Comprehensive Reform for 21st Century Success: New Directions for Community Colleges

Dec 08, 2016
Authors
Nan L. Maxwell and Ann E. Person, editors

Key Findings:

  • Substantially increasing student success requires comprehensive institutional reform with a focus on measurable student success, an intentional and cohesive package of programmatic components, and a culture of evidence.
  • Successful comprehensive reform requires executive leadership complemented by strong faculty involvement, guided by an explicit and shared vision for student success.
  • Technology can play a key role in comprehensive reform, but the adaptive capacity of the institution is equally critical for the reform to be successful.
  • Balancing a real need for pilot-testing with the ultimate goal of scaled change presents a challenge to reform efforts.

This volume of New Directions for Community Colleges presents chapters that examine several contemporary comprehensive reform efforts. The reforms we discuss include state and federal government and foundation-sponsored initiatives, but all emphasize the three common elements: a focus on measurable student success, an intentional and cohesive packaging of programmatic components to be implemented at scale, and a culture of evidence. Each chapter in the volume presents original analysis, discussing implications of the research for practice, and each ends with a set of recommendations for practice in community colleges.  The authors’ empirical approaches provide insight on how comprehensive “interventions” can best be analyzed and the evidence presented in their chapters enhances our understanding of the promise and perils of comprehensive reform. Across the chapters, a few components emerge as critical for the success of comprehensive reform efforts, in particular, executive leadership complemented by strong faculty involvement, guided by an explicit and shared vision for success. Technology can play a key role in comprehensive reform, but the research presented here suggests that the adaptive capacity of institutions is equally critical. At least two common challenges emerge across the chapters, as well. First, the difficulty of balancing a real need for pilot-testing with the ultimate goal of scaled change. A second challenge, flowing from the first, is how to assess the impacts of a package of interventions, pieces of which touch the entire student population. Although the authors do not resolve these issues, their discussion of implications from their research helps to ensure that community college practitioners can use information from the chapters to inform their own efforts to improve student success.