Saturday, September 10, 2011

Federal Data System Used By CCC to Justify Reinvention Full of Holes

The journal Inside Higher Education reported that the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is full of gaps that give an incomplete picture of the performance of community colleges.  This is the same data system that the CCC administration used as its main source to declare the CCC system a failure, providing it with the cover to go ahead with the whirlwind of Reinvention. No wonder that, while the faculty and staff have worked hard for years to help students advance academically, they have felt betrayed and offended by the branding of their efforts as a failure.

As revealing as this report is, the comments entered by people from various colleges around the country provide an even deeper insight into how short IPEDS falls in reflecting the actual positive educational consequences of the work carried out by community colleges. We reproduced some of these comments below the article.


Success by Another Name

September 7, 2011
WASHINGTON – A committee tasked by the Education Department with strengthening how the government measures the success of community colleges last week issued its draft report of recommendations, which will be discussed here today at the committee's finalmeeting.
The 20-page report from the Committee on Measures of Student Success calls for community colleges and states to collect and disclose more information about graduation rates, student learning and employment. This reporting should include more voluntarily released data, the committee said, as well as more thorough compliance with current federal disclosure requirements.
“Measures of student success need to more accurately reflect the comprehensive mission of two-year institutions and the diversity of students that these institutions serve,” the report said. “For example, current graduation rates do not adequately reflect these institutions’ multiple missions and diverse populations.”
Key recommendations include a call for part-time, degree-seeking students at community colleges to be counted toward federally reported graduation and transfer rates (they currently are not), and for more precise counting of students who transfer out of community colleges, such as lateral transfers to other two-year institutions. The current federal rate counts only first-time, full-time students -- a population that excludes the majority of students at many community colleges and significant numbers of students at most community colleges.
Another recommendation of the panel is that the federal definition take better account of remedial students.
The 14-member panel, which includes community college leaders and independent higher education policy experts, had internal disagreements as it worked to finish the report in previous meetings, which were open to the public. Those debates reflected broader discussions over measuring quality at community colleges, with committee members from colleges pushing back on what they see as burdensome reporting requirements while policy researchers called for more complete data.
The report gives a nod to worries about more red tape, noting that the “need for more information must be balanced by an understanding of the potential administrative and financial burdens” of collecting such data. And in many instances the report calls for the Education Department to lend a helping hand or do most of the work itself.
For example, the committee says the department should offer technical support to community colleges to help them meet disclosure requirements. It should also seek improved coordination between existing national and state databases to improve a “fragmented, incomplete picture of student success.”
Comparable Measures
Community colleges face tremendous political pressure to increase their graduation rates and better measure academic quality, most notably from the Obama administration and the Lumina and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations. The colleges are also struggling with tight state budgets and, at most campuses, increasing enrollments.
The national graduation rate of community colleges, using current federal definitions, is 32 percent. But while community colleges are often criticized for this low number, the report said it is also a misleading, incomplete measure that does not account for the complex flow of students into and out of institutions.
The committee’s recommendations seek to create a fuller, more accurate view of graduation rates. That requires building upon data that are already reported by community colleges, according to the report, and the development of new and alternative methods of measuring student success.
Joshua Wyner of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, which is creating a list of what it considers top community colleges, praised the committee’s efforts. “We need comparable measures of student success to understand what is working on community college campuses,” Wyner said.
The institute has worked extensively with graduation rates and other data in the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Wyner said the information from community colleges in the system can be “spotty,” with many institutions not entering accurate data about transfer rates. Better self-reporting is needed, Wyner said, and the committee’s report will help better define success at community colleges.
“We’ve had so little conversation about that in concrete ways,” he says.

Comments on Success by Another Name

  • what is success at a community college
  • Posted by Mary Scott , Professor Anatomy and Physiology at Labette Community College on September 7, 2011 at 8:15am EDT
  • I have heard this before and internally we have discussed trying to keep track of our students and encouraging them to leave here with a degree. However, the wide scope of the community college is being missed. How do you count the part-time students who may be retired or already have a degree but looking for enrichment? A 65 year old who comes to take an art class and creates beautiful work has no plans to seek an art degree. Yet, there has been a positive outcome. Workers come to take computer classes to upgrade skills. Some may eventually decide on a return to college; but yet again, a provided service is being ignored. Students do not like a local university's teachers and feel they get a stronger background here. So they drive 30-60 minutes to take chemistry or anatomy and physiology needed to apply for nursing programs and medical schools. Their successful graduation and reaching of terminal degrees is due in part to the community college. How are you going to credit that. My daughter worked as a workstudy one year in a local nursing school. She was shocked to find so many of the students recognized her and asked if I was her mother. A significant portion of the class had taken my A&P class although their first choice was a different nursing program. How do you give my college the credit for that?
  • A good idea, but not just for community colleges
  • Posted by LatinoProf on September 7, 2011 at 8:31am EDT
  • This report shows the weakness in the current IPEDS reporting, which counts only those students with no other college experience than the college in the report. Transfer students (a significant population at community colleges, and at for-profit and non-profit colleges and universities) are ignored by IPEDS. These recommendations should apply equally to all sectors of higher education, be they community colleges, public universities, for-profit colleges & unviersities or non-profit private colleges and universities.
  • Transfer Reporting is 4 year Responsibility, not CC
  • Posted by Dan Nannini , Transfer Center Director at Santa Monica College on September 7, 2011 at 12:30pm EDT
  • To share the reporting responsiblity as it relates to transfer, the receiving institution, not the transferring institution, should be charged with this information. Only then will you have a better idea of where students go and know what they are doing. And those reports need to be generated each term. And baccalaureatte recipients that have any community college units should be reported. Any institution receing federal funds should be required to provide this data. All of these data points will give a better measure on how community colleges contribute to degree advancement. We need to quit trying to define everything as "transfer" or "not transfer."
  • Success?
  • Posted by DocV on September 7, 2011 at 1:00pm EDT
  • @Mary Scott - I agree with you that a definition needs to be placed on "success" which in this case would primarily and simply be completion of a degree and gainful employment based on the education. Many of the students that you describe - the 65 year old..., the transient student, the student seeking to improve skills, etc. - would not be included because they would be counted as "non-degree seekers" or one-time/term only enrollees. This information is captured during the admission phase to help differentiate the students and to determine eligibility for federal funds.

    Essentially, your school would not get credit for these because (1) the student's intent is NOT to earn a degree; and (2) if they are enrolled at another college it should be counted in the home school's numbers so as not to double-count from both schools and skew the data.

    The goal appears to be to determine if the government is getting back what it pays for through federal funds and to make sure schools that are training students are creating an educated and stable workforce.

    If one accepts the goal of having "5 million more community college GRADUATES by the year 2020" the data must be collected to support this endeavor.
  • progress
  • Posted by arthur m cohen , emeritus professor of education at ucla on September 7, 2011 at 2:30pm EDT
  • Slowly, gradually, haltingly, the system moves toward understanding what the community colleges contribute to American education. This has been a decades-long process, and it's not over yet. But any progress is certainly welcome.
  • Funding is a complicating factor
  • Posted by John , Associate Professor, Higher Education at Widener University on September 7, 2011 at 4:45pm EDT
  • Funding may inadvertently contribute to the problem of which students to "count" for the purposes of success. Some community colleges, which are funded on an FTE basis of students enrolled in degree programs, are compelled to place all students in a program, regardless of the student's intent to graduate or transfer (the 65 year old example from above might be placed into an art program or liberal studies program). Colleges may be reluctant to have students in a non-degree or non-matriculated status since this may hurt their funding. Therefore, in some states, the funding formula for community colleges may need to change to enhance better accounting for "success".

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reinvention: Local Case of the National Scheme to Degrade Community Colleges

Back in early June, a significant piece of news was lost in the midst of all the commotion created by the naming of the new colleges’ presidents. On June 8, The Chicago Tribune reported about a group of Chicago business notables who were appointed to the board of President Obama’s Skills for America’s Future (SAF). ( SAF is part of a plan of the Obama administration to radically shift the focus of community colleges to perform direct training of students for an alleged abundant supply of “high-skills” manufacturing jobs that will materialize in the future. The Obama administration insists on calling this training higher education.

What is notable about these Chicago business notables is that half of them are part of the “Civic Leaders” who are the real directors (as in who really chooses the priorities) of the Reinvention. By picking these folks for his SAF board Obama has confirmed (as if we needed more confirmation) that Chicago is the laboratory for his administration’s schemes regarding education, and other critical social and labor issues.
The transformation of Community Colleges into the servants of industry
The SAF is really the brainchild of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). According to My San (, during a speech at the Northern Virginia Community College “Obama announced Wednesday [June 8, 2011] that the National Association of Manufacturers will help 500,000 students get post-secondary certificates in the next five years to help them find work in the manufacturing sector.” (emphasis ours.) Notice how the terms switch to post-secondary education, which is acquiring the meaning of anything you do after obtaining your high school diploma, and not necessarily higher education, which is traditionally associated with the completion of bachelor’s and graduate degrees.
Furthermore, on June 30th, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) announced the formation of the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges ( According to PRNewswire, this is only the third time in the 110-year history of community colleges that their mission has been reevaluated with the intention of radically changing its direction. The previous two times were when,
“the Truman Commission (1947) challenged higher education to provide universal access based on its belief that then-junior colleges could broaden and further democratize their mission by becoming community colleges. Four decades later, the AACC Futures Commission (1988) set forward a reform agenda designed to strengthen the comprehensive mission the Truman Commission originally proposed.”
Thus in 1947, and then with increased emphasis in 1988 the community colleges mission was transformed to increase the accessibility of students to (democratize) higher education. The objectives of this third change in mission of the community colleges reverts these longstanding goals. It attempts to redirect the goals of the student body to narrowly tailored job skills to fit within the schemes of what remains in the U.S. of the manufacturing industry. PRNewswire reported that
“Over the next 10 months, the 21st-Century Commission will meet in person and virtually to examine the community college mission in light of current economic realities. President Obama has challenged community colleges to educate an additional 5 million students with degrees, certificates or other credentials by 2020.”
And that AACC President Walter G. Bumphus said “We do not intend to be timid or superficial in confronting the hard choices and need for innovative thinking our leaders face in the coming decades…”
The hard choices are the restructuring of the traditional mission of the community colleges into one that redirects students away from higher education into job training programs. The reader doesn’t need to take our word for it. The June 6th, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal ( transparently describes NAM’s agenda:
“The National Association of Manufacturers is leading a drive, partly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [that selfless Reinvention “partner”], to establish standardized curricula at community colleges across the U.S. with the goal of preparing students to qualify for certification in industrial skills ranging from welding to cutting metal and plastics. The association isn't pushing for an end to liberal-arts education, but has said bright students should be encouraged to consider alternatives that lead directly to jobs.(emphasis ours)
The business-oriented model infecting all of Higher Education
One could consider Obama’s and his business partners’ plans for community colleges ominous enough. However, this destruction of the humanistic and humane values and priorities of education is battling its way into four-year colleges and universities. For example, the flagship institution of higher education in Texas, the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) is under direct attack by Gov. Rick Perry. Perry wants to subject UTA and other Texas state universities to a business regime in which all aspects of education are treated as commodities or business costs. In an article titled “U. of Texas Adopts Plan to Publish Performance Data on Professors and Campuses,” The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the following (
1. “The plan unveiled on Thursday designates money to create a "dashboard"—an interactive, online database—to give students, parents, and legislators access to detailed measures of departments' and colleges' productivity and efficiency. Data on individual professors will probably also be included.
2. Florida's governor, Rick Scott, recently expressed support for Governor Perry's push for a more business-oriented model of higher education that would require more emphasis on faculty productivity.” (emphasis ours)
Just like our Reinvention mavericks, the proponents of the plan claim that the process is “data driven.” So in which direction will the masters of Reinvention take us? Well, on the first day of the District Faculty Development Week, Chancellor Hyman derided the critics of Reinvention by saying that we are claiming that she wants to turn the City Colleges into trade schools. For the record, she was taking pot shots at a straw man. PEARL has never, nor has any other serious critic, made this claim. Even in the NAM statement quoted above, the NAM officers don’t dare to declare the end of liberal arts education. It is the tiers of students that will be generated (some will move on to four year schools, while many others will be herded into job training schemes), the amount of funding that will be diverted and the demotion of the city colleges’ mission that is worrisome and unfair.
To claim that a welding certificate is the equivalent of a higher education degree is not only dishonest, but very harmful to our communities. There is nothing wrong with getting trained in the trades. These are honorable jobs. These are indeed important jobs in our society that have been decimated by the greedy rush of corporations to outsource manufacturing to countries whose governments were happy to oversee cheap-labor, poor-regulation business practices. But there is a historical path to access this training that has for the most part remained outside the purview and priorities of community colleges since the 1947 Truman Commission proceeded to expand liberal education after WWII.
Furthermore, there is one key aspect that is frequently ignored in this race to please businesses’ demands. That is the attempt by corporations to transfer of the cost of training their own workers, which industry has always undertaken, and placing it on the shoulders of public education institutions and of the students themselves. Now corporations do not want to pay to train their own workers, the way they refuse to pay taxes. Remember the revelations in the past year that huge and very rich corporations like GE and Bank of America do not pay federal taxes, or that two thirds of corporations in Illinois pay no state taxes at all, as acknowledged by members of the Illinois state legislature during the summer. The catering to the rich corporations and the establishment of a full-blown business model in the administration of public higher education institutions has become the current mantra among education bureaucrats and politicians. And under the heavy burden of high unemployment rates, it is being used as a form of blackmail under the pretext of job creation while at the end of the day what will be mostly created are increasing fortunes that the corporations will take laughing all the way to the bank.
What is the hidden truth about Reinvention that they are afraid to tell?
How far will the CCC administration go down the path of making the City Colleges subservient to the short term interests of corporations is something that they have not been willing to be candid about with the public. Well, the first and foremost goal of Reinvention comes to mind: the generation of “degrees” with “economic value.” Add this to the whining of the Chancellor during her address at the Faculty Development Week alluded to above, regarding the CCC being turned into trade schools (whose inconsistencies we also set straight above), and combine it with the email, reproduced below, that was sent by the “Reinvention Team” (???) to all faculty members just 11 days before the Chancellor’s remarks, and the fishy smell begins to feel like if you live next to a tuna factory:
July 29, 2011
Dear Faculty Members:

As part of Reinvention, we have researched some of our occupational programs; we are trying to understand how successful our students will be after they complete our programs.  We, specifically our task force members, have done early research through interviews with some of you, industry groups, and employers.  Some of you may have seen the early work of the task force, but you will be hearing much more in the coming weeks and months.

We conducted these early analyses in five major areas:
1. Computer Science
2. Child Development
3. Manufacturing
4. Health Care Practioners
5. Health Care Technicians

There is a great deal of work yet to be completed: we want to work with you to discuss and vet our findings to date, to develop the underlying credentials and courses and to get them approved by the faculty councils and by ICCB. 

We would like your help!  Now that we have this initial information collected, we are looking for volunteers to help us complete the work above.  We believe that we will not be successful in the work above unless it is led by faculty.

Some of the qualities we think will be important for the individuals leading the efforts above include:
* Expertise in the subject matter and with curriculum and program development
* Familiarity with relevant industrial certification/licensing processes
* Strong relationships with industry/employers, associations, and community based organizations in related fields
* Familiarity with clinical/internship opportunities for students
* Understanding of job market trends
* Willingness to learn/experience with use of economic and job market data
* Familiarity with any relevant government regulations

Please let us know if you are interested by emailing by 8/4/11 and indicating your area of interest from the five listed above. 

Thank you so much for your help.  We are looking forward to working with you!

The Reinvention Team (underlined emphasis ours)
The development of credentials and courses, especially as concerned with the major emphasis on manufacturing and job market trends is very revealing. Also the role of the Illinois Community Colleges Board (ICCB), whose approval will be required, is very significant. This is particularly true now that another of Arnie Duncan’s basketball buddies, the bankster Alexi Gioannoulias, has been appointed as the chairman of the ICCB ( Arnie was so ecstatic that the Sun Times quoted him as saying:
“I want to commend Gov. Quinn for choosing Alexi Giannoulias for this critically important job. Alexi is a passionate believer in public education, and I’m confident that his leadership will help the community colleges of Illinois do a better job of preparing young people to compete in the global economy.”
As you may remember, PEARL reported back on March 31st that Giannoulias was being considered by Emanuel to become the Chairman of the Board of the CCC. But in the end Giannoulias turned out to be more useful at the helm of the ICCB to guarantee that the “new credentials and courses,” especially those of “economic value” (i.e., narrowly designed job-training programs) are expediently approved by the ICCB, and to extend the Reinvention logic to the rest of the state’s community colleges.
So what are the new credentials (degrees, certificates) that will be created, and which existing ones will be sacrificed in the name of “economic value”?