‘Dream’ to improve student success


By Tierra Oliver

As an introduction to the Achieving the Dream program at East Los Angeles College, staff and faculty met to discuss ways to improve student success.

AtD is a national effort to increase student success in community colleges, and it uses student outcome data to act on institutional change, knowledge development and policy change.

Staff and faculty reviewed student data put together by ELAC’s office of Institutional Effectiveness.

Reviewing this information allowed them to ask questions concerning why students are not succeeding. They also discussed hunches to be tested and developed successful strategies for improvement.

Sociology instructor Marcel Morales addressed the issue of equity and how it affects success. Not only is it important that all students receive an equal opportunity to do well, but that they are motivated to do so. That would require instructors to connect with students on certain topics to ensure an understanding.

“Students feel the need for classes to be simple and meaningful,” says Ryan Cornner, Dean of IE. Instructors feel that their students should know when their office hours are and use them to ask questions and express concerns. However, students tend to get the impression that, in college, instructors don’t care whether or not you do well and therefore take instructors’ office hours for granted, but any student who would have seen the crowd of over 100 faculty members gathered for the sake of student success would think otherwise.

The lack of preparedness was a common fear among the staff as to why student success is so low. Psychology professor, Maria Mayoryk suggested that placement tests be mandatory for all academic courses, similar to the policy at El Camino College.

The question asked at the meeting was, “why is it that students are not prepared?” Many of the attendees voiced opinions that it’s possible that progressive courses aren’t taken consecutively and knowledge gets lost during the time in between. In this developmental sequence of courses, staff asked, “Did improvement happen right away?”

Perhaps Student Learning Outcomes are not being enforced, as they should.

It is no news that textbooks can be expensive and affect the availability of learning resources to the students. Instructors understand that, suggesting the problem as a factor to student failure.

Computer Science instructor, Song Su brought it to everyone’s attention that students with undecided majors are often less likely to succeed. The largest major on campus, chosen by 50% of the student population, is undecided.

“If they don’t have a goal, how can we come up with a plan (to help them succeed),” said Su. His suggestion is to make it a requirement for all incoming students to have an educational plan.

Because the program is centered around finding solutions by studying data, staff crunched numbers and studied statistics, seeing gaps in success throughout the demographic and noticing that ethnicity seemed to be one of concern.

This may be attributed by cultural differences, personal values and background teachings on what is important.

There were many other subjects discussed throughout the meeting involving student success and how faculty can improve on certain aspects of their teaching methods.

Focus groups will be set up for faculty to further investigate lack of success and test some of their hunches.

The AtD program is not just another initiative. The idea is that ELAC will be dedicated to using the AtD model to improve student success. The education plan will use staff input to finalize priorities, at which point the Core Data Team will investigate why problems occur.

By looking at other colleges, reviewing student data, and seeking faculty input the Student Success Committee will be able to develop strategies and share expertise.

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