings from the researcher’s interviews, document analysis, and literature review can be adapted to other institutions because they serve as a model on how to create quality and sustainable service-learning programs that incorporate academic scholarship, off-campus learning discoveries, reflection, civic engagement, and meaningful community service. The researcher recommends that institutions (a) incorporate strong collaborative partnerships, (b) connect curricular and co-curricular experiences, (c) feature reflection, (d) include feedback and assessment, and (e) promote sustainability.
Basic Skills and Global Competencies for Business Major Graduates: A comparative study of California community colleges’ and employers’ perspectives
The projected shortage of skilled workers for the global economy elevates concerns about California’s economic growth and competitiveness in the world. The purpose of this study was: (a) to identify basic skills and global competencies that business major graduates from community colleges need in the global economy; (b) to determine employers’ demands towards the skilled workers in the 21st century; and (c) to examine how well California community colleges have adjusted their business curriculum in order to meet the needs of employers operating in the global business environment. This purpose was achieved by using survey methodology, which analyzed data collected from two populations: community college educators and business leaders.
Perspectives of managers from randomly selected companies in California, as well as business deans, business faculty, and career advisors from California community colleges, were compared utilizing statistical tests (t-test, ANOVA, and MANOVA) that measured differences in their views. This comparison shed light on the issue of effectiveness of business education in community colleges. At the same time, the study also examined employers’ satisfaction with the business major graduates’ academic preparation and their readiness to function productively in the global economy.
The findings uncovered in this research point to the differences in California community college educators’ and employers’ views of skills and competencies expected from graduates with a business major. All respondents concurred that basic skills were more important than global competencies for students’ success in the global marketplace. Yet, the two populations had contrasting opinions about the quality of teaching of the job-related skills and relevance of business curriculum to the economic needs. This gap between educators’ and employers’ perspectives suggests that more can be done to align the community colleges’ business curriculum with the expressed needs of the business community in California.
Highly effective teachers’ perceptions of working conditions: Identifying the factors that affect teachers’ willingness to remain in the profession.
High teacher attrition rates are problematic for educational organizations. School districts need to exert greater effort to retain teachers due to the financial and student achievement costs associated with constant teacher turnover. The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of highly effective teachers regarding aspects of their working conditions that influence their willingness to remain in the profession. Additionally, the study explored the degree of influence that these factors contribute to teachers’ willingness to work at hard-to-staff schools.
Using a quantitative survey design, 177 teachers in a large southwestern school district were invited to respond to an online survey. Respondents were asked to rate their level of satisfaction or agreement about perceptions of empowerment, facilities, resources, time, leadership, professional development, and mentoring at their present school sites. The study yielded responses from 20 highly effective teachers. Comparisons were made between responses from these highly effective teachers and larger samples of teachers who previously responded to a similar survey.
Study findings indicated that this subset of teachers believed that teacher empowerment and facilities and resources were the most important factors in promoting student learning. They also reported that school leadership as well as school facilities and resources were the most influential factors in their willingness to remain in teaching. Moreover, study participants indicated that they felt adequately prepared to work in hard-to-staff school. Any reservations they had about working in these contexts stemmed from a perceived lack of support from various constituent groups such as school leaders, parents, and the community.
The knowing and doing gap among principals of low-performing urban schools
The purpose of this study was to determine if a knowing and doing gap exists among principals of low-performing urban schools. Do principals of low-performing urban schools know the characteristics of effective, high-performing urban schools? If so, do they act in ways that are consistent with this knowledge? The study attempted to explore the factors that contribute to this knowing and doing gap and attempted to define strategies that might be useful in narrowing the gap. This study was intended to help clarify why so many low-performing urban schools continue to make minimal academic progress when there is an abundance of information about the actions school leaders can take to improve achievement results substantially. Using qualitative research methodology, the study examined four urban, low-performing elementary schools from the same California district. All four schools had been in program improvement (PI) for at least three years and all four principals had served at their schools for at least three years. The researcher interviewed all four principals, observed classrooms in each school, and reviewed a variety of artifacts including accountability reports, school plans, and district-administered teacher survey results. In the reporting of data, names of individual schools or principals were not used. Aliases are used to describe the city, district, schools, principals, and other informants. In all four schools, principals knew a considerable amount about the characteristics of high-performing urban schools; however, the depth of their understanding varied. Even when principals evidenced a depth of understanding, there were gaps in their ability to lead their schools to higher levels of student achievement. These knowing and doing gaps have implications for principals, districts, and leadership preparation programs, as well as for future research.
Christina M. Casillas
The School’s Role in Supporting Students in Foster Care Complete School
School administrators and district leaders are charged with improving educational achievement for all students. At the secondary level, this includes increasing the number of students who graduate with a high school diploma. Students in foster care are even less likely the general high school population to graduate from high school. This study examines the high school educational experiences of adults formerly placed in foster care in addition to the school’s perceptions of their role in supporting high school students in care. The research questions guiding this study were: How do adults emancipated from foster care perceive their educational experience and to what do they attribute their performance? How do high school educators perceive students in foster care? How are school support systems utilized to ensure that students in foster care graduate from high school? Interviews with three adults emancipated from foster care as well as three high school staff were conducted to gather firsthand accounts of the school experience. Data analysis employed the constant comparison method of grounded theory. Students formerly in foster care attributed their school success to their self-motivation to get a diploma, the need to right past wrongs, the pressure of looming adulthood and supports provided by the school. The school staff indicated that treating students equally, communicating with group homes and providing counseling supports and vocational training contributed to the academic success of students living in foster care. A key finding in the interviews with school staff members is the lack of knowledge regarding the laws and policies created to address the educational rights of students in foster care. Identifying the factors that contribute to a student-in-care’s educational achievement will assist stakeholders in creating the necessary assistance to support these youth to complete high school.
Principal Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Student Achievement
Research suggests that principals exercise a measurable effect on school effectiveness. Although indirect, this effect is significant and supports the view that the principal’s leadership contributes to student achievement. Achieving expected goals is particularly difficult for schools serving large concentrations of students what are living in poverty, have limited English proficiency, and have persistently low academic achievement. These schools require principals who, in the midst of challenges and intense scrutiny, remain confident in their ability to overcome challenges, set direction, develop capacity, and implement structures that support effective teaching and learning. Self-efficacy beliefs are a key cognitive factor influencing principals’ leadership behaviors in complex school environments. The purpose of this research was to investigate the relationship between principals’ self-efficacy beliefs and student achievement as measured by gains in API scores. In addition, the study examined the factors that influence principals’ self-efficacy perceptions. Elementary school principals serving Title I schools in California were the unit of study. This investigation employed a mixed-method sequential explanatory design. The first, quantitative phase, addressed two research questions: whether principals’ self-efficacy predicted gains in API and whether personal and school demographic variables predicted principals’ self-efficacy beliefs. The qualitative phase sought explanations to the quantitative findings. This research found that principals’ self-efficacy perceptions were predictive of gains in API. Among the demographic variables, PI status had a negative effect on principals’ self-efficacy beliefs. Principals in the sample had their efficacy beliefs strengthened as a result of performance accomplishment and relationships with mentors. These findings are consistent with theory and research and underscore the importance of considering social cognitive theories in the study of principal leadership. They also suggest important implications for district leaders, and others responsible for developing and supporting principals. Implications for further research are discussed.
Patricia L. Crowder
The influence of the outdoor learning environment on student engagement
This qualitative case study explored the influence of outdoor learning on high school students’ engagement in core academic content courses. Students placed at risk of school failure benefit from instructional supports that help them stay engaged in learning. This study examined the learning experiences of fourteen at risk students within four grade 9 and 10 core classes including English 1-2, Biology 1-2, Algebra Explorations 1-2, and Geometry 1-2. Each student research participant was observed across three separate outdoor lessons. Students took photographs of their experiences in the outdoors and participated in photo-mediated individual and/or focus group interviews. Three teacher research participants provided lesson plans for review and participated in interviews before and after class observations. Study findings support a growing body of research that connects high quality learning environments with student engagement: academic, behavioral, psychological, and social. Teacher assessments, student reports, and student class grades, reflected increased conceptual understanding of core concepts through hands-on learning activities supported by group work in a number of flexible, open spaces on campus. The students appreciated the fresh air, green environment, open spaces, views, ease of movement, and close relationship to nature. They also valued having a choice of how and with whom they worked, as well as freedom from the direct supervision of their teachers. Students also voiced appreciation for their teachers’ demonstrated respect and trust in them. Study findings advance understanding how teachers leverage certain facility and school site conditions and design features to increase student engagement in learning. These findings inform school and district leaders’ decisions regarding educational facility planning, design, and use.
Evaluating educational supports from an african american high school student perspective
The purpose of this exploratory study is to build on the research concerning African American student achievement. Despite theory/knowledge most often considering achievement itself, this study addresses a gap between such theory/knowledge and the high school student perspective concerning academic interventions and supports directed toward African American youth. As such, this study addresses three questions: 1) Do male and females students differ in their evaluation of academic supports? 2) Does grade level impact which supports students’ identify as effective? 3) Do students, identified as gifted, differ in their evaluation of supports from their peers? One hundred and ninety-four purposely selected African American high school students from one large comprehensive high school completed a confidential online survey. Using a Likert scale, they rated the degree to which various academic supports have been effective or helpful to their school success, ranging from “not at all” to “completely.” Applying descriptive, hypothesis and post hoc testing procedures, the data was analyzed overall and by sub-group of gender, grade level, and identification as gifted. Despite limited differences in grouping by gender and gifted identification, the student perspective was consistent overall concerning ratings of the academic supports available to them, such as the value provided by extracurricular opportunities, access to technology, and teachers who take a personal interest. The Freshmen group most often differed with their peers e.g. in valuing “Teachers who are interested in you as a person,” F(3,189)=5.54 p. <.01. In discussing connections to the literature, limitations and conclusions—e.g. using such student centered data to inform educators and policymakers when selecting support programs—it is concluded that additional research on this important topic is needed.
The Role of the School District in Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes for Adolescent English Language Learners
The greatest challenge facing leaders in U.S. public schools involves creating schools that work for all children. As schools repeatedly fail to boost the achievement of older English-language learners (ELs), districts face increasing pressure to play a role in improving the education of these students. The purpose of this study is to build a conceptual understanding of a currently under-researched topic of growing importance to both California and the nation: the role of the school district in improving the achievement of adolescent ELs.
This case study examines the efforts of a California secondary-school district from 2005-2010 to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for adolescent ELs. Findings are derived from103 interviews with district leaders, school staff, parents, community leaders, and consultants; observations of classrooms and training activities; and document analysis.
District leaders executed five key roles in pursuing reform. They often performed these roles simultaneously, such that activity associated with one role influenced other roles. They also demonstrated varying levels of progress in pursuing initiatives consistent with best-practice research in educating ELs. At the same time that district potential to improve opportunities and outcomes for ELs was enhanced through its ability to orchestrate change on multiple fronts, limitations in district will and capacity presented barriers to deep, pervasive change for ELs.
Implications for Research and Practice
A framework for systemic, district-led, EL-focused reform captures the multiple roles associated with equity-focused change. A District/EL Rubric defines what strong practice in each role looks like when focused on improving teaching and learning for ELs. The study lays groundwork for future research into how districts facilitate the achievement of student subgroups.
A School District as an Institutional Actor in Systemic Reform: A Mixed Methods Case Study
District Leaders face enormous challenges in pursuing increased student achievement and educational equity for every student in the wake of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, but little is known about how the district Leaders implement the four Essential Roles of enacting systemic reform set forth by Rorrer et al. (2008): Providing Instructional Leadership, Reorienting the Organization, Establishing Policy Coherence, and Maintaining an Equity Focus.
This study employed a concurrent mixed methods case study research design to gain insight into district roles and district-driven reform efforts. The urban district was chosen because of steady improvement in student achievement over a period of more than six years. Online quantitative survey data (N =46) and qualitative interviews of district employees (N = 14) were collected concurrently, analyzed independently, and then triangulated with archival materials to synthesize results.
Findings indicate that the target district implementation of Providing Instructional Leadership, Reorienting the Organization, Establishing Policy Coherence, and Maintaining an Equity Focus were generally well established or partially enacted. Interview data revealed that the district’s clear communication of long-range vision, coupled with data transparency, frequent face-to-face meetings, and quality listening skills contribute to the success of the target district in enacting reforms. Interviewees stress the crucial role of district support for professional development in properly preparing the staff to enact reform.
Combined, these findings suggest that systemic reform can be achieved at school district level via implementation of the essential roles of Rorrer et al. (2008). Findings inform the educational community regarding the district’s role in facilitating school improvement and ensuring educational equity by tapping leadership capacity at all levels of the system to address NCLB’s mandate of high student achievement for all.
Transforming School Culture: Teachers’ Perspectives of Professional Learning Communities as a Reform Initiative to Close the Achievement Gap
The purpose of this study was to assess the level of development of the five professional learning community (PLC) dimensions of Shared and Supportive Leadership, Shared Values and Vision, Collective Learning and Application, Shared Teaching Practices, and Supportive Conditions (Hord, 1996) as perceived by English and mathematics teachers and its relationship to subgroup student academic achievement in English language arts and mathematics. The Equitable Teaching Practice Survey (ETPS) was developed by the researcher to measure the equitable teaching practices employed as a result of teacher participation in the PLC and compared to Dimension 2, Shared Values and Vision and Dimension 3, Collective Learning and Application.
Descriptive correlation research was conducted. A 17 item survey, School Professional Staff as Learning Community (Hord, 1996) and a 21item survey ETPS was used to collect the data regarding the five dimensions of a PLC and teaching practices associated with educational equity. It was administered to English and mathematics teachers in six urban high schools in one large school district. Student data were collected from the results of the 2006-2009 English language arts and mathematics assessments designed by the State of California Department of Education to meet the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) requirements for testing grades nine through twelve. The study found that Dimension 2, Shared Values and Vision and Dimension 3, Collective Learning and Application had a positive correlation with teaching practices associated with educational equity. The study also found no statistically significant correlations between subgroup academic achievement in English Language Arts and Mathematics, and teachers’ perception of the level of development in the five dimensions of a PLC.
Preventing High School Dropouts: What do Students Believe Caused Them to Leave the Comprehensive High School?
More than 7,000 students in our nation become dropouts every school day. One in three high school students do not graduate, and a higher proportion of African American and Hispanic youth do not earn a diploma. This study examined perceived reasons students reported for leaving the comprehensive high school. Further, it examined why students chose to continue at a continuation campus toward high school completion. The population consisted of students between the ages of 15–19 who are currently enrolled in a continuation high school in a large, diverse, community located in Southern California. Participants included thirty-two continuation high school students who had left the comprehensive high school setting. This study utilized qualitative research methodology with semi-structured interviews as well as three one on one individual interviews. Three research questions were explored: Why do students leave comprehensive high schools? What supports do students believe teachers and school leaders should provide to increase the likelihood that they will become motivated to stay at their comprehensive high school? What do students identify as factors that support their continuing educational experiences in an alternative setting? Responses were transcribed and coded to determine common themes and areas for further exploration. Significant findings of the interviews included: 1) Relationships are extremely important to students who have a lack of trust in how the educational system supports them. 2) There is a need for both students and adults to develop better human relations skills. and 3) There is a need to develop trusting school environments that supports close monitoring of student progress toward relevant student goals. The study’s findings may assist educators in creating more supportive learning environments that provide meaningful curriculum and programs to improve student learning. This study may also provide the research community with a more detailed understanding of student motivation and engagement, and may be used to more clearly understand factors that impede high school completion. Information gathered in this study could also be used to create structures within comprehensive high schools to better support struggling students before they decide to leave.
Elementary School Principal Emotional Intelligence and Collective Teacher Efficacy
Current studies in education and business management purport significant relationships of emotional intelligence, leadership approach, and collective efficacy and how each contributes to the overall performance of an organization. Education research has established significant relationship between collective teacher efficacy and the impact this construct has on student achievement.
This study considered the relationship between emotional intelligence of elementary
school principals as perceived by teachers and principal self-report and collective teacher
efficacy. The sample included 13 randomly selected elementary schools within Southern
California. Teachers and principals completed the Emotional Social Competence Inventory seeking the teacher’s perceptions of the school principal and the principal’s self-report. Teachers also completed the Collective Teacher Belief Scale. Further, this work offered findings that suggest relationship management of principals as well as principal’s competencies in managing self and others are critical in the development of collective teacher efficacy. This study also revealed important questions to guide further research related to principal emotional intelligence and other leadership behaviors that either directly or indirectly influence student achievement.
Teacher to Leader: A Mixed Methods Approach to Investigating Teacher Leadership in Program Improvement Secondary Schools
In an era of high accountability, teacher leadership is acknowledged as a key strategy for achieving school improvement. The current literature embraces shared leadership and the building of leadership capacity in schools, but does not sufficiently investigate learning cultures within program improvement schools as supportive of teacher leadership. This study considers teacher leadership as a possible means of building a shared culture of continuous improvement within program improvement secondary schools. The researcher investigated the culture of a program improvement year 5 school to understand the roles and functions of teacher leaders and to identify specific norms, habits, and structures that supported or inhibited the development of teacher leadership within this highly challenged environment.
Using an explanatory mixed methods design, the researcher administered the Teacher Leadership School Survey (Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2001) within four program improvement secondary schools. Survey results, in combination with student achievement trends over three years, were utilized to identify the school that manifested the strongest presence of teacher leadership and the most significant progress towards exiting program improvement status. The researcher then utilized qualitative case study methodology to investigate this school in greater depth.
Study findings support previous research that underscores the primary role principals play in creating conditions for active, ongoing teacher leadership. The study provided insights into the roles that teacher leaders assumed as they collaborated with the principal and their peers to address student performance-related challenges. Findings revealed a supportive school culture, largely situated within the context of professional learning communities. This culture engendered specific norms of practice that allowed teachers to lead in ways that positively influenced student learning and teacher practice. The researcher advances a Teacher Leadership Theoretical Framework to describe the ongoing dynamic of teacher leadership development and influence within program improvement secondary schools.
Investigating the impact of professional learning communities focusing on writing in improving student achievment
This study examined existing data from 2007-09 to measure the impact of professional learning communities and teacher leaders to improve student writing. The researcher/principal of the subject high school implemented and studied the impact of a restructuring plan in a naturalistic setting. The measures in this study examined the collective summative results of 10th grade student writing throughout the 2008-09 school year. Teacher and teacher leader questionnaires, observation, field notes and student writing assessments were examined. The California High School Exit Exam Writing Essay scores from the 2007 and 2009 cohort were compared to determine if writing treatments implemented in 2009 impacted student writing. Significant findings using ANOVA suggest that teacher leaders facilitating professional learning communities made a positive impact on student achievement in writing. The benefits of this study will provide future educators with more information about the role that teacher leaders play in facilitating professional learning communities and how a shared school vision to improve student writing can impact student achievement.
Budget Cuts and Latino Community College Students
Budget cuts have become an invasive force within the California Community College system, leading to the down-sizing of course offerings and services and the internal restructuring of how funding is allocated. This coincides with the growth of enrollment in the California Community College system, especially amongst the low-income Latino/a student population.
To address diminished funding at the state level, policymakers have had to make choices about how to continue operations with diminished capacity. Furthermore, the prospect of diminishing funds into the foreseeable future has also influenced the development of new philosophical trends seeking to re-make California Community Colleges as more economically viable within the context of the “free market.” This has influenced the cutting of needs-based programs such as the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), which disproportionately serves low-income Latino/a students.
Since the cutting of these funds directly affects this student population, it influenced the development of this study. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to analyze how low-income Latino/a students that are enrolled in needs-based programs in the community college experienced the implementation of budget cuts. It was also intended to understand student perceptions of the nature of the cuts in the community college system, including reductions in state-funded, need-based programs such as EOPS. The study involved two sets of interviews based on student and faculty perceptions. Eleven students enrolled in Frontier Community College and also in the EOPS Program were interviewed, as well as two Frontier Community College staff members. While the focus of the study is student perceptions, the staff members’ interviews were included to show another perspective of student experience. The research questions were: (a) how do low-income Latino/a students enrolled in EOPS perceive the affect of education budget cuts on their persistence in the community college?; and (b) how do low-income Latino/a students in the EOPS program perceive the nature of the budget cuts?
The study used the qualitative method, a phenomenological approach, and was framed using the advocacy/participatory worldview. Data were analyzed using the methods of content analysis and discourse analysis. For research question 1, analysis of the research yielded the themes of Diminished Access, Reduced Support, and Delayed Completion pertaining to student perceptions of their experiences. For research question 2, analysis of the research yielded the themes of Devaluation of Education and Race & Class Discrimination pertaining to student perceptions of the nature of the budget cuts. For the staff, the themes of Reduced Access and Services and Inequity emerged from their perceptions of student experiences and the nature of budget cuts, validating the student perceptions. Implications of the results for research and practice are discussed in the context of the budget cuts and the responsibilities of the California Community College system in providing quality education for low-income, Latino/a students.
Joi Lin Blake
A Program Evaluation: A High School to College Transition Program for African American and Latino Males
For decades, educational and political leaders have grappled with the challenge of closing the achievement gap and providing educational equity for students in all segments of education. Despite legislative mandates on the federal, state and local levels, the achievement gap stubbornly persists in all segments of education. The purpose of this study was to conduct a process and outcomes-based program evaluation of a high school to college transition program for African American and Latino males at a large urban community college. A combined evaluation method was conducted to measure both qualitative and quantitative data. The process evaluation measured qualitative data which were the perceptions and experiences of the student participants and chaperones. The outcomes-based evaluation examined student satisfaction with program activities, effectiveness of program processes and activities, program’s influence on student understanding of higher education options, and academic performance measured by grade point average, retention, and persistence. The study also examined differences in perceptions and achievement between African American and Latino participants to determine if there was a significant difference between the two groups.
The evaluation included analysis of data from approximately 250 eleventh and twelfth grade African American and Latino males and 14 chaperones who attended the program in one or more years from 2007-2010. Results from attitudinal surveys, interviews and one focus group revealed an overall satisfaction with the program related to motivation and inspiration, cultural relevance, program information/activities and program quality as dominant themes throughout the findings. Academic performance data indicated no statistically significant difference in term one and term two retention, persistence and grade point average between African American and Latino students. Research results from this evaluation revealed the need for institutions to design more intentional pre-collegiate, outreach, recruitment and transition programs that include the following components: long-term follow-up; mentoring; financial literacy; resource development; and integrated tracking systems. The results of this research will benefit policy makers, practitioners and postsecondary institutions with information needed to develop more effective high school to college transition initiatives for African American and Latino male high school students.
Factors Affecting Academic Performance of Latino Male Students in Community Colleges: A Faculty Perspective
There are pervasive disparities among Latino students’ academic achievement in higher education. Although the percentage of Latino students enrolling in post-secondary education has significantly increased every decade since the 1970s, an achievement gap exists among Latino students and other racial/ethnic groups. In addition to the achievement gap between these two groups, there are significant differences in the retention and persistence within the population of college-bound Latinos. Latino male students continue to lag behind Latino females in post-secondary degree attainment. Previous studies have examined the academic achievement of Latino students and a limited number has studied Latino male students. However, most studies have focused on Latinos attending four-year institutions and these studies tended to focus on students’ perspectives. Little is known about faculty’s perspectives of the academic performance of Latino students, particularly Latino male students in community colleges. Thus, there are still gaps in our understanding of this phenomenon.
The purpose of this study was to explore community college faculty members’ perceptions of Latino male students’ academic performance. The study employed qualitative research methods and a phenomenological approach. The theoretical framework for this study was based on Alexander Astin’s Student Involvement Theory and Laura Rendón’s Validation Theory. Seventeen full-time faculty members were recruited from Bay Community College (BCC) in Southern California. Individual face-to-face interviews, journal notes, demographic information questionnaires and one focus group were conducted to address the following three research questions: (1) What factors contribute to the academic performance of Latino male students in community colleges?, (2) How are faculty members involved in Latino male students’ academic and social activities?, and (3) How do faculty members view the institution’s role in validating Latino male students’ academic achievement? All interviews and focus group were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Interview and focus group transcripts were analyzed using the methods of content analysis and discourse analysis. Data triangulation, respondent checking, and peer debriefing were employed to ensure credibility, dependability, and trustworthiness of the data and the interpretation.
Analysis of the research yielded the following themes pertaining to faculty perceptions of the academic achievement of Latino male students. For research question number one, three themes emerged from the data: Becoming a College Student, Student Engagement, and Identity of Latino Male Students. For research question number two, one theme emerged: Interactions between Faculty and Latino Male Students. For research question number three, the theme Validation and Sense of Belonging surfaced describing the institution’s role in validating Latino Male Students. Based on the study findings, implications and recommendations for research and practice were made in order to address the academic success of Latino male students at Bay Community College.
African American Student Voices: Experiences Within an Umoja Community
The purpose of this study was to gain African American student perceptions about their experiences in an Umoja Community program. Specifically, this study examined the effectiveness of an Umoja Community through the voices of African American students. Two research questions guided this study: (1) What are the experiences of African American students in an Umoja Community? (2) What elements of an Umoja Community program are most effective according to African American students? Ten African American California community college students, ages 19-28 years old, were selected as participants for this study. Each student was a participant in the Umoja Community program at Oceanview Community College (OCC) between 2007-2010. This qualitative study utilized questionnaires, interviews, and a focus group to capture the lived experiences of students in the Umoja Program at OCC. Results of this study yielded six major themes: (1) Formation of Fictive Kinships; (2) Validation and Sense of Belonging; (3) Pedagogy; (4) Relationships with Faculty; (5) Post-Phenomenon Adjustment; and (6) Beyond the Umoja Classroom. Each of these themes will be discussed in great detail in Chapters IV and V of this study. Results from this study contribute to the miniscule body of research surrounding African American students in community colleges. Furthermore, this study expands the body of research that exists surrounding learning communities and student success.
An Exploration of the Attitudes, Values and Beliefs of Young SSI/DI Beneficiaries at or Near the Completion of Postsecondary Education Regarding Self-Sustaining Employment
The purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes, values and beliefs of young (30 years of age or younger) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries at or near the completion of postsecondary education regarding self-sustaining employment. The study also sought to identify the challenges that young SSI/DI beneficiaries face in the transition to employment, their knowledge and use of the Ticket to Work (TTW) and other work incentives available through the Social Security Administration (SSA), and their preferred methods of communication with SSA. Young beneficiaries in postsecondary education have the greatest potential to transition to financial and system independence, but only 50% obtain employment at any level, and less than .5% go to work at a level that removes them from SSA support.
This qualitative study of 49 young beneficiaries, interviewed in focus groups and individually, utilized grounded theory methods that identified four theoretical categories that emerged from the data: education as a pathway, work equals worth, efficacy expectations formed by challenges and strategies, and work incentives as a disincentive to work. The young beneficiaries in this study were optimistic about their futures and were investing in their human capital in order to obtain self-sustaining employment that would give their lives meaning, purpose and fulfillment. Many of the participants had never heard of the TTW or other work incentives, and those that were familiar with them found the work incentive system to be complex and confusing. Experiences with overpayments and reporting problems through SSA resulted in feelings that the work incentive system discouraged return-to-work behavior, especially in low-paying, part-time work that has the benefit of building a paid work history and developing positive efficacy expectations.
This study includes recommendations that SSA abolish or significantly simplify the work incentive system, update and market the website to target young people, and develop a peer mentoring network. Recommendations for State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs) include the development of career plans, the provision of benefits planning, and the incorporation of internships and other work experiences in consumer plans. Recommendations for the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) include lobbying for changes to the work incentive system and providing policy guidance to SVRAs.
Using Former Foster Youth Voices To Enhance Postsecondary Educational Attainment
In the last decade, a body of literature has emerged on the topic of foster youth educational attainment, mostly quantitative in nature. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to provide an opportunity for eight former foster youth to give "voice" to how they are preparing for and experiencing the transition into higher education. This study explored, firsthand, the facilitating and inhibiting factors that affected their transitions. By conducting this study I hoped to gain insight into the personal, social and academic factors affecting former foster youth as they pursue postsecondary education.
Through three in-depth interviews, the study explored the following key questions: 1) How will former foster youth describe the success factors and challenges associated with their transition from high school/GED to two or four year college?; and 2) What advice do former foster youth have for educators and child welfare staff who aim to support them in their transition from high school to college? The study also provides policy and program recommendations to child welfare services administrators and staff, legislators, current and former foster youth, and educators.
Mexican American Community College Student Perceptions of Science Related Education
The community college is in a unique position to help advance the education of students in all sectors of society. As this new century begins however, many Hispanic and Latino students begin college at the community college level, but do not transfer to universities in significant numbers. Embedded in this observation are the low numbers of this population who complete baccalaureate studies in science, technologies, engineering and math (STEM) majors. As such, the study focuses on a Mexican American segment of the Hispanic/Latino population and examines the factors related to their successful transition through their STEM education in a Southern California community college that is also a Hispanic Serving Institution. Using the Grounded research methodology, the researcher determined that Mexican American students who have persevered into upper level community college STEM courses had engaged in social connections throughout their STEM educational experience. Social connections were in the form of family support, institutional inclusion, peer engagement and faculty involvement. Central to these connections were demonstrated examples of student validation, institutional involvement, and various forms of student integration.
Students’ Perspectives about Success in Developmental English
This dissertation presents a new approach for studying students enrolled in developmental English classes at community colleges. Multiple quantitative studies have documented the low success rates of these students; however, few studies have examined their experiences. Using a liberatory discourse theoretical framework, this action research study investigated the experiences of developmental English students through a series of in-depth focus groups. The data were then analyzed in collaboration with students using a coding process to identify themes that emerged across the data. Student voices informed the data at every step of the inquiry process, from data collection to data analysis and presentation. This study found that students defined success by their understanding of the course curriculum more frequently than by grades. Also, students were more likely to succeed when the curriculum was challenging, and when they felt a personal connection with instructors. The most significant finding of this study was that successful communication between the instructor and students was the greatest facilitator of success, and unsuccessful communication was the greatest barrier to success. The most significant implications of the data are that the curriculum in basic skills English classes should be challenging, that faculty should engage students in the learning process, and that colleges should offer faculty meaningful professional development opportunities in which they can improve their communication skills. This study is significant to the field of education because it painted a complete picture of student success, complementing the wealth of quantitative research that currently exists. This study recognized the voices of students and documented their perspectives so that researchers and practitioners could design programs and implement policies that addressed the needs of students.
The Transition Experience of New Community College Nursing Faculty: Implications for Addressing a Nursing Faculty Shortage
The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand the lived experience of nurses who have transitioned into a career as community college nursing faculty. The majority of nurses in California receive their training in community colleges where the nursing faculty shortage is expected to worsen in the next ten years. This study addresses the gap in research specific to community college faculty and the impending loss of faculty due to retirements. A phenomenological research design was used to extract the essence of the experience of a specific phenomenon (i.e., a nurse transitioning from a clinical position to a nursing faculty position in a community college). Individual interviews were conducted to gather rich data that is trustworthy and credible (validity) as well as dependable (reliability).
Nine nursing faculty who teach in Southern California community colleges were interviewed during fall 2010. Individual interviews were conducted and transcripts were coded and analyzed in order to identify successful transition strategies that can be implemented to address the nursing faculty shortage. Exploring the experience of these faculty who are in the early stages of their careers revealed some of the causes and implications of the nursing faculty shortage. The following research questions guided this study: 1) What is the transition experience of new community college nursing faculty? 2) How can the recruitment of community college nursing faculty be enhanced? and 3) How should support be constructed to promote retention of community college nursing faculty?
Interpretation of the emerging themes and sub-themes enabled the researcher to draw meaning from the data, leading to lessons learned about the participant’s experiences. The emerging themes included: 1) New nurses get an orientation, why not new faculty? 2) This is difficult in a different way; 3) The many rewards of my job do not come in the form of a paycheck; 4) I don’t want to quit being a nurse! and 5) We need to build our team!
Important recommendations on how to recruit and retain new community college faculty have been generated from this study. A model is proposed to Recruit, Retrain, and Retain (RRR) community college nursing faculty. Recruitment strategies include identifying nurses who demonstrate effective teaching skills and to begin these efforts when they are young. The retraining aspect is built on an individualized Orientation Needs Assessment Tool (ONAT) that includes offering interested nurses a job shadow experience prior to accepting employment. The retention component includes compensating experienced faculty members for the time they spend orienting new faculty through the provision of professional development or committee participation credit.
Jose Luis Perez
Chicano Men in Community College: The Renegotiation of Identity of Ten Transfer-Bound Chicano Men
This is a study of 10 resilient Chicano/Latino men who reconstruct their gender and ethnic identity to ultimately attain transfer success from Urban Community College.
The study provides insight into the impact institutional and external factors have on identity development that supports transfer. In addition, this study responds to the published literature indicating Latinos experience the lowest transition rate at each stage of the educational pipeline. The result is a documented crisis of the vanishing Latino male in higher education.
Phenomenology was the qualitative research methodology that dictated the strategies of inquiry and procedures guiding the design and execution of this study. The participants in this study involved 10 Chicano men at Urban Community College in southern California. The data collection for this study involved document analysis, individual interviews, and a focus group.
The two theoretical perspectives I used for this study were Critical Race Theory and Validation Theory. The four thematic categories that captured the shared experiences of the 10 transfer bound Chicano/Latino men are the following: (a) disorientation and shock; (b) los caminos del hombre; (c) intervention of elders; and (d) resilience and recommitment. Early education socialization was found to be a significant impact in the participants’ academic preparation and masculine identity development. The data also revealed the lack of masculine identity validation within the academic pathway. As a result, nontraditional validating agents played a significant role in affirming Chicano men’s intelligence.
The findings of this study can inform educators who seek to support the academic success of Chicano/Latino men in community colleges, especially as it pertains to gender and ethnic identity development for incoming students. Recommendations for implementation and future research are offered.
Perceptions of Validation of Gen. 1, Gen. 1.5, Gen. 2, and Gen. 3+ students at a Border Community College
The primary purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of student services on the validation of First Generation, Generation 1.5, Second Generation, and Third Generation and Beyond students (Gen. 1, Gen. 1.5, Gen. 2, and Gen. 3+) at a border community college. Chapter 2 provides a review of the literature that establishes an appropriate framework for achieving the purpose of this study. First, this chapter details the social world and system in which Gen. 1, Gen. 1.5, Gen. 2, and Gen 3+ students learn, while attending Border College. Additionally, this chapter explores the literature on student validation as conceptualized by Laura Rendon, the founder of Validation Theory. Issues of diversity and access, institutional culture, the physical setting of the campus environment, and practices of faculty and student services professionals and how they relate to student socialization and validation are also discussed in this chapter.
In her paper, Reconceptualizing Success for Underserved Students in Higher Education (2006), Laura Rendon asserted that current higher education students are diverse in multiple ways: gender, race, ethnicity, generational status, class, residential and immigrant status, academic preparation, religion, spirituality, age, language needs, ability and disability, learning style preference, and worldview. With immigration becoming one of the nation’s most important public policy issues, Gen. 1, Gen. 1.5, Gen. 2, and Gen 3+ students are faced with challenges regarding residency, education, and the collision of those worlds. Gen. 1.5 students are the children of immigrants who are foreign-born, partially foreign-educated, and partially U.S. educated. Their dominant language may be either the language of their parents or English (Roberge, 2005). Gen. 1, Gen. 1.5, Gen. 2, and Gen 3+ students have very specific needs and backgrounds that must first be understood in order to address placement in college-level reading and writing courses. Additionally, their validation may be challenged at multiple levels.
Border College serves students from the United States as well as Mexico. The dominant ethnicity at this institution is Hispanic, more specifically ‘Mexican’. ‘Mexican’ can be a Mexican-American (an American citizen of Mexican decent) born, raised, educated and living in the United States. ‘Mexican’ can also mean a person born, raised, and educated in Mexico and now living in the United States (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary Website). The term ‘Mexican’ can also be an example of Gen. 1.5; foreign-born, partially foreign-educated, and partially United States educated, but raised in Mexico and later moved to the United States sometime during the K-12 educational period (Roberge, 2005). Additionally, the term ‘Mexican’ can be another example of ‘Gen. 1.5’ foreign-born, partially foreign-educated, and partially United States educated raised in Mexico and continues to live in Mexico crossing the border daily, sometimes since childhood, to attend United States schools (Roberge, 2005).
The cultural limbo that exists for ‘Mexican’ students of ‘Generation 1.5’ is associated with a phenomenon referred to as “academic incongruity”. Academic incongruity occurs when students are unable to fully function in an academic environment where they have few faculty role models, the curriculum is Euro-centered, and the perspectives of students are silenced or marginalized. To deal with cultural and academic incongruity, many students turn to their families and siblings for support if they happen to have attended college themselves. Others form peer groups on campus to maintain their own cultural identities (Longerbeam, Sedlacek & Alatorre, 2004). Students of color are particularly affected by cultural and academic incongruity.
For example, American Indian and Alaska Native students have historically emphasized the need for a culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy. Rendon (2006) noted that African American cultural values are often counter to the values of the academic culture where students are asked to pursue contradictory thoughts, challenge ideas and authority figures in-class, be aggressive in accessing information and/or presenting ideas in-class, as well as learn to function in a fiercely competitive environment. Kenneth Gonzalez (2000) found that Hispanic students were marginalized and alienated by three elements of the campus culture, labeling them (a) the social world, (b) the physical world, and (c) the epistemological world.
The social world is a system of cultural representations that includes the racial and ethnic makeup of students, staff, and faculty. The physical world is based on cultural representations of architecture, campus topography, sculptures, artwork, and other physical symbols. The third system of representation is the epistemological world that includes knowledge shared on campus (Gonzalez, 2000). It is these systems where hegemonic, predominantly white cultural perspectives maintain entrenched values and traditions and simultaneously marginalize and alienate students who do not “fit” into these representations.
In her dissertation, Validating the Experiences of Male Mexican American Community College Transfer Students Studying at Catholic Universities, Eliazer Ayala-Austin (2007) focused on student success, specifically the concept of student involvement and being engaged in institutional life. However, Ayala-Austin asserted that many low-income, first-generation students benefit from what Rendon (1994) has called validation. Validation and involvement are two different constructs. The notion of involvement includes students taking the initiative to engage in a campus’ programs and services. However, validation does not assume that students can form connections independently. Instead, Rendon urges college faculty and staff to take the initiative in reaching out to students to help them learn more about college, believe in themselves as learners, and have a positive college experience.
While involvement in college and engagement in institutional life certainly are important activities that can promote retention and student development, underserved students who have experienced invalidation in the past (e.g., being called stupid or lazy; being told they will never succeed in life) are not likely to get involved and/or utilize campus services easily. These students will likely interpret probing questions about their personal lives as an invasion of privacy and will be reluctant to reveal personal problems that might shame the family (Ayala-Austin, 2007).
Students may be afraid to ask questions because they do not want to be treated as incompetent. They also may not ask for help because they do not know enough about college to ask clear questions. How does one ask for something one does not know exists? How does one form a question to ask for help when one does not know what is available to help meet his or her needs? Also, it should be noted that in some cultures asking for help could be interpreted as a sign of weakness (Ayala-Austin, 2007).
Understanding the success of underserved students requires a deepened awareness of educational and social inequalities, unspoken assumptions about students who do not seem to “fit” traditional postsecondary institutional environments, and the unique factors that shape their success. However, success should not be left to chance. Postsecondary institutions should be engaged in transforming their academic and social structures to foster success of all students; not only those with privileged characteristics. Postsecondary institutions are challenged with serving a student population that values diversity and seeks to realize an education that values them as capable learners and views them as whole human beings.
A Case Study: Application of the Balanced Scorecard in Higher Education
The purpose of this study was to examine the application of the Balanced Scorecard as a management tool within the External and Business Affairs (EBA) unit at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Specially, the study sought to examine how the Balanced Scorecard was communicated throughout the organization, how the data is used within the organization and how the data is used for decision making, paying particular attention to the four perspectives of UCSD’s EBA’s personalized Balanced Scorecard. These four perspectives are financial/stakeholder, internal processes, innovation and learning, and the customer.
This descriptive case study; a review of program records, a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews with EBA employees utilizing the constant comparative method and descriptive statistics identified four lessons learned: the truly informed employees are at the top of the organization and they find value in the Balanced Scorecard, most employees are unaware of availability and usefulness of the Balanced Scorecard data, even an unbalanced Scorecard improves business operations and the annual performance evaluation process is an opportunity to reinforce the Balanced Scorecard.
The study includes three recommendations for EBA. The recommendations are EBA leadership needs to communicate the Balanced Scorecard process, outcomes and application with greater clarity to all employees in the organization, there needs to be an institutional plan for sustainability of the Balanced Scorecard to ensure it transcends the current people and environment and the Balanced Scorecard process within EBA must be flexible for future organizational evolution.
Exploring the Academic and Social Experiences of African American Males in an Urban Community College
The purpose of the qualitative study was to explore the academic and social experiences of African American male students in an urban community college. This qualitative study utilized the phenomenology tradition as a model to provide insight into the academic and social practices that promote participation and success among African American male students in an urban community college. The primary research question that guided this study was: “What are the experiences of African American men enrolled at an urban community college?” Additionally, the following related sub- questions were explored: (1) How does academic involvement help student learning and persistence for African American male students at an urban community college? (2) How does social involvement help student learning and persistence for African American male students at an urban community college? (3) What learning activities are most meaningful in college experiences of African American male students at an urban community college? (4) How do African American men perceive their in-class and out-of class experiences at an urban community college? (5) What institutional factors facilitate and serve as barriers to academic success for African American men? The theories that were used to guide this study were Rendon’s (1994) theory of validation and Steele and Aronson’s (1995) theory of stereotype threat.
The sample was comprised of ten African American males varying in age, academic background, and other life experiences. The data were triangulated through multiple methods, including a recorded interview with each participant, and a focus group interview. Participants were selected purposefully to ensure a participant pool comprised of individuals who would potentially have the most insight into the research questions and examined phenomenon. The analysis process resulted in the identification of five thematic categories that captured the essence of the participants’ shared experiences. The categories are: (1) barriers to academic achievement; (2) strategies to ensure success; (3) pedagogy of engagement; (4) deconstructing stereotypes; and (5) diversity and supportive learning environments. The qualitative findings from this study contribute to broadening the discourse and informing the field of education of the perspectives and challenges facing African American men who attend community college.
Collaborative Learning Among Spanish Language Learners and Native Speakers in a Community College
The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the perceptions and behaviors of language learners and native speakers as they participated in collaborative learning activities to learn Spanish in a large suburban community college. In order to gain language skills, particularly speaking skills, students must be given opportunities to use the language and to exchange ideas. Collaborative learning strategies are a particularly effective way to create opportunities for students to accomplish this. For this reason, the use of collaborative learning techniques is common in foreign language education. However, there is a paucity of research done to examine the collaborative learning experiences of students studying a foreign language in a community college. Furthermore, little has been done to create opportunities for expert students and novice students to collaborate in the learning of language within the classroom. This study utilized the methods of collaborative learning to develop and implement a curricular innovation in which novice students (i.e., Spanish language learners) and expert students (i.e., native speakers of Spanish) collaborated to learn the language and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. Over the period of one semester, data were gathered via participant observation and semi-structured personal interviews conducted of two groups of students: 1) Spanish language learners enrolled in an introductory Spanish course and 2) native speakers of Spanish who served as language facilitators. The present study was unique in that it examined qualitatively the interactions and perceptions of students who participated in a peer learning experience based on the principles of collaborative learning as applied to second language acquisition.
Using a grounded theory methodology, the findings from this study were examined to reveal four overarching themes: 1) the importance of psychological comfort, 2) students’ desire for interaction, 3) scaffolding, and 4) validating experiences. Students expressed a preference for learning environments that foster a sense of psychological comfort, where they feel comfortable speaking, making mistakes and asking questions of one another. Also, students expressed a strong desire to interact and make personal connections with their peers in the classroom. The findings from this study supported the notion that learning is a social process in which students learn via interaction and exchange with one another. Finally, the native speakers interviewed in this study described feelings of satisfaction when they were able to help their peers learn Spanish, and from the understanding that their peers valued their language. The findings from this study support Rendón’s theory of validation (1994) and they highlight the importance of acknowledging the contributions students can make within the context of their learning environment. When students find that they have something to offer others, they feel a stronger connection to the college and it reinforces their belief that they are members of the campus community.
Community College Transfer Shock and the Student Athlete
With the presence of intercollegiate athletics on a 4-year college campus, athletics provides students with a reason to attend college and an opportunity to stay connected to the university after they graduate. At what cost is the student-athlete’s academic experience compromised if they are not prepared for a 4-year university? The purpose of this qualitative study is to examine what causes student-athletes’ Grade Point Averages (GPAs) to change after their first and/or second semesters at the 4-year institution and offer observations and recommendations to strengthen the transfer experience for student-athletes from a community college to a 4-year university.
Eight one-on-one interviews with transfer student-athletes provided research and insights into answering the following research questions:
1. In what ways does the transfer shock phenomenon manifest itself among
student-athletes who transfer from community colleges to Division I 4-year
2. How did academic support services impact your transfer experience from the
community college to the 4-year institution?
3. What Athletic Department practices and strategies facilitate the success of
student-athletes who transfer from community colleges to Division I 4-year
This study focused on student-athletes on scholarship who transferred to a Division I 4-year institution from a community college.
One-on-one interviews were conducted on eight transfer student-athletes from four sports which included three male sports and one female sport. The research results provided recommendations for 2- and 4-year institutions on how to make the transfer process for 2-year student-athletes a smoother process which supported academic success. This study was my hope to understand and find an answer the question regarding the transfer shock phenomenon for the student-athlete population to enable student-athletes to have every resource available to them for academic success.
System-Wide Change and the Use of Data to Inform Instructional Practice
The promise and potential of America’s schools continue to command the public’s attention, perhaps now more than ever as economic downturns have forced school systems throughout the nation to closely scrutinize their operations and determine what’s most important in the education of our youth. Even as reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) remains stalled in Congress, the focus on data, assessments, and accountability at the federal, state, county, and district level remains an integral aspect of American public education. An emerging body of research suggests that system-wide change and the use of data to inform instructional practice hold the potential to improve student achievement in urban school districts. However, models for systemic reform of this kind are relatively few in the literature. This study investigated two school districts that have received awards and recognition for increased student achievement over the past five years. Both districts have had stable leadership in the office of the superintendent, with no turnover in the past five years. Research methodology included the collection and analysis of interview data, observations, and archival documents. Interview participants were drawn from district superintendents, assistant superintendents/chief academic officers, directors of leadership/curriculum/assessment, directors of content area/professional development, and principals and lead teachers from schools in each district, all of whom had a minimum of five years experience in the respective district. As interviews were the primary source of data collection in this study, the researcher sought commonalities in responses in the search for themes and patterns. The researcher triangulated data derived from interviews, observations, and documents; a broad picture of the phenomenon emerged in two categories,systemic change and district culture, each with distinctive themes. Evidence drawn from the research literature and findings in the data collected in the school districts provide important lessons for districts that wish to effect system-wide change and the use of data to inform instructional practice. These findings include that leadership and an aura of accountability throughout the district matters, and that board-adopted policies and procedures must be clearly communicated, constantly referred to, and sustained over time. Strategic coherence in aligning instructional practices, assessments, and training for teachers and administrators is a necessity, as is a focus on continuous improvement, where individuals at the top and bottom of the organization are constantly seeking improvement and receiving support. Finally, the use of data as an integral, embedded, and commonplace tool in the quest to raise student achievement emerged as a significant chord resonating throughout these two school districts that achieved system-wide change.
Educational Resilience: The Relationship Between School Protective Factors and Student Achievement
Educators are increasingly pressured to raise standardized test scores under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which has resulted in increased instructional time in tested subjects and test-focused school leaders who neglect school climate factors which have been associated with positive student development and increased student achievement. The theoretical framework of resilience, applied to the school setting, along with associated school climate data, may offer keys to improved school organization, instructional delivery, data analysis, and teacher training, resulting in improved student outcomes. The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and its Resilience Youth Development Module (RYDM) represent a research-based, psychometrically-sound instrument that measures school climate elements, such as external school protective factors, internal student assets, and school connectedness.
The independent variables of this study included external school protective factors, such as: caring adults, high expectations, and opportunities for meaningful participation; internal student assets, such as: problem-solving, self-efficacy, empathy, and self-awareness; demographic control variables, such as percent number of students: African-American, Hispanic/Latino, participating in free/reduced meals, and English language learners; and a school connectedness variable. Aggregated school-level scores were drawn from 1.5 million student cases (n = 1143, 987, and 836 schools in 2004, 2006, and 2008, respectively). The dependent variables were school Academic Performance Index (API) scores. This study investigated the relationship between select-CHKS items and subscales to a student achievement measure; school API score, a figure calculated by California Department of Education’s general accountability system based on standardized test performance. This correlational, replication study examined matching 7th grade CHKS data and school API scores through descriptive and inferential statistical analyses in school years 2003-2004, 2005-2006, and 2007-2008. A three-part statistical procedure for data analysis included a zero-ordered simple correlation to school API, then two forced-entry hierarchical multiple regression analyses that accounted for the effects of all variables, and the tested effect of the mediator variable, school connectedness.
Study findings indicated that the school meaningful participation and school connectedness variables demonstrated statistically significant positive correlations to school API scores through three study replications, after accounting for the effect of all other study variables, such that the higher the reports of school meaningful participation and school connectedness, the higher the school API score. School connectedness, however, was three to four times a more powerful predictor of school API scores than school meaningful participation. The study findings support educational leadership approaches and policy development efforts that purposefully bolster school connectedness and school meaningful participation to more positively impact student learning and school reform efforts.
Tailoring the Fit: The Middle School Classroom and Instructional Practices
The purpose of this study was to describe middle school teachers’ knowledge of the developmental characteristics of young adolescents and investigate how they align this knowledge to create classrooms and instructional practices that fit young adolescents’ developmental needs including their physical, emotional/psychological, moral, social and intellectual/cognitive needs. Furthermore this study investigated whether there was a difference in teacher knowledge and classroom environments between a high performing and a low performing middle school.
This case study sought to investigate whether the middle school context is appropriately matched to the developmental needs of young adolescents. More specific, it sought to investigate why many students in middle school begin a decline in academic achievement, lose motivation and become disengaged with school. Using qualitative research methodology, the study examined a high-performing and a low-performing urban middle school from the same California district. Both schools had a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade configuration and both schools were organized with interdisciplinary teams.
The researcher surveyed eight teachers, four from the low-performing school and four from the high-performing school. Classroom observations were conducted in each of the teacher’s classrooms. Additionally artifacts of teacher lesson plans, student documents and data from schools websites were collected. Pseudonyms were used to describe the district, schools and teachers.
The Middle School Teacher Survey, developed for this study, revealed all eight teachers had “Partial Knowledge” of the characteristics of young adolescents; however, the depth of their understanding varied as the classroom observations revealed very different classroom environments and instructional strategies used by these teachers. Differences were noted between the high performing and the low performing school. High-performing school offered students opportunities for autonomy, high-level thinking activities, and a variety of instructional strategies that actively engaged students. Recommendations included the need to provide professional development for current middle school teachers and additional learning opportunities should be given to pre-service teachers. Recommendations for future research included using a more in-depth measurement of actual knowledge and using a larger participant pool. The findings from this study have practical implications for teachers and their students’ motivation, engagement and academic achievement
Effects of Professional Development Intervention on Middle School Principals to Increase Their Knowledge of and Ability to Increase Teacher Efficacy
The achievement gaps between and among white, minority, socially economically disadvantaged, special education, male-female, and English language learners continue and in some cases are widening. Research links teacher efficacy as a variable that has been associated with increases in student achievement. Because teacher efficacy is related to increases in student achievement, the principals' role in increasing teacher efficacy appears warranted.
The purpose of this study was to determine if a professional development program designed to build the knowledge and competency of principals to affect increases in teacher efficacy will alter their practice. Developing a deeper understanding of what principals can do to build teacher efficacy is the driving force behind conducting this study. Identifying what principals can do to foster teacher efficacy is necessary for practice. Those responsible for providing principal training may benefit from understanding how school leaders can become knowledgeable of and proficient in increasing teacher efficacy.
The researcher evaluated the experiences of six middle school principals who participated in professional development activities and events related to teacher efficacy. The principals participated in a series of five 2-hour professional development events over a 5-week period. Activities included events designed to increase the principals' knowledge of teacher efficacy, how to recognize teachers who possess teacher efficacy, how to recognize teachers who do not possess teacher efficacy, and how to develop the skills and competencies to increase teacher efficacy.
Participants' pre- and posttreatment results were interpreted by collecting and analyzing data through interviews, document analysis (written reflections, evaluations, debriefing notes), and observations. All data sources indicate that principal participants' knowledge of thebeliefs, behaviors, andactions associated with teacher efficacy increased. In addition, all data sources indicate that it is likely that the principals' practice is likely to change as a result of the professional development they received. Recommendations for professional development and future research are presented.
Turnaround Schools: A Comparative Case Study of Two Small Schools
The purpose of this study was to investigate the phenomenon of turnaround schools. This study deepened the understanding of how low-performing high schools, with large percentages of Latino students, turn around and become high-performing high schools where student achievement improvements are sustained. The study examined the context in which a turnaround effort began and the various catalysts for change and impediments to change. As well, the study described the practices, policies, and procedures that influenced dramatic improvements in learning results for Latino students. Also, the study explored the systems and structures that have helped sustain improved learning results. More importantly, the study compared and contrasted the factors that have influenced and inhibited change in a similar school that started with many similar contextual problems and opportunities, yet failed to gain momentum for change. In particular, this study analyzed the principals’ role in initiating, supporting, and sustaining change in a turnaround school. This study sought to identify the attributes and actions of educational leaders in the turnaround high school. In particular, the researcher examined how leaders’ behavior differed in these two schools and how those differences influenced the achievement of Latino students.
This study examined the literature that might inform a study of turnaround schools. In particular, this study explored the historical context of educational reform movements intended to improve teaching and learning for students in underperforming schools. This historical context included the studies commonly referred to as effective
schools research. Also, because the study of turnaround schools is fundamentally a study of organizational change, this chapter described the literature concerning organizational change and school change. The review would be incomplete without attention to the literature that addresses potential levers of dramatic change in school. For example, some researchers have suggested that culturally proficient leadership and culturally responsive
teaching may be means to promote equity for Latino students in schools. Finally, this study examined recent literature concerning successful and unsuccessful efforts to turn around chronically low-performing schools that have a large population of English Language Learners students.
What Factors Are Associated With A School's High Level Of OCB? The Case of A Middle School Staff That Goes Above And Beyond
This investigation was a study focused on measuring the factors present at a middle school with high levels of organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs). Dennis Organ (1988) was the first to use the phrase organizational citizenship behavior which describes behaviors or actions that are not prescribed but occur freely to help others with the task at hand. This study utilized a mixed methods research design called a sequential explanatory design in order to determine the factors present in a single case school with high the levels of OCB.
The OCB Level of all three middle ? schools in one district was measured using the OCB School Scale (designed by Dipaola and Hoy, 2004) which was then used in the selection of the case study school. Once the case school was chosen, the researcher administered the Individual OCB Scale (designed by Someth and Drach-Zahavy) in order to determine which teachers would be interviewed for the study.
Fourteen teachers (top ten teachers plus four randomly selected teachers) and the principal were interviewed in order to determine factors which teachers and administrators identified as helping to promote above and beyond behavior.
The researcher discovered that teachers who exhibited above and beyond behaviors believed that this behavior was a part of what they normally do at school. Teachers who exhibited OCB felt that a) their teaching became better, b) their teaching made a difference in their students’ lives, and c) they were more enthusiastic and satisfied with the job they were doing. Teachers went above and beyond because they received positive feedback from their peers and their students and parents.
Teachers who exhibited higher levels of OCB engaged in this behavior because of their students. They exhibited higher OCB because a) they wanted their students to achieve more, b) it contributed to their students’ well-being, and c) it increased their students’ love for the subject matter and for learning in general.
The school also benefited from teacher OCB. Teachers who exhibited higher levels of OCB did so to a) make their school a better place, b) improve the overall school climate, c) create a more positive school environment for students and d) increase student achievement.
Subsequent research could focus on how Individual OCB is affected by teachers’ unions and how their extra-role behaviors are affected by their age, number of years teaching, marital status, and the number of children they might have.
School Board Governance and Student Achievement: School Board Members' Perceptions of their Behaviors and Beliefss
This descriptive study examined school board members’ perceptions of their behaviors and beliefs related to student achievement in California’s high-performing poverty districts compared to school board members’ perceptions of their behaviors and beliefs related to student achievement in California’s low-performing poverty districts. A review of the literature revealed scant empirical research regarding school board governance and student achievement. Among the few studies producing quantitative data, The Lighthouse Inquiry(Delagardelle, 2008; IASB, 2000), found seven Key Areas of Board Performance, which served as the conceptual framework for this research.
This study employed a mixed-methods research design. School board members meeting the study criteria supplied quantitative data through their responses to 56 Likert-type questions administered in an on-line survey. The researcher used descriptive statistics to analyze the quantitative data. In the second phase of the study, qualitative data were collected from two informal, semi-structured interviews with one board member from a high-performing school district meeting the criteria for this study and one board member from a low-performing school district meeting the criteria for this study.
The survey and interview data indicate more similarities than differences between the behaviors and beliefs of school board members in high- and low-performing school districts. The results from survey responses aggregated for each Key Area of Board Performance show the greatest difference in the Key Areas of Connecting with the Community and Deliberative Policy Development. The study concludes that state and federal accountability, governance training, and inadequate school funding play a role in school board governance as it relates to student achievement. Recommendations for further study include empirical research of effective governance training, school board decisions related to funding allocation, school board focus on student learning, and methods used by school boards to connect with community agencies for the purpose of leveraging resources.
Effective Teachers: Beliefs and Behaviors that Lead to High Student Achievement at Reading First Schools
This qualitative multiple case study examined the beliefs and behaviors of three teachers who worked at former Reading First Schools and whose student population consistently scored 10% above state average on the California Standards Test (CST) in English Language Arts. Test scores of all teachers who taught under the Reading First initiative at 29 schools in a county in Southern California were considered. Consent to participate was secured for three teachers who met the study’s selection criteria.
To identify the behaviors and beliefs of these teachers, the researcher conducted classroom observations and interviews with the teachers and their principals. The information gathered was coded and triangulated, and then reported by themes.
Study findings revealed that participating teachers believed that all students could and would learn, and that student learning was a direct reflection of their teaching. They also believed that in order for learning to take place, teachers engaged in their own professional learning and provided appropriate instruction for all students. Professional learning included collaborating with colleagues and analyzing student data. Appropriate instruction included behaviors that engaged students in learning activities and provided a positive class climate.
The findings of this study will contribute to teachers’ and school principals’ understanding of behaviors and beliefs of effective teachers. The findings might also inform professional development for teachers and identify areas in which more research would be beneficial to the field of education in general and the teaching profession in particular.
Interaction Between Engagement and the Big-Five Personality Characteristics on Academic Success of College Students
Within this research, a version of the person-environment fit model, adapted for use in higher education, was tested. It was postulated that stable personality characteristics (represented by the big-five personality traits) interact with engagement with the college environment resulting in good or bad fit, as measured by semester-to-semester persistence and cumulative GPA. Data were collected via a self-report online survey containing questions about personality characteristics, degree of academic effort made, degree and quality of perceived campus support, number and quality of faculty-student interactions, and number and quality of college peer relationships. The final sample was comprised of 129 students from San Diego area postsecondary institutions. Hierarchical multiple regression was used to determine the degree to which personality characteristics interacted with level of engagement with the college environment to predict cumulative GPA. The degree to which various biodemographic variables (e.g., ethnicity, gender, level of parental education) predicted GPA was also examined using ANOVA. Due to small sample size (n=6), all results reported represent findings for a sample of students who intended to persist in college. Results indicated that agreeableness, conscientiousness, and engagement with faculty, peers and campus environment significantly predicted cumulative GPA for students who intended to enroll in the upcoming semester of college. Institutions are encouraged to employ this person-environment fit model in pinpointing students who are at greater risk of academic failure and devise strategies to assist them in attaining academic goals based on the strategic assessment of personality and environment interactions.
Community Colleges Communication With Their Communities: Current Approaches and Successful Strategies
Communication is often an overlooked responsibility of community colleges, which is unfortunate because district residents need to know about their local college. Understanding the factors that contribute to successful communication is important if community colleges are to have success in the political arena, explaining their evolving mission to policymakers and the community, and informing potential students of new requirements.
This study was conducted to learn what communication strategies are in place at selected California community colleges and to inform college leaders about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to current communication practices. It seeks to provide useful information about current practices, identify problems with existing forms of communication, and suggest improvements.
Results of the study indicate that the messages and target audiences of community college communication professionals have shifted substantially. “Welcome, come look around” has been replaced by “prepare and declare,” a reflection of looming legislation to require California students to declare majors and have a Student Education Plan in order to receive financial aid. Opinion leaders are now the primary communication targets of the public information officers interviewed. Messages focus on financial stewardship and sound management during a challenging fiscal period.
Community colleges should develop strong and effective communication offices led by experienced communication professionals to reach out to prospective students, community leaders, potential partners and elected officials. Community colleges should continually assess the content of the messages they communicate, the media they use for communication and the publics they want to reach. They need to remain open to the changes in media, particularly social media. Communications to opinion leaders gains importance during hard fiscal times and college public information officers are the key communicators to these leaders.
A Study of the Influence of Structural Environments on the Success of the Student Transition Process from a Community College to a Research University
The purpose of this case study was to explore through a constructivist lens, the influence of university structural environments on the transition process of community college students to a research university. The findings of this study will help to inform the development of university programs and services that will assist community college transfer students.
This study consisted of one-on-one interviews with students and staff at Western University and a document analysis. It was determined that the structural environments in place at Western University included academic support, faculty, social support, orientation, pre-enrollment programs, and university communication, all of which influenced the transition process of community college students. Most of these programs and support services (environments) contributed to a successful transition. Some recommendations for improvement were also provided.
The findings from this study may contribute to the improvement of the community college student to university transition process at other four-year institutions because of the structural environments that were identified and needed to influence successful community college student to university transition.
The Effects of Using OUR READING TOOLBOX: The Reading-Thinking Connection in a Community College Developmental Reading Class
Nationwide, 75 percent of the 2010 high school graduates were not considered ready for college, according to the American College Testing (ACT, 2010). The achievement gap has not narrowed for this group of learners, not only hindering their success in college, but also limiting their opportunities to compete in the workforce at a local, national, and global scale. The use of developmental education as a strategy to address the achievement gap in postsecondary education, specifically in the area of reading, continues to present questions and challenges. There is no question that there is a need to assist students who are unprepared for college-level work; however, little research has been carried out on the effectiveness of programs that have been designed to help individuals enrolled in developmental education courses. Regardless of the broad range of remedial programs and pedagogies, there is no strong consensus about how to carry out developmental education most effectively and “there is very little research that reliably measures the causal impact or different approaches to remediation” (Bailey, 2009, p. 2).
This study examined one innovative approach to developing reading competency at a California community college. The effects upon students’ academic performance and their perceptions of the classroom environment and course activities, the art of reading, and of themselves as learners when using OUR READING TOOLBOX as an intervention in a community college developmental reading class were evaluated. This intervention consists of a set of twelve specially designed tools that bring the “thinking-centered approach” to life by becoming a functional part of students’ learning processes.
Data were gathered from students (N=60) representing two sections of developmental reading at one community college. A number of demographic variables that were hypothesized to account for differences in academic performance in the course were examined, and the statistical tools used for this study incorporated a variety of multivariate analysis models. The distribution of demographic variables governed the specific choice of statistical models. Information obtained for this study was derived during the Spring 2011 semester from routine course materials and assessments. This information included results from the course lessons, exams, and other activities ordinarily encountered in regular class sessions. Students completed a Student Survey Questionnaire, a Student Open-ended Questionnaire, and a Student Information Sheet, so as to gather the students’ learning experience while enrolled in this course as well as demographic information.
Outcomes revealed that for the participants’ academic performance, there was statistical significance with the course assignments when associated with the Post-Tests. The outcomes provided initial data indicating the effectiveness of this new intervention as a way of approaching developmental reading. The learning environment and course activities helped to create a culture of thinking in the classroom. The information gathered from the research instruments in this study focused on students’ attitudes, their sense of involvement and participation in the classroom, their motivation and interest to read course assignments, and their sense of purpose in daily lessons activities in class and outside of class. Second Language learners demonstrated a higher level of comprehension and thinking ability after using the TOOLBOX. Adult learners, age 25 and older, benefited from using the TOOLBOX as an intervention in a developmental reading class. The classroom context in which OUR READING TOOLBOX was used was characterized by guidance and nurturing. This fostered a sense of confidence and courage among the students, contributing to a positive view of themselves as learners. Using the TOOLBOX as an intervention transformed students’ perceptions with regard to the art of reading and of themselves as readers.
According to the findings of this study, students achieved a higher-level of academic performance in thinking and understanding when using OUR READING TOOLBOX as an intervention in the developmental reading classroom. Overall, their ability to think purposefully about what they read showed a dramatic increase over the course of the semester as they applied these tools. This dramatic change contributed to the creation of a culture of thinking in the classroom.
Given the initial findings, further research needs to be conducted to examine the effects of using the TOOLBOX in a broad array of academic disciplines across the community college campus. Further, there is a need to develop effective evaluation designs, such as the approach used in this study, as the basis for determining how well a variety of other developmental reading interventions promote high-quality student learning. Providing professional development for faculty to use the TOOLBOX as a primary approach to teaching developmental reading may offer a viable way to integrate these thinking-centered approaches and to help foster a culture of thinking in which students can succeed.
Academic self-efficacy beliefs in Mexican American community college students
The purpose of this mixed-method study was to investigate the academic self-efficacy beliefs of Mexican-American community college student. The study used a mixed-methods approach to assess the academic self-efficacy beliefs of this group, to determine the congruence of those beliefs to academic skills, and to identify the types of experiences that shaped those beliefs. The academic self-efficacy beliefs of a sample of 428 Mexican-American students from a southern California community college were measured using the SELF-A and analyzed across a number of demographic variables. Congruence of academic self-efficacy beliefs to academic skill was determined by comparing scores on the SELF-A to self-reported past academic performances. The sources of academic self-efficacy beliefs were explored through data obtained via additional survey items and also through interviews conducted with 16 of the students from the original sample.
Findings indicated that positive academic self-efficacy beliefs existed for the sample and were congruent with academic skill. The four sources of academic self-efficacy identified in past research applied to the academic self-efficacy beliefs of the students in the sample, but in ways that differed from what past research had suggested with other student populations. Additional sources of academic self-efficacy that were equally influential were identified. Given the poorer academic outcomes of Mexican-American community college students compared to other student populations, the findings of the study were used to propose cost-effective suggestions for practices and programs intended to improve the academic outcomes of this group.
An evaluation of the Athletic Academic Support Office and its ability to provide effective support for student-athletes at County College
Research indicates that community college student-athletes need to study and compete at institutions that offer programs that align with student-athletes’ talents and needs. A lack of such alignment has been associated with outcomes that have negative consequences for student-athletes as well as institutions (Cunningham, 1993, p. 7-8).
This study was undertaken in the form of a program evaluation of the Athletic Academic Support Office (AASO) at County College. The goal of this study was to furnish findings that would enable the AASO to operate in the most efficient manner possible, given available resources. Although the AASO has a broad range of goals, this study specifically focused on student academic achievement and success.
This study employed three different investigative strategies. First, a discrepancy analysis (Fox, R.D., 2011) was conducted to compare the current AASO structure and function to a set of nationally prescribed and recommended standards. This comparison also included an examination of other programs in the region and state. Next, a series of individual interviews with key stakeholders was conducted to assess their perceptions of the AASO and its ability to meet the academic needs of County College’s student athletes. The third investigative strategy involved an examination of the statistical association of between three sets of variables; (1) student athlete demographic characteristics, (2) their responses to a survey designed to assess their perceptions of the adequacy and quality of the support they received through the AASO and (3) indicators of their academic success, including; GPA, retention rate, units attempted and units completed.
The findings of this study included recommended resources and experiences needed to ensure success among student-athletes of diverse backgrounds at County College. Findings also included recommended strategies to more effectively meet the needs of student-athletes prior to entering universities. Data collection tools and analysis methods employed in this study may be implemented by the AASO to monitor its progress towards meeting recommended and prescribed national standards.
Factors that Impede and Promote the Success of Mexican-American College Students
Nationwide, Latino students are entering college, yet are not completing a four-year degree at the same rate when compared to other ethnic groups. Between 1992 and 2007, only 5 percent of Latinos successfully earned a four-year college degree, and that number is lower than any other ethnic group (College Board, 2007). California Community College Chancellor’s Office [CCCCO] (2010) revealed that 50% of students drop out of college after their first semester; furthermore, the California Community College [CCC] system houses the largest percentage of Latino students in the state. In short, these statistics are staggering in terms of showing the underachievement of Latinos in higher education.
Policy makers, administrators, faculty and staff need to find better ways to effectively help increase the academic success of the Latino student population. This lack of academic success among Latinos is a serious problem, especially considering the implications it could have for the state and national economies. Latinos represent 56 percent of the nation’s population growth, and Mexicans represent the largest sub-group among Latinos (Census, 2010). If the Latino population continues to fall further behind in educational attainment compared to other groups, while continuing to increase at a faster rate than other ethnic groups, then this might have negative implications for the U.S. economy and society, especially in states like California.
The conceptual framework used for this study was based on Laura I. Rendon’s (1993) Theory of Validation. This theory was used to examine factors that are perceived to have the greatest effect on impeding and promoting the success of first-year Mexican-American community college students. Factors include faculty and student interaction within and outside the classroom, learning opportunities and instructional strategies, counseling and student interaction, and support services utilized by students. These factors were examined from the perspectives of students and faculty representing various disciplines using a qualitative methods approach.
Grounded theory was the research foundation used in the study (Creswell, 2009). The researcher unraveled and compared data, themes emerged and patterns were identified. This method was intended to compare data from different groups to identify the similarities and differences of faculty and students perception regarding academic success of Mexican-American college students.
The community college where the participants were drawn from is a single college district with a student enrollment of 22,000. This Hispanic serving public institution (HSI) is located in Southern California. The three research questions addressed were (1) What institutional factors are perceived to promote the academic success of first-year Mexican-American community college students? (2) What institutional factors are perceived to impede the academic success of first-year Mexican-American community college students? (3) How do the perception of students and faculty compare concerning the academic success of first-year Mexican-American students.
The research consisted of seven structured interviews with tenured faculty members, seven focus groups and two student interviews, for a total of 26 student participants. A total of eight themes and sub-themes emerged from the data. The themes were categorized into effective methods and ineffective methods. The sub-themes were “ instructional strategies,” “instructor/student relationships,” “instructor behaviors,” and “student support services.”
There was a high degree of congruence between faculty and student respondents on the factors that enhance and impede the academic success of Mexican-American college students. Based on the study findings, recommendations for research and practice were made in order to increase the success of first year Mexican-American college students.
Program Evaluation of a Pilot Intensive ESL Program for Refugees and Immigrants
Serving almost half of all undergraduate students in the country, community colleges are a vital part of the postsecondary education system in the United States. Nearly 50 percent of these students either come from an immigrant background, are permanent legal residents, are naturalized U.S. citizens or children of immigrants, and increasingly, refugees and asylees. Nowhere is the challenge of teaching refugees being experienced more acutely than at Cuyamaca College in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District in East San Diego County – a primary place in the country where Iraqi refugees are being resettled. The first step to self-sufficiency in the United States is for an immigrant to learn English. For many, this often begins with non-credit ESL courses. Unfortunately, according to the research of Chisman and Crandall (2008), of all students who begin their studies with non-credit courses “only 10 percent make the transition to further education of any kind”. In response to both the increasing need of teaching ESL to refugees and facilitating the academic success of students who begin their studies in non-credit, Cuyamaca College developed an innovative ESL-Link program which begins with intensive (150 hours/semester) of non-credit instruction. For those students who successfully pass this course, they are guaranteed admission into the first level credit course (ESL 80). The study evaluated the efficacy of this pilot ESL-Link program by comparing the academic success in credit ESL 80 of the ESL-Link students to those students who did not participate in the Link program. Quantitative data (final course grades) and qualitative data (interviews of participating ESL faculty members) were used to evaluate this program. Further research should examine the longer-term academic and personal benefits of participating in the ESL-Link program, the benefit of linking additional courses to the sequence of linked classes, and the role of student support services in supporting the unique psycho/social and emotional needs of refugees.
The relationship between counseling, writing support and mentoring on student learning outcomes in the Puente Project
The purpose of this study was to identify the association between services offered through the Puente Program at North County College (NCC) and the academic success that student participants experience. The study examined the academic success outcomes of Puente student cohorts from Academic Years 2002-2003 to 2008-2009. The study identified a comparison group based on demographics and level of academic readiness and examined its academic outcomes for the same time period. A quantitative, causal comparative research methodology was used to compare the academic outcomes of both groups based on eight indicators of student academic success: GPA, number of units enrolled, number of units completed, retention and persistence rates, transfer readiness and transfer rates, and number of academic awards received. The results from this study indicated that the services received through the Puente Program had a significant impact on the eight measures of academic success examined by this study. The results from this study may serve as the basis for expansion of academic support programs aimed at improving the academic success of under prepared student groups and Latino students in particular. This study includes recommendations for expansion of the Puente Program at NCC.
Counseling, Developmental Learning Communities, and Student Academic Performance
The purpose of this study was to compare the academic performance of students who participated in a counseling class that was not linked to a learning community to the performance of students that had taken a counseling course as part of a learning community. Academic progress in this study was defined by three performance outcomes: GPA, retention, and persistence. The study focused on archival data made available from Fall 2009 to Fall 2011 at Western Community College. Comparisons in academic performance were also made between learning community students with a one-unit counseling class, and learning community students with a three-unit counseling class. The study utilized a quantitative methodology. In order to measure learning community students’ satisfaction, perceived support and engagement, this study utilized data from a survey tool developed and standardly administered by the institution. Potential benefits of examining the success rate of students who take a counseling course as part of a learning community can have implications as to the number and composition of learning communities that will be offered each semester by community colleges as a means to foster student success.
Partnership Perspectives: Exploring Strategies for the Development of Successful Campus-Community Collaborations
As community college leaders are challenged to meet increasing needs with fewer resources, many seek external partnerships as a way to pool resources, build community networks, and extend educational opportunities. While many of these relationships begin with great promise, low success rates have been attributed to ill-prepared leadership (Baum, 2000).
The purpose of this grounded theory study was to explore strategies that college leaders and their partners use in order to build and maintain successful collaborations. Understanding there is much to be learned from the lives of others, 19 individuals throughout the state of California were interviewed in an effort to define best practices. These leaders were nominated for participation by colleagues who recognized them as exceptional in the area of external collaborations.
Although the partnerships represented in the study were diverse in terms of membership and purpose, the group was unified when identifying the practices and processes that contribute to successful outcomes. These included strategies for the creation of aligned goals, maintaining healthy communication and the development of trustful relations. These time- intensive endeavors were seen as critical in building the foundation of model partnerships.
The challenges inherent to the work were numerous. Leaders encountered a lack of institutional commitment as well as bureaucratic systems that failed to accommodate external work. The complexities of building multi-organizational relationships partnered with the absence of supportive systems demonstrated why building sustainable partnerships can be difficult. Those who excelled at the work attributed their success to a passion for the work, clarity of vision, innovative thinking, and sheer determination.
Effect of Principal’s Vision on Recruiting and Hiring Teachers for 21st Century Students
Teachers are the foundation for creating a dynamic and effective school environment. A potential teacher’s academic background, preparation for teaching, certification status and previous experience are all important quality indicators. Beyond these indicators, successful teachers need to clearly understand and be willing to address the challenges of the 21st Century learner.
This study examined the recruitment and hiring processes at a new elementary school. Using a single case study method, the researcher documented the actions of one school leader at a charter elementary school. First, the researcher examined how the school leader’s vision for student learning was mirrored in the methodology used to recruit, interview, select and hire teachers. Second, the researcher analyzed the perceptions and reflections of the teachers and the director about the recruitment and hiring process. The researcher gathered the data by conducting individual interviews with the school’s director and six newly hired teachers who participated in a highly interactive selection process. Four additional new teachers who were already known to the principal were interviewed in a focus group. The researcher also examined web based and archival materials.
The findings indicate that the director made specific decisions to create an interactive and information-rich experience designed to assess 21st Century skills. The second finding exposed the reciprocal nature of the hiring process, and the third finding raised the question as to whether or not the recruitment and hiring process clearly communicated the director’s vision for the school.
There are three recommendations for district practices based on this case study. The first is the need for a shift away from the current curricular focus on low-level standards and minimum competencies. The second is to maximize a teacher recruitment and hiring process to discern the skills and habits of teachers most likely to create robust 21st Century learning environments. The third suggests that districts focus on professional development opportunities for school leaders to help them clearly articulate their vision for student learning.
Many areas for future research emerged from this case study. The most important would be a study to determine if the teachers hired did in fact positively impact the academic success of the students while implementing a program grounded in 21st century skills. Another important study would be to examine the effect of the hiring process on teacher retention rates. Finally, it would be important to conduct a study to find out if an alternative hiring process like the one used at HTE would be a feasible practice for regular public schools.
Principal Evaluation: A Description of Current Practices
Strong principal leadership is critical in establishing and maintaining effective elementary schools. However, evaluation methods that measure elementary principal effectiveness still lack in development and consistency. The complexity of the principal role makes it difficult to align evaluation processes to effective research based principal behaviors and unfortunately principal evaluation is still a much underdeveloped topic in educational research.
This qualitative study sought to better describe the status of currentelementary school principal evaluation procedures, and identify how elementary school principals perceive evaluation procedures support improvement of their leadership effectiveness. Interviews of ten elementary school principals representing different school districts in Southern California served as the primary source for data collection. Additionally, principal evaluation instruments, district documents, websites, demographic data, and field notes supported this inquiry. A constant comparative method served to organize and analyze data.
This study describes the status of currentelementary school principal evaluation procedures. Specifically the study reports on processes and tools used in principal evaluation systems, the degree to which current principal evaluation practices align across districts, how practices align to research on effective leadership practices, and the degree to which elementary school principals perceive evaluation procedures influenceor support improvement of their leadership effectiveness.
Findings suggest that policies and practices across districts vary, principals do not feel that current evaluation practices influence their leadership, and participants have little input into the development of the evaluation tool used by their districts. Data also point to the need for evaluation processes that focus on building trust between principals and supervisors, a desire for greater visibility of evaluators, and a need for ongoing and specific feedback regarding their performance. Participant’s other suggestions for improvement included building relationships and trust, providing more formative feedback, engaging in regular conversations about leadership, visiting schools more often, being consistent in completion of evaluations, and aligning professional development to expectations.
Study results support the need for districts to critically address principal evaluation practices and create systems that accurately measure principal performance and support principals in their professional growth. Evaluation processes and tools need to be consistent, and more directly impact principal behaviors. Principals need to feel valued and have confidence in receiving beneficial feedback about their performance.
The Coaching and Mentoring Experiences of Transformational Principals in Urban Schools
This qualitative study investigated how the coaching and mentoring experiences of urban school principals at the middle level in a Southern California school district influenced and supported changes in their leadership practices and behaviors. It explored the coaching and mentoring activities that the principals deemed as not supporting the work to improve student achievement. Furthermore, the study sought to discover any additional activities the principals believed the coaching and mentoring experience should provide in order to support the development of effective practices of a school leader.
The study engaged a qualitative design. Given the fact that the purpose of the study was to best describe the reality of the experience according to principal perceptions, a qualitative approach was employed. Participants were purposefully selected based upon (a) their participation in the District’s coaching and mentoring program and (b) having achieved student growth for the past two academic years. Data were gathered and analyzed from multiple sources which included one-on-one principal interviews, field observations of the coaching and mentoring sessions, as well as program documents and artifacts. Data were triangulated in order to generate reliability and validity of the study’s findings. The research evolved as explanatory and descriptive as participants were given opportunity to express multiple meanings around the practices and activities within their coaching and mentoring experience.
The results of this qualitative study indicated that coaching and mentoring had the capacity to support and change specific leadership practices and behaviors associated with effective schools.
This study will add to the existing body of research on the effectiveness of coaching and mentoring for: principal induction, long-term professional growth for veterans, and the development of effective and transformational leadership practices that can impact student achievement.
Leadership Needs of California Rural School Administrators
Researchers have noted that the administrator is the key position essential to improving student outcomes (Hallinger & Heck, 1996; Spillane, 2004; Gurr, Drysdale, Mulford, 2006: Mullen, Gordon, Greene & Anderson, 2002). Cotton (2003) stated that what principals do makes a difference, noting that schools with high academic achievement have effective principals that lead them to success. Leadership is also considered to be vital to the success of many other aspects of a school. Not surprisingly, the traditions and beliefs about leadership in schools are no different from those in other institutions (Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005). According to Cotton (2003), the principal plays a primary role in developing the vision and goals of the school.
The fact that our country has increased focus on educational reform that will increase student achievement by meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) coupled with the research on the impact school leaders have on student achievement have brought attention to the improvement of school administrators skills. The increased number of non-performing schools has brought special attention to the performance of school leaders and their skills to lead schools that increase student achievement. In addition, the responsibility is multiplied for administrators in rural schools, which traditionally function with fewer resources, therefore, increasing their responsibilities (Bard, Gardner & Wieland, 2005).
The purpose of this study was to identify the professional development needs of administrators in rural schools in California. The author examined the perceptions of rural school administrators relative to their leadership practices to improve student achievement and to be effective in their job. Specifically, this study was guided by three research questions: (a) How do rural California administrators rate their knowledge and skills in the various aspects of their job?; (b) How much time do rural California administrators report they spend in various activities related to their duties and responsibilities as administrator?; and (c) What are administrators’ perceived needs for their continued leadership development?
Using an adaptation of a survey of rural Nevada principals (Chance, 2008), this study surveyed California rural administrators. The survey asked respondents about their perceptions of their knowledge, skills, and practices of school leadership; the time spent in various administrative functions; and their perceived needs for their own continued professional development. The researcher sought to discover professional development needs of rural school administrators in order to assist school districts and education agencies in general as they move forward to reform building level administration expectations and support administrators to lead schools effectively.
The California Rural Administrators survey consisted of six parts: (a) demographic information about the administrators and their schools; (b) initial training and induction experiences of participants; (c) participants’ perceptions of their knowledge, skill, and practices of school leadership; (d) time spent in various administrative functions; (e) participants’ perceptions of their professional development needs; and (f) open ended questions related to school leadership. The study was descriptive in nature, thus analysis of survey data were analyzed using statistics of central tendency and frequency of responses.
Results of the study suggested that administrators are knowledgeable in research-based skills necessary to improve student achievement; however, respondents generally reported they spend the majority of their time on paperwork and dealing with parent and student issues as well as other mundane tasks that are not necessarily connected to increased student achievement. Further, participants generally identified five specific areas which they perceived as gaps in their knowledge base: (a) special education; (b) English language learners; (c) fostering partnerships with community; (d) facilitating schoolwide improvement reforms; and (d) empowering teachers in school governance.
Regarding approaches to professional development, respondents reported that mentoring and workshops are the most valuable in developing their leadership competence. Implications and conclusions of the study include the need to develop systemic, on-going leadership development programs that include assistance in implementation, mentoring, and monitoring and evaluation of school administrators’ continued development in knowledge and skills that make a difference for student achievement.
Special Education Teacher Leaders: Supports for Speech-Language Pathologists
Extensive research has shown the positive effects teacher leadership has on student success (Avolio, Walumbwa & Weber, 2009). The examination and deployment of teacher leader models within schools is becoming a commonly accepted practice; however, few studies have examined teacher leadership in special education as a whole (Bays & Crockett, 2007; Billingsley, 2007; Boscardin, 2007) or more specifically in the field of speech language pathology (SLP). Some research exits to show that supporting SLPs in teacher leader roles has yielded positive outcomes (Ritzman & Sanger, 2007). The current investigation was a qualitative study. In order to obtain a representative sample of participants, surveys examining SLP responsibilities and leadership roles were distributed to 230 school-based SLPs in a Southern California school district. A usable return rate of 62% was achieved. Based on responses to the surveys, select participants who met leadership conditions were invited to participate further. Next, individual interviews with 10 principals and 10 SLPs were conducted to obtain rich descriptions of participants’ experiences with SLPs site-level leaders within elementary schools. Specifically, the study examined supports and barriers of SLP site-level leaders and how principals supported SLP site-level leaders within inclusive service delivery models. The qualitative data was analyzed using a constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Marshall & Rossman, 2006) in the coding and interpretation of the data from each set of interviews. An inductive process was used for building data into broad themes then a generalized mutual supposition of supports and barriers as related to SLPs emerged (Creswell, 2009). The data revealed similarities in leadership roles between SLP leaders and teacher leaders as defined in prior literature as well as evolving roles of SLPs leaders during service delivery within inclusive models. Recommendations of leadership practice for providing effective supports and minimizing barriers across school site, state, and national levels for SLP leaders were generated.
Successful CAHSEE Scores: The Role and Responsibilities of School Site Leaders
Secondary school principals in California face increased pressure to ensure students will successfully complete the math portion of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). Passage of the test is a graduation requirement. Also, student passage rates are included in school accountability profiles. While the responsibility for passing high school exit exams inevitably falls on the individual student, principals are responsible for improving and sustaining the achievement of their students on these exams. With the high stakes associated with high school exit exams, principals are expected to influence high passage rates and high graduation rates.
This qualitative case study investigated how school administrators and their staff in one Southern California charter high school endeavored to ensure that their students; including a high percentage of Black and Hispanic students passed the mathematics section of the CAHSEE on the first administration.
Considerable attention has been paid to the leadership of principals and their impact on student achievement. This study more specifically examined the leaders’ roles in developing and promoting success in mathematics for Black and Hispanic high school students. The qualitative study examined one urban charter high school in Southern California in which high percentages of Black and Hispanic students passed the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) on the first administration. In particular, the study examined how the administrators influenced changes that resulted in strong math performances for these two demographic groups of students.
To better understand the administration’s role in promoting the successful performance of students who passed the math portion of the CAHSEE, interviews were conducted with three administrators, four teachers, including the math department chair, a support teacher, and a focus group consisting of 11 students who passed the CAHSEE on the first attempt of the purposefully selected public charter high school.
The results of the qualitative study (FCHS), indicated that principal leadership, behavior, and their practices play a significant role in student achievement.
Marian Kim Phelps
Superintendent Leadership: Comparative Case Study of Three Broad Prize Superintendents
The purpose of these comparative case studies was to understand how superintendents in urban districts use reform strategies to leverage systemic change to improve student achievement. The study focused on four effective superintendents of Broad Prize for Urban Education wining school districts. It examined leadership traits, behaviors, and actions and identified commonalities and differences amongst these nationally recognized superintendents. The research questions provided a focus for evaluating the superintendent’s selection of reform strategies, the district context in which they were implemented, and the influence of the superintendent’s background and experience.
The researcher gathered evidence by conducting individual interviews with each superintendent and members of his or her cabinet and by reviewing selected artifacts related to the districts demographics, professional development practices, reform initiatives, and student performance data. The researcher reviewed the data, seeking common themes while watching for disproving evidence. The central themes related to the leadership profiles of these effective superintendents were: (a) longevity and breadth of service; (b) providing focused professional development; (c) building leadership capacity; (d) utilizing data driven results/monitoring data; (e) differentiating resources; (f) building relationships; (g) hiring the “right” people; (h) building strong board relations; (i) launching only a few highly focused and impacted initiatives. These findings were consistent across all four superintendents.
The findings and conclusions from this study generated implications for practice and policy making and recommendations for future research in support of leading and improving schools for increased student achievement. The implications are presented as they relate to specific areas of responsibility: school and district administrators, school board members, and policy makers and superintendent preparation programs. Implications from this study include: having a strategic plan that is aligned with district goals and actions and supported by stakeholders, hiring “the right leadership team,” differentiating resources based on need, hiring a highly qualified superintendent, and providing mentors and coaches to aspiring administrators and superintendents. Recommendations for future research include: conducting additional case studies on the actions of other urban superintendents, possibly including a discrepancy analysis to determine if struggling districts are implementing the successful strategies identified in these four Broad Prize winning districts; examining effective superintendents who took a non-traditional path to the superintendency; and a study of superintendents of large urban districts who are home grown and brought up through the system.
An Examination of Principal Leadership Behaviors and Their Effect on School Improvement
Schools benefit from principals who can empower, motivate, and support stakeholders in providing high quality learning opportunities and accepting responsibility for improved academic results. Nurturing this sense of professional competence and accountability is difficult, often requiring fundamental changes to the learning culture of a school. A growing body of evidence underscores a significant and positive relationship between principal leadership and student learning and achievement. In-depth study of a principal’s leadership, within the context of a highly challenged, high-performing elementary school helped to deepen the understanding of specific instructional and/or transformational behaviors and practices that instigated and sustained organizational change efforts where they were needed most.
This qualitative study sought to understand how the principal of a high-achieving urban elementary school facilitated and managed fundamental changes in the school’s learning culture. The study investigated one urban elementary school’s efforts to implement a structured, school-wide educational reform focused on improving learning results for all students at the school. The researcher examined the reforms through case study methods, employing critical incidents interview techniques, individual and focus interviews, observations of key reform-focused meetings and activities, and analysis of various relevant artifacts. Focus groups with teachers, individual interviews with the principal and 12 additional stakeholders from across the school, observations, and document analysis comprised the main sources of data in this study. The researcher used constant comparative method to analyze the data gathered and determine emerging categories, themes, and patterns.
Findings suggest how the principal of a now high-achieving urban elementary school reinvented her role as principal, instituted new norms of collaboration, ensured universally high expectations for all, and provided data-informed, job-embedded professional development, as means to overcome obstacles and improve student outcomes and achievement. Now more than ever, urban principals are challenged to understand and apply these key leadership behaviors and practices in order to build productive learning cultures for teachers and students at their schools.
Integrating High School Career and Technical Education: A Change Process Case Study
School reform initiatives are not new to education, but increased emphasis put on school accountability since the report A Nation at Risk and the inception of No Child Left Behind created a sense of urgency and launched a collage of reform efforts (Fullan, 2001; Grubb & Lazerson, 2005b). In response to these demands the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) changed its mission to reflect the need to infuse rigor with core academic and Career and Technical Education (CTE) standards as a means of improving student academic achievement and preparing all students for both college and careers (Gray,2002; Wills, 2002).Though an increasing body of evidence documents that integration of CTE results in positive gains in student achievement, resistance exists to program implementation (Gray, 2004; Rosin & Frey, 2009). Reeves (2009) stated that change is the toughest challenge for organizations regardless of their domain. Describing CTE program models as well as the change process utilized for integration provides insight for high school leaders interested in including these programs.
This case study explored the change process that took place when a comprehensive, public high school integrated career and technical education as a means of improving student achievement. Three questions guided this exploration: (a) What were the determining factors that led to the adoption and implementation of CTE at this site; (b) What were the change processes implemented at the school to facilitate the integration of CTE pathways; (c) How did the school measure successful integration of career and technical education and what factors affected this integration.
Conventional High School, now Academy High School Education Campus, was selected for this case study because it was a comprehensive public high school that restructured into four themed CTE academies and has documented increased student achievement. Qualitative tools were utilized to collect data including face-to-face, semi-structured interviews, classroom and common area observations, and a document review. The data collected were analyzed using a constant comparative process allowing themes or categories to emerge. Member checks were performed and the data were triangulated to increase validity of the findings.
Findings showed that visionary, top-down leadership, at the district level, was a key to the initial success of career and technical education integration. It was necessary for the district superintendent to embrace CTE integration. In addition, educating and gaining support from the teacher union and the school board were essential to the process. The superintendent in this study was able to gain flexibility with the school board and with teacher union contract guidelines in order to hand-select and assign like-minded individuals.
The high school became a self-organizing system once the initial transformation was complete because it was able to fill the roles of principals, teachers, and staff with specifically selected, like-minded individuals. Further research is needed to analyze to what extent it is necessary to change the face of our school system in order to meet the demands of the changing world.
Principal Preparation Programs for Effective School Leaders
Effective school leaders foster improved student learning and higher academic achievement. Critics of university-based principal preparation programs fault universities for failing to improve efforts to prepare candidates to address the complex issues facing principals in today’s high stakes accountability environment. Each year principals face local, state, and federal pressure to influence the continuous improvement of achievement results for every demographic group of students.
The challenge facing school districts is not the shortage of school administrators, but the shortage of qualified principal candidates who have the ability to collaborate with stakeholders and the skill to develop an instructional program that ensures all students are learning and achieving at a high level. Hess & Kelley (2007), Levine (2005a), Murphy (2003), and others have asserted that university school leadership preparation programs have not adequately addressed this challenge.
To support the development of school leaders to lead schools in the 21st century, school districts and universities are joining forces. This qualitative case study examined the Aspiring Administrators Program, a principal preparation partnership program between the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and San Diego State University (SDSU). The researcher collected and analyzed program and course documents to better understand the nature of the program. Also, the researcher conducted and analyzed individual and focus group interviews to ascertain the perceptions of the program’s first cohort of participants, principal coaches, district personnel, and university faculty. This study particularly examined the goals of the program and the various program features intended to help achieve the goals. As well, the study explored the nature of the district/university collaboration that facilitated the program’s design. Finally, the study examined preliminary evidences that indicated the extent to which the program’s candidates were acquiring the necessary skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for effective school leadership.
The results suggest that the Aspiring Administrators Program shows promise of increasing the extent to which aspiring administrators obtain the skills, knowledge, and dispositions needed to improve school-wide achievement, resulting in the closing of achievement gaps.