Completion Matters? Complicated Matter.

This here post is a reply to Don’s blog posting regarding Completion. (Dated May 18, 2011)

I need to first state that I appreciate Don’s service to our college so far and I truly appreciate his willing to discuss educational matters. I give him four out of five gold, err, orange stars for all he’s done so far. [Don, I hope that when you read this post, you’ll understand that I am continuing the conversation and being critical, not of your thoughts (which are well stated) but, of the master plan the chancellor had in mind for the graduation evening.]

Now, on to that post. Y’all may need to switch between open tabs on your browser of choice. Here we go…

“As I sat on the stage during Graduation last Wednesday night…”
As I sat in the stands, I didn’t really think about completion. I kept asking myself if this large gathering really proved anything; but, let’s stick with that thought on completion.

“It mattered to the faculty and administrators who showed up to cheer on their students. ”
I don’t know if it mattered to the families or students. They sure were excited when they got there but most of them left as soon as they got what they came for. Sad but true. I also don’t know if it mattered to CCC faculty. We were standing and sitting around for two hours and the conversations I heard, had little to do with completion. To me it appeared as if our chancellor wanted numbers in order to make a big statement about graduation. Honestly it was about quantity of completers, not quality of completers. Let’s not forget that the graduation deadline was extended in order to increase the numbers.

“In my one-on-ones, people have argued many sides of the debate.”
I’m here to argue that completion does matter. However, we need it to matter for the right reason. It shouldn’t matter because we want to look good or because we have a federal funding carrot being dangled in front of us. Yes, the truth is we are accountable for what we do, but I want us to make sure we define those measures by which we will hold ourselves accountable and not let our funding sources do it for us.

“Completion mattered to these students. ”
Yes and no. It mattered that they got their hands on that diploma (even if it was not the official diploma); that’s what we’ve “trained” them to expect, right? If completion in the true sense of the word mattered to the students, why didn’t they stick around for all of the graduation ceremony. Why didn’t they wait for the evening to be completely over before disappearing into the night?
What did we teach them in the classroom that led them to exit early? What message did we, as a district of educators and administrators, send to these students over the course of their time with us? By my innacurate account, more than 75% did not “complete” the graduation ceremony. If completion truly mattered, I’d like to know how they define(d) completion.

“…accountability for completion is coming whether we like it or not. ”
Yes, but we should invite ourselves to that discussion instead of waiting to be told how to go about being accountable. I don’t like that our new chancellor is telling us how to be accountable. Yes, the hand that feeds us is also the hand that leads us, but we are not dogs on leashes. We are educators. We are in the classrooms. We are in direct contact with the students. We are the answer to accountability, yet our input is not requested. Sure, the smoke and mirrors called reinvention makes it appear as if our voice is being heard. However, the chancellor has made it quite clear that she will have final say in all matters. It’s all going to boil down to dollars and the external forces of accountability, not the direct input of faculty; much less the affected students. That’s wrong. That hurts.

“Do we serve them well by supporting them through completion and graduation?”
Yes, we do, but we better have a working definition of completion that we can all agree on before we continue moving forward.
I took three courses at one of our city colleges many years ago. I took these courses to improve my professional skills and make more money. Mission accomplished. I completed my goal of being a better employee. However, according to our chancellor, I was a failure because I did not complete a degree. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“As I watched the faces, I was caught up in the pomp and circumstance and decided that yes, completion matters. ”
Yes, but we really, really, need to continue the conversation, and our administrators should do a heck of a lot more listenin’ before pullin’ the trigger on their agendas. I think they need to take a page out of your playbook Don. You’ve been quite the listener since you arrived at HWC. It has served all of us well. I tip my hat to you sir. The results have been good so far. Our new administration has a corporate mentality. That square peg will not fit in our round hole. Academic environments are about working together. We don’t respond well when we are told how to do our jobs; it’s not our culture. We peeps like to talk about solutions and we like the conversation to be intelectually stimulating. (At times we over-think and don’t know when to stop talkin’ and start actin’, but that’s just my observation.)

“What I want to do is to make sure that we as a college are doing everything we can to help students complete.”
I believe we need to broaden our vision. Completion is not as important to some students. Completion of one course in one year may be the goal of that single parent with a full time job. To narrow our focus of completion as this reinvention project is doing marginalizes many. Let me repeat, the reinvention plan, marginalizes too many students. It goes against the purpose of our community college. It goes against our mission statement. If we were to put a sign on our door that read “Completers Only”, our building would be empty. We might as well go back to the days of segregation.

“I acknowledge that we need to work through accountability, how to measure success, how to figure out if what we are doing is working.”
I acknowledge that we need to work with accountability. I’m tired of being told what I need to do in the classroom by those who are the most removed from our learning environment and students. I invite all who want to make changes to our educational system to take ONE class before moving forward with their personal agendas. Just ONE class. They just might sing a different tune after 16 weeks.

Thank you all for reading. Thak you Don for starting the conversation.

One thought on “Completion Matters? Complicated Matter.

  1. Well said. I could not agree more. I hate to think that lack of response is an unwillingness to discuss the matter (which I suppose relates to the post regarding the leading or following nature of our new CCC pres.).

    I feel, and I know many others do as well, so strongly about this ‘completion’ obsession – yes, there are aspects for which we can do better (perfection is something to strive for and never gained – we should never stop growing and improving how we do what we do). Helping students that identify as wishing to complete is vital BUT I know many, many, many students in my years at HWC that have wonderfully excelled…as transfer students and have completed elsewhere. They came to us to get the solid foundation they needed at a better cost to succeed in a four-year institution.

    According to the Mayor’s message (and parroted by the Chanc.) somehow, we (faculty, staff, local admin.) have utterly failed. It is a manipulation of statistics and further studies should be done to verify the reality of the message constantly sent out to the public, that we are failing wholesale – it is short-sighted, negative, and opposed to the CC mission. Again, wanting to improve – great, I’m all in…but wanting to ‘improve’ an aspect that has been statistically manipulated to suit a larger purpose…I’m out (and sad, frustrated, and insulted).

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