President Performance FAQs

First off, let me say that I love the fact that their list goes to 11. Awesome.

Next, though I have no answers about who wrote it, my guess is that it is one of their “Internal Communications” people who drafted the initial version (after discussions about what was covered and most likely some review of the faculty questions and assertions in the comments to the post here), which was then run up the chain for review and approval by the powers that be. At least that’s how it used to go when I was at the CTA (often doing the drafting). It happened fast enough that they were likely already working on it when the announcement was made (reviews and revisions for stuff like this take some time), but it could have happened between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning when it went out.

I give credit to the District Office people for recognizing the need to provide some explanation for such a drastic move, and being willing to go on the record. Whether you agree with that or not, I think we’d all agree that these questions and answers deserve some discussion, so I’ve broken them out into chunks, which I’ll be posting through the weekend for consideration and commentary. Here’s the first bunch:

1. How did the decision to expand the college presidents’ job description and undertake a national search for candidates come about?

The Board believes that we must all be held accountable to the primary goal of our institution, which is ensuring student success.  The Board made itself accountable for student outcomes and passed a resolution to that effect at the January board meeting.  The decision to expand the Presidents’ job description to include student success goals is an effort to align the entire institution around these same goals.

In the previous version of the Presidents’ job description, there was no mention of academic objectives.  This decision expands the job description to incorporate the following: 1) increasing the number of students earning credentials of economic value, 2) increasing the rate of transfer to bachelor’s degree programs, 3) improving outcomes for students requiring remediation, and 4) increasing the number and share of ABE/GED/ESL students who advance to and succeed in college-level courses.

The decision to hold a nation-wide search for candidates will ensure CCC has made every attempt to find the best leadership to oversee academic and operational aspects of the colleges.  Current presidents are encouraged to apply for the expanded position.

2. How is this tied to the Reinvention process?

This decision was an administrative decision, and did not come from a taskforce workstream.  It is part of an ongoing effort to align the entire institution around the primary Reinvention goal of ensuring student success.

3. Do you think CCC gave the current Presidents ample time and a fair chance to succeed?

Our students, our city, our nation has no time for us to wait to improve.  City Colleges must be in a position to prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.   By 2018, 63% of the jobs in this country will be held by someone with a post secondary education.   We have a great deal of work to do to prepare our students to succeed in this new global economy.

4. Are the presidents being held accountable for low graduation rates?

This is not just about completion rates, though we very much need to improve from the current level of 7%.  The fact of the matter is that our institution is not serving our students as it should be.  Our entire team – from the Board on down – is going to be held accountable for student success.

Open for discussion.

13 thoughts on “President Performance FAQs

  1. As any, ANY, educator knows, student outcomes are not only the result of what goes on inside the classroom. (Do I need to support this claim?)
    The most important issue left out by the Board (and ALL critics who attack teachers –too many to mention here) is the social end economic conditions of the students. Let’s call the above THE ELEPHANT IN THE BOARD’S CHINA STORE.

    Mine is a simple ; ) (wink, wink) question: The Board, the presidents, the faculty and the staff will be called for accountability on student outcomes. FINE! But, how about the corporations that dominate the political establishment and rule the country, yes, rule the country and are largely responsible for the socioeconomic conditions of our students? (And no, I have not forgotten other layers, like personal and family responsibilities. I did say LARGELY, right?).

    Digression: I remember years ago, at one of our colleges, a president was given the task of increasing enrollment. The college was going through a long, steady process of enrollment decline. Said president, in his efforts to comply with his orders, made life for all, faculty & staff, a living hell! Why? He just passed on the responsibility and blame to all under him. And when I say he gave every one hell, I am not exaggerating one bit.

    Fasten your seat belts, folks…

    • With you all the way…MUtDS.

      And let’s not forget that the students have some role to play in their education, too. It isn’t just something that happens to them by force or declaration or policy implementation or threats of “accountability.”

      • I continue to be surprised with the passive attitude of students in my classes. I’m not casting blame or judgment, I’m only stating facts. I believe the problem here is the sub-culture we have created within our educational system.

        From a young age, we (family, friends, school employees, and politicians) tell our children that they need to go to school, be obedient students, “work” hard, and get good grades. Once they’ve done this, they will have a good job or career. Do as you’re told, and the prize awaits you at the finish line.

        What we do not state or stress at this early age and throughout their academic career, is WHY they need to go to school. We do not tell them WHY they need to be obedient (Paulo Freire would say oppressed). We use the word “work”, unknowingly equating schools with factories. We equate good grades with good student, which is not always true (think Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence and how he states that schools value reading and writing intelligences over all others – including those that foster artistic intelligences).

        Thus, the student will do what the student is told, expecting the promised outcome. We make it so cut and dry. Do A and B, and you’ll get C. The problem is that we do not nurture students along the way. We do not come out and tell them why they are learning what they’re learning. We need to be explicit in telling them why they need to learn how to read and write. They need to know why they are writing a research paper, why they are solving mathematical problems with the number i, and why the humanities and the arts are equally important even if they are going to be scientists.
        I don’t know of parents who sit down with their children to elaborate on the finer points of an education. I overhear more parents telling their children to follow the rules of the school system (get your homework done, listen to the teacher, show me those A’s, etc.) which only serves to reinforce this sub-culture.

        Ask a student why they are going to school. The answer has more to do with what is expected of them than of what they expect of themselves.

        We need to give students ownership of their education. Maybe then the paradigm would have less to do with the quantifying of reinvention goals and more to do with the quality of education.

  2. “The Board made itself accountable for student outcomes and passed a resolution to that effect at the January board meeting.”

    Ok, fine. But faculty morale seems to be fairly low (certainly as low as it has been in my short tenure here), and I have to think the current environment is having a detrimental effect on our teaching. If all the changes, rumors, and mixed messages that are flying around haven’t affected your teaching in some way, I’ll just say you are a better teacher than I am. Is the Board not aware or not concerned about how these changes are affecting student outcomes right now?

    “This is not just about completion rates, though we very much need to improve from the current level of 7%. The fact of the matter is that our institution is not serving our students as it should be.”

    I can’t believe we still have sentences that include completion rates that are not directly followed by “however, if you measure over six years and count students who transfer to and later graduate from four-year schools without receiving a community college degree, that number rises to x”. Maybe x is high, maybe it’s low (it’s probably still too low), but what is it? And why do we allowing all our work here to be defined by that 7% number?

    Finally, I’m really looking forward to the discussion of “Are you moving to the model of using business leaders to head academic institutions?” question…

  3. Thanks for the discussion!

    So, we agree that evaluating presidents based on numbers of graduates is filled with problems. This is analogous to evaluating faculty based on retention rates. Neither of these measures discuss what the students have learned, or what they have gotten out of the college experience.

    So let’s kick around some alternatives in the corporate speak of the powers-that-be. What would be a better ‘measurement’ of a presidents’ success? I think it’s important that we craft a counter-argument here. Let’s put together some measurements that we would like to use to evaluate a president. Any takers?

    • I would not use the word ‘measurement’ and I believe that is what you imply in your reply Foreigner, lest we be found playing by the rules we know to be wrong.
      I would pose the question this way: How would we, the faculty, evaluate the tenure of a college president?

  4. I wonder, how exactly is the board being held accountable for increasing graduation rates, etc? Who is holding the board accountable? Who is holding the chancellor accountable? Who is holding the provost accountable? Don’t say the mayor, because, frankly, the mayor will not even think about CCC for a while.

    And how are these “measurements” being taken? Are the presidents expected to dramatically increase outcomes for students by next year? Five years? What does “increase” mean? Where’s the rubric?

    As presidential candidates are being sought and interviewed, what are the criteria CCC is looking for?

    I think that all of these things need to be made public for the sake of “transparency”.

    • Those are spectacular questions, ShockandAwe. I’m pretty sure the Board won’t fire itself in the case of a failure to meet the goals…

      • That is funny (in a sad, I wish I wasn’t laughing sorta way). I am not sure they actually would look inward to see if the choices they made were correct – always look outward and it is someone else’s fault…comforting, in a no accountability kinda way. I would whole-heartedly respect a Board (and those in positions of power that have no accountability) that truly held themselves up to standards – perhaps standards set by educators?

  5. Great discussion!
    So why is there no reciprocity of the evaluation process?
    They evaluate us, we should have the ability to evaluate them not be evaluated by the people who appointed them. We are who they impact and then it trickles down to who we impact-our students.
    Evaluations should be a 2 way system then there will be equity in accountablity.Speaking of “layers”Community colleges have unstated missions of being parent,counselor,mentor,teacher,tutor,cheerleader and everything else in between.How does one encompass all of these in an effective evaluation process?
    We are not on assembly lines manufacturing/producing packaged goods using standard operating procedures.We are dealing with students on stress overload.
    Can we ever become human again with the current mindset? I reccommend a docu-movie I saw called”Road to Nowhere”. Like waiting for superman it makes you wonder what the outcome will be in terms of the physical and emotional health of future leaders.

  6. Bad news (please do not shoot this messenger):

    My fears, much to my chagrin, are becoming reality, little by little. While reading the piece, I kept thinking about the CPS teachers staying neutral during the mayoral election, although one of the main candidates had been their friend and ally in the IL State Senate for many years. I feel pessimistic.

    A Chicago Tribune editorial has the following advice for Rahm Emanuel:


    If you want teachers to focus on their performance rather than on their seniority, end tenure altogether. Governors in Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Florida are talking about curbing or eliminating tenure in their states. Terry Mazany, the interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools, told the Tribune editorial board recently that, “The notion that anyone is granted lifetime employment in this day and age is an anachronism.” The point isn’t that seniority is bad. It’s that without excellent performance, mere seniority shouldn’t guarantee anyone a job.”


    The next teachers contract
    Start educating Chicagoans now, Mr. Emanuel,0,2860583.story

    Today they are going after the CPS teachers…

  7. U. of Louisiana Weakens Tenure Rights
    February 28, 2011

    The board of the eight-campus University of Louisiana System on Friday approved changes in its procedures for dismissing professors that faculty leaders say have destroyed key elements of tenure protections.

    The Board of Supervisors approved changes that make it easier and speedier to eliminate the jobs of tenured faculty members — a prospect that officials say they don’t relish but think will be necessary due to additional rounds of deep budget cuts in the state. The policy shifts also make it easier and speedier to dismiss non-tenured faculty members. Faculty leaders have focused on the changes in tenure protections because they run against the traditional protection of tenured professors except in cases of “financial exigency,” a state so dire that an institution’s ability to survive is at stake.

    Rhorer, associate professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, said, “Tenure here has been watered down.”
    — Scott Jaschik

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