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By Paul Bradley  /  
2011 February 7 - 12:00 am

New Measures To Help Define Success of Community Colleges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Forty community colleges have been selected to pilot the new Voluntary Framework of Accountability, an ambitious effort designed to better define what success means for two-year institutions nationwide.

VFA Participating states
and institutions

The colleges which are pilot sites for the Voluntary Framework of Accountability are:

  • Baltimore City Community College, Baltimore, Md.
  • Bevill State Community College, Jasper, Ala.
  • Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, Mass.
  • Burlington County College, Pemberton, N.J.
  • Central Community College, Grand Island, Neb.
  • College of Lake County, Grayslake, Ill.
  • College of Western Idaho, Nampa, Idaho.
  • Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa.,
  • Dallas County Community College District, Dallas, Texas
  • DeKalb Technical College, Clarkston, Ga.
  • Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell, Mont.
  • Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, Wis.
  • Genesee Community College, Batavia, N.Y.
  • Greenville Technical College, Greenville, S.C.
  • Hudson County Community College, Jersey City, N.J.
  • Independence Community College, Independence, Kan.
  • Jackson Community College, Jackson, Mich.
  • Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Versailles, Ky.
  • Lane Community College, Eugene,Ore.
  • Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Baton Rouge, La.
  • Mid-Plains Community College, North Platte, Neb.
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College, Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Montgomery College, Rockville, Md.
  • Montgomery County Community College, Blue Bell, Pa.
  • Norwalk Community College, Norwalk, Conn.
  • Oklahoma City Community College, Oklahoma City, Okla.
  • Parkland College, Champaign, Ill.
  • Passaic County Community College, Paterson, N.J.
  • Pima County Community College District, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Pitt Community College, Winterville, N.C.
  • Raritan Valley Community College, Somerville, N.J.
  • Renton Technical College, Renton, Wash.
  • Rochester Community and Technical College, Rochester, Minn.
  • Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Tidewater Community College, Norfolk, Va.
  • Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Ill.
  • Wenatchee Valley College, Wenatchee, Wash.
  • Western Iowa Tech Community College, Sioux City, Iowa
  • Western Nebraska Community College, Scottsbluff, Neb.
  • Western Wyoming Community College, Rock Springs, Wyo.
More than a year in the making, the VFA is an effort to shed the federal government’s main method of measuring community colleges — the three-year graduation rate of first-time, full-time students — and devise a new set of metrics promoting accurate data, operational transparency and the ability for colleges to compare student progress and completion data against peer institutions.

Under the VFA pilot, colleges will test a series of custom metrics that community college professionals developed over the last several months. The project fills what community college advocates consider as a void in measures appropriate to the unique mission of two-year colleges.

“Many traditional measures of institutional effectiveness don’t work well for community colleges,” said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. “For example, most are pegged to full-time students, and the majority of community college students attend part-time. Our overarching goal is to develop measures appropriate to our mission that clearly tell students and policy makers how we’re doing.”

The VFA is a collaborative effort of the AACC, the Association of Community College Trustees and the College Board. It is being funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The pilot colleges include 37 institutions, two state-wide systems and one multi-college district in 29 states, according to an AACC news release.

VFA pilot colleges will work from a draft technical manual developed by four VFA working groups, a technical committee and a national steering committee. The VFA is being developed in an effort to identify measures for which there is broad consensus on technical definitions and available data. Additional measures will be proposed as the participants report outcomes and assess how well they gauge institutional effectiveness.

“Pilot testing is a critical part of developing the VFA,” said Kent Phillippe, AACC’s associate vice president of research and student success and director of the VFA initiative. “We want to learn from the pilots the utility of the measures and feasibility of reporting this data for all types of community colleges.”

Pending outcomes of the pilot testing, reaction to the VFA among AACC member institutions and future funding, a full-scale roll-out to the nation’s close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges could take place starting in 2012.

“The Obama administration and others are focused on greater numbers of student completions and demonstrable measures for how we gauge student success. VFA is the community college response that says, ‘We accept that challenge,’” Bumphus added.

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