Learning events and more than a dozen webinars gave colleges and universities the opportunity to hear about trends, resources, and best practices while also sharing their own successes and challenges. In 2019, we launched two new events, the Teaching & Learning Summit and the Equity Institute, each designed to support colleges in their efforts to strengthen student outcomes, while closing equity gaps.
More than 300 faculty and administrators from across the country took up the urgent call to participate in ongoing collaborative educational development and professional learning by participating in Achieving the Dream’s first Teaching & Learning Summit.
The convening is a component of ATD’s Teaching and Learning supports, launched in early 2019 to build on what ATD is learning from years of work in adjunct faculty engagement, Open Educational Resources, and campus-based faculty leadership in student success work. The three-day convening was organized around four focus areas: Open Educational Resources, Culturally Responsive Practices, Guided Pathways, and Every Learner Everywhere. Teams from 54 colleges examined classroom-based practices and designed action-based strategies to implement instructional models that support student success and achievement of their academic and professional goals. ATD President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout delivered the opening keynote, Focusing the Next Generation of Community College Redesign on Teaching and Learning, a modified version of the Dallas Herring Lecture she delivered at North Carolina State University in late 2018. She called for “reforming our reforms” and shared key organizing principles developed by ATD based on learning from work in the field. Read the full lecture here.
For the sixth time, ATD hosted the Data & Analytics Summit which provided more than 260 community college leaders the opportunity to take a deeper dive into their data and drive change at their institutions. The three-day event, “Data and Analytics Through an Equity Lens,” focused on practical solutions for applying an equity lens to building institutional capacity to use data to improve student outcomes, implementing high impact practices in institutional effectiveness, and using technology as a learning tool to enhance student success. Representatives from 21 of the Tribal Colleges and Universities in the ATD Network participated in an accreditation discussion on implementing processes at their institutions.
A special edition of ATD’s annual convening included a look back at ATD’s development and progress over its 15 years in the reform space. Founding board members, partners, and leaders joined more than 2,200 higher education leaders, policymakers, and faculty to celebrate the people and colleges contributing to the success of the ATD Network. The event also featured announcement of Amarillo College and Columbus State Community College as the 2019 Leah Meyer Austin award winners, and special announcements of new work to scale adaptive courseware that personalizes instruction, efforts to address women students’ needs, and services to build a culture of teaching and learning excellence.
During the interactive day-long institute, institutional teams engaged in learning opportunities and activities to develop a deeper understanding of what equity means, what it looks like in practice, and how it is manifested or stifled on their campuses.
Keynote speaker Dr. Shaun Harper, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Race & Equity Center, shared that in order to move the needle on student success, colleges must understand the totality of factors that undermine success for students of color. Teams engaged in conversations around equity challenges impeding the success of their students and brainstorm practical solutions that empower all members of the college community. Institutions boldly addressed their equity challenges then shared their strategies, obstacles, and outcomes. Teams were engaged with new tools to use in their equity strategy.
More than 400 community college leaders participated ATD’s third annual Holistic Student Supports Institute, where they had an opportunity to tackle how to more holistically support their students and dive deep into the implementation of addressing all student needs. Over the course of three days, participants learned from experts within ATD’s diverse network of colleges and national experts working on designing, implementing, and assessing a "whole college" approach to improving student outcomes. In addition to 22 sessions covered topics such as deepening faculty engagement, creating small changes on campus, and serving underserved high school students in their community, ATD offered two distinct tracks for college teams to follow: Holistic Student Supports Exploration Experience, and Holistic Student Supports Design Experience. On the final day of the Institute, college teams participated in intensive working sessions, taking the lessons from the week and turning them into actionable plans. Attendees explored how to communicate the benefits of the holistic student effectively supports work with the community at large.
Network colleges help us reflect upon, refine our work
Each year, we ask ATD Network colleges to engage in an annual reflection on their student success work through Achieving the Dream. The reflection is important for ATD and for our coaches because we are able to get an aggregate and unique view of the deep student success work underway on our campuses. The Annual Reflections allow us to identify trends, areas for peer learning, and opportunities for ATD to support colleges as they tackle complex, new challenges.
In 2019, some key themes emerged:
ATD Network colleges described a range of student success goals, generally centered around early student momentum in areas such as gateway course completion, stronger first-year experiences, credential completion and retention. This focus is consistent with research from the Community College Research Center that demonstrates strong linkages between completion of these early momentum metrics and the completion of credentials. The findings also suggest that equity gaps can be narrowed for students of color when they are supported to complete these foundational success indicators.
Equity is increasingly at the forefront of student success work across the ATD Network; three-fourths of ATD Network colleges stated that to “develop a culture of equity in academics and support services” is an institutional capacity they are using to support their goals. Colleges have dug deep to understand the barriers for student groups who are achieving at lower rates, often using engagement surveys and other data gathered from students to diagnose persistence and completion problems. ATD is committed to developing additional tools and resources to help facilitate conversations around equity, including an equity-focused language reference document and case studies that highlight successful strategy execution.
Leading colleges are expanding their equity work from a focus on completion to completion with a valuable credential—specifically preparing all students to enter and complete educational pathways that lead to high demand jobs that provide life sustaining wages and opportunities for social and economic mobility. Achieving the Dream coaches are receiving additional professional development to support ATD Network colleges on this journey with tools and resources.
ATD Network colleges report an increased capacity for aligning teaching and learning with strategic priorities, consistent with a heightened awareness in the field that we cannot achieve our student success goals without focusing more intentionally on this critically important area. Excellent teaching and support for quality instruction must be at the core of our reform work moving forward. Cementing teaching and learning at the core of our student success work requires structural and process change and additional institutional capacity building. In 2019, we launched the inaugural Teaching & Learning Summit providing opportunities to share research in the field, best practices, and to develop peer communities for ongoing learning and practice improvement.
ATD Network colleges expressed interest in opportunities to learn more about successful strategies for dual enrollment, faculty advising, evaluation, and grant funding, and to learn from each other, especially in groups of similarly situated institutions. These requests speak to the importance of having a Network with shared values, where institutions can learn from each other and grow in their work.