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Expanding Community College Measures of Success



Expanding Community College Measures of Success

A new report from LearningWorks and WestEd explores the "skills-builder student" who enrolls in a limited number of community college courses, succeeds in coursework and exits before completing an educational credential, and suggests ways to broaden measures of community college success to include these students.

Research conducted by Peter Riley Bahr, one of the co-authors of the report, examined the skills-builder student through a study of first-time enrollees in California community colleges in fall 2002 through summer 2006:

  • Skills-builders disproportionately indicated on college applications that their goal was to advance in their career or begin a new career.
  • Skills-builder students, on average, enrolled for 1.7 semesters and attempted five credits. Many were enrolled for only one semester.
  • Skills-builders perform extremely well, achieving a course success rate of 93 percent and a unit success rate of 98 percent.
  • Almost two-thirds of skills-builders enroll in CTE fields, including engineering and industrial technologies, business and management, public and protective services, Family and Con­sumer Sciences and IT.
  • Skills-builders tend to focus narrowly on a particular cluster of courses, or career pathways, and these pathways often yield significant increases in earnings, even when students do not complete a postsecondary credential.

Authors Bahr and Kathy Booth recommend that colleges expand their metrics of success to include pathways that lead to job retention and advancement, increased earnings and external certification and licensing. These ideas have already been embraced by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), in which ACTE is a national partner. The WDQC supports a more inclusive data system that draws connections between education and labor market outcomes.

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