FourSee Faculty Post: Reinvention 5-Year Data

Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield and FourSee Math Faculty:


Here is a very disturbing graphic that will not be appearing at a Board Meeting anytime soon.  It paints a dramatic picture of what Reinvention has delivered for some of our students, communities, colleges and colleagues. Does it look good to you?

FTE Change







Some wiser heads predict this picture will get even more disturbing once fall 2016 registrations are factored into the frame.  Campus Zero is quick to ascribe falling enrollment to a recovering economy and improved employment. Of course, it would be heresy at Campus Zero to refer them to solid statistical evidence that for the middle class, the working class, and the poor the “recovery” did not indeed lift them up to where they were before the Great Recession.  These R words cover a mass of complexity, which is an anathema to the political class. These are dangerous blanket words in the wrong hands: Recession, Recovery, Reinvention and, lest we forget at our peril, Recruitment and Retention.







Mike Heathfield & Math FourSee faculty

The Wizards of Oz


Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield

I am still trying very hard to get my head around what is happening to us at CCC.  Since we are approaching the end of semester, I felt the need to do a little post-modern lifting of the curtain. So the first wizard I encounter is Dr. Josh Wyner, who has a wonderful “four domains framework” on which he believes community college excellence must be based.  It seems eminently sensible to me and the same thinking was clearly behind CCC’s reinvention goals.  For us to be “excellent” we must drive changes in four domains:

  1. Completion
  2. Equity
  3. Learning
  4. Labor Market

It is very difficult to argue with this and Dr. Wyner should know what he is talking about.  He wrote “What Excellent Community Colleges Do: Preparing All Students for Success” (Harvard Education Press, 2014).  Wyner is Vice President and Executive Director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute.  Unsurprisingly, his text uses extensive data drawn from the finalist colleges in the first two years (2011-13) of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The word “reinvent” is used to describe what colleges will need to do if they are to meet the challenge required of them in the 21st century. He uses the word without any of the branding ballyhoo it acquired in Chicago.  You can take a look at Josh’s profile here.

The second wizard behind that curtain is Dr. Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. He is a prolific researcher and publisher on Community Colleges.  He is the originator of the pathways approach to community college education. There is a very strong workforce and employment emphasis to his work, strongly evidenced by his role as Data Coach for the Achieving the Dream Network.  This organization makes no small claims about itself and the change potential it represents:

Achieving the Dream—the national, nonprofit leader in championing evidence-based institutional improvement—has seen firsthand what happens when there is a long-term, sustainable commitment to improving student success. Achievement gaps close. Momentum builds. Lives change. Neighborhoods flourish.” See here.

There is no disputing completion and labor market issues are the primary drivers for this organization, alongside the grandiloquent claims about significant community development and change. Dr. Davis is clearly a metric guru and makes a good living from using numbers to make things happen for other people.  You can find his profile here.  I will provide a pint of Boddingtons or Smithwicks for anyone who can be bothered to scour Board Reports to see if CCC has paid him anything for his expertise in our reinventions – one through seven.

This is entirely possible since Dr. Jenkins lives in Chicago. A lot of his research and writing confirms much that I know and have experienced about higher education and student learning on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of his writing shocks me though. I hope it does not signal the future direction of CCC. As many of us know, Chicago reality if very far from a dream for the majority of residents. Dr. Jenkins is clearly the main wizard writing the script for Chicago and, unfortunately, my gut tells me he may remain so. Since Campus Zero has zero academic leadership, how could anything else be in the cards? Brace yourselves.

Davis believes that speed is essential, as are restricted workforce proscribed choices.  Indeed, general education courses are very much in the way of his imperatives.  According to a 2015 article by Anya Kamentz for NPR Ed (here), serving as PR for his new book, his solutions to increase completions include:

  • Getting rid of remedial courses and moving students straight into credit-bearing classes with support for those who need it.
  • Getting rid of general education and creating a small number of exploratory majors that require all students to choose a distinct path right away.

Sound familiar to anyone? There is much to commend in Dr. Jenkins work, but there are also some startling omissions and assumptions.  He is insistent on the ingredients required for success to happen “to scale” and he appears untroubled by the requirement that students must complete 30 credits in one academic year to be “on plan”.  He is honest about the lack of any real research evidence to support the effectiveness of his strategic imperatives.  Dr. Jenkins appears very happy to use evidence provided by key administrators in HE institutions already onboard with the initiatives he recommends.

The whole discourse seems circular, self-feeding and staggeringly instrumental in the simple worldview of student lives.  Not one sniff of sociology forces its way into this version of change.  Students are certainly not agents of anything, simply objects to be structured, guided, and supported by those wiser than they.

Remedies to the ills of community college education are written about as if before “Pathways” there were no such things as degrees, certificates, and programs with required pre-requisites, course sequences or indeed any idea of levels, sequencing or cumulative learning.  This is hogwash.  It is also, primarily, a political discourse.  For students, in K-12 public education, the strategy for unsatisfying and inequitable results is more choice, through as yet very unproven Charters.  Magically, for community college students, the answer for unsatisfying and inequitable results is less choice through as yet, very unproven Pathways.  There is nothing data-driven about any of this.

For sure there is much that is good and useful in these expert analyses and strategies.  There is emerging evidence that highlights the strengths of these ideas in action. There is hardly any evidence of the downsides, as yet. Both these national wizards are very clear that successful change must happen in partnership with faculty. So how does this wizard expertise and wizdom play out in Chicago?

Curtain down, lights up. Intermission. Who will be the first Campus Zero wizard to be revealed?  Coming soon…

Mike Heathfield for FourSee faculty


Michael Heathfield Has Ten Important Questions

Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield:


Top Ten Questions for Campus Zero Talent


In the spirit of academic freedom, openness, integrity and truth-seeking here are some suggested questions, many data-driven – all about management, to be asked of our leadership:


  1. What has been to total cost of the College to Careers program across all seven real campuses since its inception (personnel, branding, TV spots, etc.) and how many CCC students have acquired a $15+ per hour full-time job through the auspices of the College to Careers initiative?


  1. What was the total cost of the Campus Shuttle busing program since it began through to the end of 2015? During that time, how many individual student journeys took place? Were the taxpayers of Chicago or the State aware that they were funding transportation for students twice, once through the UPass system and again through the shuttle system?


  1. What has been the total expense (loss in tuition income, branding, PR, personnel time, etc.) at each of the real campuses for the re-invented Star Scholarship Program since 2014?


  1. In which City office did the idea for the 2015 $30,000 bonus for Chancellor Hyman originate?


  1. With the implementation of the new administrative system, CS9, how many students across the district had their financial aid delayed and how many students had their degree path erroneously changed?


  1. What has been the total cost in personnel (administrative, clerical, technical) time in correcting the mass of problems created by CS9 and who is accountable for the choice of a system which was so incapable of connecting and cooperating with our other well-established, functioning administrative systems?


  1. What has been the faculty participation rate, over the past five years, for attendance at the new, bigger, branded, too long, too early graduation event at U.I.C.(More info HERE, HERE, and HERE)?


  1. Who in Talent Acquisition at Campus Zero believed a college president with only a bachelor’s degree was the right academic choice for the third largest community college system in the U.S.?


  1. Who exactly at Campus Zero imagined that filling in a form to identify your religious affiliations for wearing a head covering should even be an agenda item for a diverse city college system?


  1. Why are college administrators now cutting college courses implying budget cuts are to blame, when Campus Zero over-estimated student income from an influx of full-time students by $20 million? (See this Board Presentation staring at Slide 20)


Many of the answers may confirm how much CCC believes in data driven decision-making, academic freedom and local government integrity for taxpayer dollars. The answers may also help everyone get at the philosophy behind some of our important fiscal and academic decisions of late. Our very risky financial environment is unlikely to change for the better any time soon. So management and fiscal decisions are very important to all of us.


Please use these ten questions as starters – be creative in your own follow up questions and do share the responses you receive. This is what democracy and dialogue looks like, right?


Depending on your level of assertiveness, tenure status, belief in democracy and organizing skills, you can ask these Top Ten questions in numerous ways:


  • Ask your own Alderman or Alderwoman to ask some or all of them to the appropriate people at the City.
  • Ask your Cook County or State Legislators to ask these questions to appropriate people at the City.
  • Ask the Governor of Illinois to ask the Mayor of Chicago, since they are wine and moneymaking friends.
  • Ask the Mayor to ask the Chancellor.
  • Ask students to ask their Student Government Association to ask whomever they want to.
  • Ask the Board of Trustees to ask The Chancellor.
  • Ask your friendly local media representatives, investigative journalists, the Medhill School of Journalism at Northwestern, NBC Investigates, or the Better Government Association to ask whomever they want to.


Whatever you choose to do, please ask and be persistent. We need to know the facts. Tough decisions, tough times, accountability and responsibility – we are all grown folks here – we can take it! No harm in asking, right?

Mike Heathfield