Genesee Community College and 39 other top community colleges across the United States have taken the first steps toward developing a new assessment and accountability system for community colleges, Associate Dean of Institutional Research Carol Marriott reported to the Board of Trustees at its regular meeting Monday evening.
Genesee is one of 40 selected community colleges participating in the “Voluntary Framework for Accountability” (VFA) initiative sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges in cooperation with the Association of Community College Trustees, the College Board, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation.
The VFA initiative will reshape the way community colleges measure and report their accomplishments and outcomes to a variety of constituencies, including funders, legislators, and the general public.
The 40 colleges, in cooperation with AACC, have developed the first set of “progress measures” gauging students’ broad educational outcomes. The colleges are now submitting and testing data to determine if the progress measures are adequate. Soon, participating colleges will develop measures to assess and analyze workforce and economic development, career and technical education success, non-credit courses, adult basic education, and student learning outcomes. As measures are developed, each of the colleges will collect and share data. After it is compiled, colleges will compare and analyze the data to determine if it is accurately portraying college impact.
For example, measures related to career and technical education attempt to determine how well former students are succeeding in their workplaces, Dean Marriott told trustees. Tentatively, colleges participating in the VFA have identified three measures that assess success: licensure exam passing rate for licensed professions; percent of former students employed with a livable wage; and median wage of former career and technical education students. As part of the VFA project, colleges are figuring how to obtain valid data from independent sources. “The best assessment and accountability measures come from third parties,” Dean Marriott said. “We don’t want to simply talk about how well we think we’re doing, or use our own self-reported data to determine that we are successful. We want to use data that non-college sources have collected.” So, for example, the VFA colleges hope to use Department of Labor data to determine career success of community college graduates, she said.
This fall, Dean Marriott said that she and other Genesee staff will receive comprehensive data from the other 39 colleges participating in the VFA project. “This will be a completely new way of looking at Genesee Community College. We have never seen ourselves through this lens before,” she said. More important, once the Voluntary Framework for Accountability Project concludes several years from now, it will produce an entirely new system that community colleges can use to evaluate institutional performance, according to Dean Marriott. “This is exciting,” she told trustees. “To be part of a project that will fundamentally transform the way community colleges assess themselves is very gratifying. We can be very proud that we at Genesee are influencing the future of the community college movement across the nation.
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