Chancellor’s Presentation Debrief

UPDATE to the UPDATE: Now with a poll! All the way at the bottom…let’s see if we can get more than 25 votes!

UPDATE: Ok, so I don’t know if people are nervous, or waiting, or, like me, still thinking about what they saw today, but it struck me that there may have been people who were unable to attend today who’d like to know a little about the presentation. I heard from a source that shall go unnamed that The Harold (the student paper) was embargoed from writing about today’s presentation until the Chancellor has visited the other colleges (the reward for their “patience” being a sit down interview with the Chancellor). Since I didn’t hear any similar request directed toward us and didn’t see “Confidential” stamped across any of the information, I shall now provide a brief summary for those who couldn’t attend. Please correct (or suggest additions) toanything that needs it in the comments, those of you who were there.

The Chancellor opened by saying she had come to present her case for change and to describe the process for the Reinvention. She advised us all that the hard facts about CCC that she was about to present should not be taken personally by anyone and that the fact that things have to change does not mean that what we’ve done up until now is not valuable. She then gave a series of shout-outs to John Madsen, Amanda Loos, Ellen Eason-Montgomery, Caroline Schoenberg, Les White, Theresa Carlton, Carrie Nepsted, Jen Asimow, Tom Higgins, Jesu Estrada, and Mike Davis. And then came the pitch.

First came the data: CCC serves 120,000 students. 17% of those are in Continuing Ed; 32% are in Adult Ed (ESL, Basic Literary Skills, GED); 6% are pursuing Certificates; and 45% are pursuing “Transfer to a four year school or an Associates Degree” (hereafter, ToADs for “Transfer or Associates Degree”). 65% of the students pursuing a degree are less than three years out of high school.

Then came some key focus points from the data: 1) CCC enrollment declined about 30% from ’98 to ’08; 2) 7% of ToADs get a degree; 3) 54% of ToADs are gone in the first six months; 4) 90% of incoming ToADs need remediation and those needing remediation are 1/3 as likely to complete or transfer as those who don’t; 5) 80% of programs graduate fewer than 45 people per credential; and 6) 35% of Adult Ed students complete their classes and go on to take and pass a college course.

She then provided some supporting numbers for the first one. An interesting chart showed the percentage of incoming ToADs who make it to various milestones: 86% pass one course; 46% earn 15 credit hours; 30% earn 30 credit hours; 7% earn a credential.

The Chancellor continued to emphasize the fact that of this big group who came in for a degree (conveniently dropping off the other disjunct—“OR transfer”) only 7% got what they came for, implying that the other 93% of the 45% of 120,000 simply dropped out unsatisfied and unsuccessfully served. The Chancellor did mention at one point that they had no means of tracking what percentage of students who left before graduating successfully transferred out, but suggested that the number was not very high since students “don’t just come for one semester and then transfer.” Her suggestion was that students typically have to earn 30 hours before they can transfer, indicating that at least 70% of our students are not successfully served.

She gave some additional numbers about remediation (97% of incoming CPS students require remediation—I almost fell off my chair; that’s scandalous). The numbers were not much better for other sources, though: 96% of GED students need some remediation and 94% of students from Private High Schools (in Chicago, I think) need remediation, according to their data. There were numbers about the other items, too, but I didn’t write those down.

At this point in the presentation, there was an interactive poll offered to the audience regarding the audience feelings about the “the case.” 25 people responded and 40% of those said they were “Very convinced” of the need for change. 24% said they were “Somewhat convinced,” 16% were “Unsure,” and 20% were “Not convinced.”

The topic that switched to the Revitalization Process, starting with a timeline that went like this:

Phase I (July to September, 2010): Diagnosis and Task Force and Advisory Committee formation

Phase II (September 2010 to March 2011): Staffing and implementation of Task Forces for research and proposals

Phase III (March 2011 to March 2012): Implement solutions.

There will be six task forces that will feature an Advisor (comprised of a College President, VP or Vice Chancellor), a Project Manager (who reports to the Advisor, I guess), and Team Members who will be faculty, students, and staff from all of the colleges (i.e., there will be no local teams; only teams with district wide representation). The task forces will focus on 1) Program Portfolio Design (i.e., what programs should we offer and where); 2) Student Support and Pathways (Advising, tutoring, placement, support); 3) Remediation; 4) Faculty and Staff Development (Performance goals, metric development, evaluation methods, and development programs); 5) Operational Excellence and Optimization (Facilities); and 6) Technology (teaching, support, and data integrity).

In addition to the Task Forces, the Revitalization Plan will also be shaped by four advisory committees made up of: 1) Industry Leading Employers; 2) Academics with expertise in Higher Education; 3) Key community representatives; 4) Civic leaders and foundations.

Finally, the Reinvention plan will have four primary goals: 1) Increase the number of students earning credentials; 2) Increase the transfer rate for graduating students; 3) (Drastically) Improved remediation outcomes; and 4) Increase the number and share of ABE/GED/ESL students who advance to and succeed in college level courses.

The Chancellor then presented all of us with three possible levels of involvement: 1) Task Force Member: this would entail a full time commitment over the next 9 to 12 months, starting as soon as they start. Faculty or staff who wanted to do this would have support from administration to find substitutes for their jobs, which they would be able to return to upon completion of their Task Force activities in March of 2011; 2) Frequent Contributor: this would be for a person who can serve on an ad hoc basis, as needed according to their expertise and would involve a “medium” time commitment. I don’t know what that means either, but that’s what the slide said; 3) Valued Contributor: this is what they called people who follow along, throw comments into the mix now and then (as in public forums or by email), and generally have something to say as the process rolls along. Anyone who wants to be involved on any of these levels was encouraged to send their Task Force preference, a brief bio and five ideas to address the issues in the identified area to reinvention@ccc.edu . Q and A followed.

I think it is important (so you know something about where I stand on this at the moment) to acknowledge at the outset that I support the Chancellor’s four goals for this Reinvention. More students with credentials is a good thing. More students transferring after they get credentials is a good thing. Improved remediation outcomes is a good thing. More students passing from Adult Ed to college courses is a good thing. I am down with every one of those.

I also recognize that the data is troubling. 14% of our students never pass a class with us. When you consider that 45% of 120,000 is 54,000 students who come to us seeking transfer courses, that means 7,560 leave without passing a single course. Maybe some come back, but a lot don’t and we all know it. That is a huge number. I’d like that number to be zero. I know we can’t control it alone and so it will never be zero, but certainly it could be reduced.

As Amanda suggested in her question asking, the 7% completion number is misleading. True that only 7% of that 54,000 get a degree, but it is false that the 93% who don’t get a degree are not well served; many leave quite satisfied and go on to success (as Phil Stucky was pointing out in his time at the mic). It troubles me that they have a gigantic hole in their data and seemingly have not prioritized filling in that unknown. They know that 7% of the ToADs graduate and they know that 14% don’t even pass a class, but they don’t know what happens to the rest–42,660–of the ToADs.

What that means, going forward this Reinvention is going to be a little like painting a room by candlelight. Initiatives may be implemented that increase the numbers of degree earners, say, but decrease the number of non-degreed transfers, an unintended consequence that no one will know about because it isn’t being tracked. Other initiatives may go forward which increase the number of non-degreed successful transfers, but don’t increase the number of graduates (and so appear to be failures, when they aren’t). Without knowing more details about that huge group of our students, it is, while still possible to acknowledge the need for significant improvement in a lot of areas, hard to jump on board for a Reinvention, especially when the new plan seems to have this gigantic blind spot built into it at the start.

A second huge personal concern, also covered by Amanda in her suggestion—great work up there Loos—and by Phil as well (fiery Phil!) is that they’ve set up these task forces in such a way as to almost guarantee that there won’t be faculty participation. I mean, they can’t delay the task force starting date until January so that faculty wouldn’t have to, literally, walk out on the classes full of students? I mean, there’s no way I would do that to my students (or my colleagues). At least when we went out on strike I knew I’d be coming back to them. Who in good conscience could walk into a class three weeks from now and say, “I’ve volunteered for this other job, so I’m going to hand you off to a substitute for the rest of the semester” without a death or major illness or some catastrophe as a justification? I mean who would do that? And what kind of a student-committed educator would ask us to? (That’s rhetorical). When asked, the Chancellor said, “I would think that students want what is best for the City Colleges of Chicago and their education” or something like that. In my head I thought, “Part right; they want what is best for their education, which they are going to see as keeping the teacher they have” (at least most of the time).

As for the rest, I have to say, I was a little surprised by the enrollment numbers, but in 1998, HWC still had the military program, the UK program, and all kinds of stuff that bumped our numbers up significantly. According to our self study, in 2001, we had 11,490 military students. That number was likely even higher the year before and much higher three years earlier. Also, we’re up quite a bit since even 2008, as are the rest of the campuses. I would bet that if they used numbers from 2010, that 30% enrollment decrease would not be so large, especially if they threw out the military numbers. I’m not really sure what the point was about programs graduating less than 45 students; and I was quite surprised to hear NOTHING about the centralizations and anticipated job losses. I thought that we’d get some more details on that. Maybe even just an Org chart. Anything. I also thought it was interesting that their was a kind of mirror image for two of their data points. 46% of our students earn 15 credit hours with us, she told us at one point. 54% of our students leave with six months. Add them up and you get 100%, which makes me wonder if there is a sort of substitution going on there (as in 15 credit hours = six months or something of the sort). I can’t imagine where the “six months” metric would have come from or why it would be used, but it would seem that a lot of our co-enrolled students who come and take a pair of classes one semester and then carry them back to Loyola or wherever are exactly the sorts of students who come to us, hit that first benchmark, but not the second, yet nonetheless have happily achieved what they set out to do with us. They didn’t make six months or 15 hours, but they didn’t have to and weren’t trying to. Those numbers jumped out while I was listening and seemed a little squirrely to me. I’d like to know more about where those came from, I guess.

Anyway, I hope she gets a lot of pushback on that ridiculous part of the proposal, as well as in regard to gathering more information about how many students successfully transfer without degrees. With those kinds of numbers, I’d feel a lot more supportive. At least of the good parts. I hope that helps start the conversation a bit. Please correct any of the bits that I got wrong.

So…what’d you think?

5 thoughts on “Chancellor’s Presentation Debrief

  1. I think the Chancellor is like George W. Bush; has good intentions, surrounded by poor advisers and will end up landing us in a big a mess as Iraq.

  2. Thanks for the summary PhiloDave. Sounds about right.
    “…this Reinvention is going to be a little like painting a room by candlelight.” Fantastic!

    Let’s keep in mind that the Chancellor had already made up her mind as to how she and her peeps were going to reinvent our colleges. At DWFDW she had Chico but no data to support her mission. She got an earful from faculty to the point where Angela came to her rescue/defense, ‘member?.

    What was she suppose to do? Take our concerns and feedback from DWFDW and reinvent the reinvention plan? Re-diculous of you to think so. (The paint color is already been selected and the candles are in place too.) The Gal goes back to big C and gets her peeps to extract some data to vindicate herself and the great mission. Trouble is, them peeps didn’t dig deep enough or wide enough through the data. They were simply looking to extract what was needed to meet their needs. That’s what I call selfish research. You mean to tell me that they didn’t consider some of the points that were made today by Art, Phil, and Amanda while they were working on the PowerPoint slides? A little bit too much subjectivity and not enough objectivity.
    Did y’all notice how the questions about the data could not be answered with certainty or confidence. How is it that you can spend countless hours working with the numbers and not know enough to defend your findings. A simple ‘I do not know’ would have been better than the responses I heard from the Gal and her peeps.

    On a side note: I did appreciate the ongoing texting during the Q&A only because there was no censoring and it kept us reading and writing. From the messages I saw, it appeared that the few students who were present gravitated to this use of technology.
    I hope Chico and The Gal read them with some interest.

    Y’all have a good break! Paintbrushes are on the way…

  3. If we look at how the data is collected, the numbers do make sense. The number of students who come to CCC seeking an Associate’s degree comes from the students themselves. When students are admitted and register for a class, they are asked what their goals are. The options given to them are: Degree-seeking, Basic Certificate, Advanced Certificate, Career Program. The problem is not with the numbers, the problem is with the question. Students are not necessarily given the option of selecting “Taking a few courses to transfer” or “Just need one course for my Bachelor’s degree”. If 45% of our students come in and say that they are degree-seeking, we are not necessarily distinguishing between an Associate’s degree with us and a Bachelor’s degree somewhere else. If students come in saying that they came to us seeking a degree, we have to assume that they are seeking a degree from us. It’s not the Chancellor’s fault that we have been collecting bad data. What she can do is ensure that we begin collecting good data. My question is, why doesn’t the Transfer Center have data on the number of students who transfer. Wouldn’t that make sense? How do they know they are doing a good job if they don’t know how many students are successfully transferring? I don’t know much about how the Transfer Center works, but it makes sense to me that they would be responsible for following up with students and making sure that they got into the school they were aiming for.

    As for the six month benchmark, I understood that to mean one semester. 46% of our students complete 15 credit hours, and 54% drop out within one semester. This was clarified when she stated that students don’t come to us to transfer and then transfer out mid-semester. That number (54%) I have seen in my own tracking of students through their time with us. Our students don’t drop just one class, they drop out completely. Do some searching on PeopleSoft, you’ll see this is true, especially for students who start out in any developmental course. If a student drops your class, or is NSW’d or ADW’d, chances are, they’ve left the school. What the reinvention needs to do, is to find out why this is happening, and the Chancellor did mention that in one of her comments – that we have no idea why we lose so many students so early on.

    Yes, this reinvention plan should have either started before the Fall semester began, or should be put off until after the Fall semester ends. Asking teachers to walk out of their classrooms after a few weeks is not a good idea, and I think that it can cause a lot of animosity among the faculty – between those who choose to do so and those who choose not to do so – and within the student body. Few students would be okay with switching teachers after only a few weeks, and I would not feel comfortable handing off my classes to just anyone, especially since my classes and the order in which I teach topics is very personal to my style. But this is the proposal that we have to work with. The Chancellor has made up her mind and may push forward with this plan regardless of what we say, especially if she feels that faculty are being combative and rude (as some people were yesterday). All we can do is ask the question and pose a different strategy. If FC4 approaches her professionally and asks if the plan can be changed so that the task forces work on a part-time basis during the Fall semester and then move to full-time for the Spring semester, she might be agreeable – but only if she feels that she truly has our support. We may disagree with her methods, we may question her statistics, but I think we all would agree that we can do better, not because we are not doing a good job now, but because there is always room for improvement. Isn’t that why we have an Assessment Committee? So that we can validate what we are doing well and improve the areas where we are weak? We should ask the question, and the worst she can do is say, “no.” If she does say no, and pushes forward with the plan as it is, then we as faculty need to be supportive of each other, no matter what decision we make. No one wants to walk out on their students, but we need to make sure that anyone who makes that choice, receives the full support of faculty. We need to look at the long-term goals and benefits. Yes, our students this semester will get shafted, and that is very unfair to them, but we as faculty have the opportunity to shape the way that CCC serves it’s students for the next 100 years. It’s a tough call, and one that we should think long and hard about before a decision one way or the other. I am having a hard time deciding what is the right thing to do or the best thing to do, but I think we all need to keep an open mind and weigh all the options.

    • Very well said, all the way around, KAOM. I was just thinking that I probably should have said, “I can’t walk out on my classes,” rather than the rhetorical “Who would do that?” For the reasons you state, the latter isn’t very fair.

      Good point on the data gathering; I agree with all of that, too. I just wanted to make the point that there is a giant difference between 46% and 7%, and the Chancellor, after noting the difference briefly, ignored it after that, which seemed bad practice and likely to, as someone said, make things look much worse than they actually are (which is not to say that things are good–losing 54% is tragic and demands steps be taken for improvement–totally agreed).

      As for the transfer center, I thing very few students go through the transfer center (one problem), though more now than before. If I were forced to make a suggestion to solve this one, I’d tie it to the transcript requests–maybe adding a line or something about purpose and try to get students to self-report transfers. Then that information could either go into Peoplesoft or into a database for follow up the next semester or year or whatever (did the student transfer, did the student successfully pass their courses, etc.) which would give us all sorts of important longitudinal assessment data about our program quality. Of course, that’s all a lot of work, too, and not without cost. It wouldn’t catch everyone (some, I’m sure, leave without their transcripts), but it would be better than nothing. It would provide an estimate anyway of the percentages of students who transfer credits out without completing their degree, which would be more than what we have now.

      I really appreciate the thoughtful and reasonable approach your post suggests. Thanks for it.

    • Amanda made a good point in that we already have committees in place that we as faculty use to improve student learning (which leads to retention). We don’t need to reinvent. I believe we need to get involved with committees and ask the Chancellor to speak with these committees to pursue her goals.
      I would be more inclined to join a local committee instead of a district-wide task force that meets at district offices and takes me out of my classroom. (Assessment, Curriculum, and Strategic Planning to name a few.)
      To borrow from Adrienne Rich, let’s claim our community college.
      The Chancellor has spoken with Ellen and Amanda. That’s a good start. It needs to continue.

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