Student Achievement Initiative
Purpose of the Initiative
In 2006, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges adopted a System
Direction with an overall goal to “raise the knowledge and skills of the state’s
residents” by increasing educational attainment across the state.
This goal is a substantial challenge for all of higher education, especially for community and technical colleges. Washington’s
community and technical colleges serve a wide spectrum of learning needs from adult literacy for immigrants and K12 drop outs through advanced high school students taking college credit classes. Our colleges serve a predominantly working class and low income student population. The median age of our students is 26, 35 percent are students of color (compared to the state population of 24 percent people of color), over half are working full- or part-time, one third are parents, and over half attend college part-time.
The Student Achievement Initiative is a new performance funding system for community and technical colleges. Its purposes are to both improve public accountability by more accurately describing what students achieve from enrolling in our colleges each year, and to provide incentives through financial rewards to colleges for increasing the levels of achievement attained by their students. It represents a shift from funding entirely for enrollment inputs to also funding meaningful outcomes.
Through a partnership with the Community College Research
Center at Columbia University, the college system has been able to identify key academic benchmarks that students must meet to successfully complete degrees and certificates. These achievement points are meaningful for all students across demographic characteristics (race, age, income, employment status), academic program or entering skill levels (basic skills, remedial, workforce education, academic transfer), intensity of enrollment (part-time or full-time enrollment), and type of institution attended (urban, rural, large, small, community college, technical college). Rigorous data analysis has identified Achievement points that once accomplished, substantially improve students’ chances of completing degrees and certificates.
There are four categories of Achievement measures:
- Building towards college-level skills (basic skills gains, passing precollege writing or math)
- First year retention (earning 15 then 30 college level credits)
- Completing college-level math (passing math courses required for either technical or academic associate degrees)
- Completions (degrees, certificates, apprenticeship training)
These measures focus students and institutions on shorter term, intermediate outcomes that provide meaningful momentum towards degree and certificate completion for all students no matter where they start. Colleges can track student progress towards these achievement points each quarter, providing immediate feedback and opportunities for intervention strategies.
2010-11, is the most recent full performance year and will serve as the basis of the third round
of financial rewards to be distributed to colleges in Fall 2011. The Board is using a $1,148,360
million state appropriation to fund 2011 rewards. There are no targets; colleges compete with
themselves rather than each other. Colleges will earn a set increment of reward for each
Achievement point achieved above their 2010-11 point gain in any the four categories described
above. Once earned, the reward will be added to the college’s base budget.
The framework for Student Achievement is that as more students increase their basic skills and
college readiness, gain momentum from first year college success and finish college math they
will complete in greater numbers. As colleges gain a better understanding of where students
get stuck and successfully move them through those hurdles, they will receive financial rewards.
The investment of those dollars into expansion of proven strategies will yield additional rewards
that can be invested in additional strategies.
Because this performance funding system uses a different system of rewards and different
measures from those tried in other states, the Community College Research Center and
Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy are conducting an evaluation of the
Student Achievement Initiative over three years. We intend to consider their findings and
recommendations for future adjustments to this initiative.
The college system showed gains in Student Achievement starting in the first performance year.
Between the 2006-07 baseline year and 2008-09, the first performance year, the colleges
served 4 percent more students but increased student achievement by 19% with gains in all
categories, including the largest increases in gaining college ready skills.
In 2009-10, points again increased in all categories. For the second year, achievement gains
grew at a much faster rate than the number of students enrolled. Total achievement increased
by 12 percent or 40,716 total points compared to student population growth of 1 percent. The
ratio of point gains to students means that nearly all of the growth was due to more achievement
per student. These results demonstrate the system level momentum we are hoping to build
towards greater student achievement and overall student success.
In 2010-11, the effects of budget cuts began to take hold. Fewer students (headcount) were
served. Basic skills cuts resulted in fewer basic skills points than the year before. Prior to 2011,
basic skills were the single largest area for point gain. First year college level points also
declined as fewer students meant fewer new students at the beginning of the pipeline.
However, following the framework, more continuing students moved beyond first year points
advancing to completion. Completions increased by 17 percent over one year prior. College
math points were the second highest increase (5 percent), a result of more attention being paid
to both math and pre-college math.
Student Achievement Measures, Points that Build Momentum
||1st 15 Credits
||1st 30 Credits
|Certificate, Degree, Apprentices
|% Change from Baseline
|1 Year % Change
|1 Year % Change
|Total % Change from Baseline
For information, please contact David Prince, SBCTC, 360-704-4347.
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