CC-MVP Is Key to Cultural Transformation and Student Success
The challenges community colleges face as the only postsecondary institutions that promise to educate everyone who appears at their door are also an opportunity for a cultural transformation which abhors socioeconomic student achievement gaps. Closing these gaps is the first step to providing a truly equal opportunity to earn a postsecondary credential for all Americans, something even more crucial considering two-thirds of jobs in this country are expected to require some postsecondary education by 2020.
In a time where the single greatest predictor of future life success for four-yearolds is family income, it is imperative community colleges reimagine an environment where success is not determined by how well students can compensate for ineffective strategies and limited support, but where a more active and engaging learning environment backed by early, intrusive interventions provides the support needed for students to persist to completion.
This reimagined learning environment must focus on total student development through a holistic approach, whereby the only wrong answer in response to issues impeding student learning is to simply do nothing.
This is an environment where rigor — and a grade — is determined not by the memorization of abundant content or the ability to compensate for ineffective instructional and support strategies, but by the learning of relevant skills and behaviors to meet the workplace demands of the 21st Century. A relevant and more engaging learning environment also empowers a more diverse group of students to completion. With approximately one-quarter of all community college students not returning for a second term and half not returning for a second year, it is obvious we do not have an enrollment problem as much as a retention problem spurred from a lack of MVP (mission – values – purpose) clarity.
This is where the “CC-MVP key to cultural transformation” provides the direction for a unified team approach which closes socioeconomic achievement gaps and increases retention and completion.
Maximizing equal opportunity for success for all students requires participation by all faculty, hence the urgency for the MVP message supported by the mandate that doing nothing to provide a more active and supportive learning environment is no longer an option. There is no place in the community colleges of today or tomorrow for faculty to continue using strategies that are destructively discriminatory against the very people who could benefit most from the upward mobility opportunities higher education provides.
This MVP must be Constantly Communicated (CC) throughout the organization at every opportunity. Faculty’s responsibility is not to just convey information, but to inspire and facilitate learning. Many faculty can identify the problems associated with student learning, but do not believe it is their responsibility to improve instructional and support strategies. We do not need more research to tell us once again that supportive interventions and more active engagement in relevant learning increases learning for all students. Neither the personal discomfort of change, nor the inability to completely solve the problem, is a legitimate excuse to do nothing.
This mission of providing a truly equal opportunity for success through higher education is paramount to upward socioeconomic mobility and maintaining the values and principles that form the foundation of our American culture. In a time where work is learning and learning is work, students should be constantly reminded of the dignity of work and value of education. Their pursuit of higher education is the single greatest thing they can do to increase opportunities in life for both themselves and their children or future children, and they should be reminded of this often and enthusiastically.
Courageous Commitment (CC) to the MVP is needed for both common focus and momentum, as the combined efforts of all well surpass the sum of the parts. Although skill and talent can only take one so far, the positive can-do mindset of whatever-it-takes to increase student learning, especially for those first-generation college students from a life of generational poverty, will empower instructors well beyond their self-perceived limitations and into that magical realm of growth outside their comfort zone. Even as the degree of effort and improvement may vary individually, results are magnified exponentially through total participation toward a common MVP. Buy-in is not a prerequisite to significant improvements, but participation is. For many, buy-in will come as the increases in student learning become evident.
The development of this growth mindset required of professionals in all fields is a prerequisite to effectively teaching this concept to students. Many students do not see how their efforts control their success and instead exhibit a fixed mindset that sees success related to talent. In a survey several years ago over 30 percent of Americans indicated they did not feel their efforts controlled their success. In Ruby Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, she categorizes socioeconomic cultural paradigms into three categories. She found that the bottom third (poverty) tends to make decisions based on the present and on feelings, beliefs, and emotions, while seeing education as abstract and not relevant and real to their life. This group was also prone to believing that destiny is based on fate and not on decisions and effort, which supported the findings of other studies.
These studies and results are shared to bring clarity and relevancy to the MVP, while providing the motivation needed to maximize learning and total student development. Despite many community college students being underserved and underprepared, they are not incapable of learning.
They may however, require additional support, encouragement and engagement in order to develop a growth mindset that realizes “I can’t does not mean I’m incapable.” The empowerment that comes with this mindset is truly transformative in the lives of students and faculty.
This active, engaging, and more supportive learning-centered environment also helps students feel more connected to the learning process. The Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) found that not “feeling connected” was the number one reason students leave college, which is why developing a culture of caring and appreciation is crucial in overcoming the insecurity and low self-worth of many community college students. National statistics also show that if a student fails or withdraws from one of their first five college courses their chance of completion is cut in half. Withdraw or fail from the second one and the chances of completion are cut in half again! These results speak volumes for the importance of a persistent growth mindset, something many students have not developed through their culture of origin.
Courageous Commitment (CC) to the MVP resulted in the faculty at Wallace Community College-Dothan adopting course redesigns focused on deeper and more critical learning. Enhanced with early, intrusive intervention strategies the faculty at WCC closed the socioeconomic achievement gap in developmental studies and the closing of over 75 percent of the gap in the top ten enrollment courses, both within two years. Their efforts also resulted in a 27 percent increase in retention rates and a 49 percent increase in graduation rates just four years after a faculty-wide commitment to I- CAN: ‘Improvement, Constant And Never-ending. These uncommon results are to be expected when a common group of faculty make an uncommon and Courageous Commitment (CC) to a common (and Consistently Communicated ‘CC’) MVP. This commitment creates a learning environment conducive to creativity, innovation, collaboration, and most importantly….action.
Community colleges will always be needed to compensate for the ills of society, parenting, and K-12. This is an enormous challenge that can only be overcome by those committed to the MVP of “inspiring and facilitating learning with a diverse student population,” a commitment that is fueled by a contagiously enthusiastic and relentless pursuit of equal opportunity for all through higher education. By CC’ing the MVP in a culture where doing nothing is not an option, faculty operate with a passion and purpose reserved only for true professional educators. Realizing we can make excuses or progress, but not both at the same time, community colleges desperately need a leadership mentality (growth mindset) throughout the entire organization. Although the challenges are immense, this is who we are (professional educators) and this is what we do. What an incredibly honorable way to serve our country!