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Community College Strategies

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Overview: 4 Principles, 5 Steps, 1 Goal

Achieving the Dream’s student-centered model of institutional improvement is focused on creating a culture of evidence in which data and inquiry drive broad-based institutional efforts to close achievement gaps and improve student outcomes overall.


Four Principles of Institutional Improvement

Most efforts to improve community college student outcomes involve relatively small innovations or changes at the margins. Achieving the Dream is based on the premise that to improve student success on a substantial scale, colleges need to fundamentally change the way they operate. Achieving the Dream colleges that effectively promote student success adhere to four principles:

  • Principle 1) Committed Leadership
  • Principle 2) Use of Evidence to Improve Programs and Services
  • Principle 3) Broad Engagement
  • Principle 4) Systemic Institutional Improvement.  


Five-Step Process for Increasing Student Success  

Achieving the Dream helps colleges transform themselves according to the principles of institutional improvement through Achieving the Dream’s five-step process:

  • Step 1) Commit to Improving Student Outcomes
  • Step 2) Use Data to Prioritize Actions
  • Step 3) Engage Stakeholders to Help Develop a Plan
  • Step 4) Implement, Evaluate, and Improve Strategies
  • Step 5) Establish a Culture of Continuous Improvement


One Goal – Student Success and Completion: 

Achieving the Dream seeks to help more students earn postsecondary credentials, including occupational certificates and degrees. Since community college students often take a long time to earn certificates or degrees, Achieving the Dream works with institutions to improve student progression through intermediate milestones.

These indicators include the rates at which students:

  • 1) successfully complete remedial or developmental instruction and advance to credit-bearing courses;
  • 2) enroll in and successfully complete the initial college-level or gatekeeper courses in subjects such as math and English;
  • 3) complete the courses they take with a grade of C or better;
  • 4) persistence from one term to the next; and
  • 5) earn a certificate or associate degree.