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Quality Focus Essay

Quality Focused Essay

Introduction

During the process of completing its Self Evaluation, Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) has identified three areas on which to focus in order to improve effectiveness. These three areas, which will be addressed in detail in the body of this Quality Focus Essay (QFE), are: the integration of Mt. SAC Strategic Plan Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Institution-set Standards (ISS) and indicators for the Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative (IEPI) at all levels of the Planning for Institutional Effectiveness (PIE) process; the institutionalization of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Pathways Project, and the integration of the Basic Skills, the Student Success and Support Program (SSSP), and the Student Equity plans.

What is…

KPIs: Mt. SAC Strategic Plan Key Performance Indicators: A key performance indicator (KPI) is a type of performance measurement. Mt. SAC uses KPIs to evaluate its overall success and to evaluate the success of Strategic Objectives in the Strategic Plan. Success is measured both in terms of preparation to take action and in terms of the outcomes produced by that action. Accordingly, choosing the right KPIs relies upon a good understanding of how the College functions. As a result, choice of a KPI often depends on the department assigned the objective, e.g. the KPIs useful to Instruction will be quite different from the KPIs for objectives assigned to Student Services. Consequently, various techniques are used to assess the unit performing the activity, the nature of the activity, and the outcomes associated with the selection of performance indicators. For long-term objectives, KPIs can be used to measure benchmarks set as intermediate outcomes and to provide mid-course corrections. Thus, KPIs are an essential element in the evaluation of processes and strategies (I.A.3-1 pg. 5-20).

ISS: Institutions must set standards for satisfactory performance of student success (student achievement and student learning). The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) will examine each institution's standards and assess their appropriateness. ACCJC will examine the institution's analysis of performance, using student achievement data, and will note both effective performance and areas in which improvement is needed. External evaluation teams will determine whether or not the institutional-set standards are appropriate. A "standard" is the level of performance set by the institution to meet educational quality and institutional effectiveness expectations. This number may differ from a performance improvement "goal" which an institution may aspire to meet. The standard should be foundational and not aspirational (QFE.1-1).

IEPI: IEPI is a collaborative effort to help advance the institutional effectiveness of California Community Colleges (CCC). The IEPI framework of indicators is designed to measure the ongoing condition of a community college's operational environment in numerous areas including College student performance and outcomes. Mt. SAC's IEPI framework indicator goals demonstrate the impact of the College's strategic work and ongoing commitment to students' success in proper form (QFE.1-2)

Integration of KPI's, ISS, and IEPI into all levels of the PIE Process

Mt. SAC has established ISS and reported the data resulting from their analysis as well as the data required by the IEPI. Mt. SAC has begun the process of assigning and measuring KPIs for Strategic Objectives in the Mt. SAC Strategic Plan. While the College uses the data from these sources to improve effectiveness, it has determined that it has the potential for additional advancement. The College plans to more authentically integrate KPIs, ISS, and IEPI data into all levels of the PIE process in order better to link the KPI, ISS and IEPI data to student learning outcomes (SLOs) and to resource allocation. These indicators were added to PIE in 2015-16.

In its Self Evaluation, Mt. SAC identified that it uses data for decision-making extensively. For the KPI, ISS, and IEPI indicators, the goals for each are discussed by governance committees and used to substantiate the College's work. One area for growth that has been identified is that these indicators are at the "30,000-foot level," as they are course success rate across the College as a whole; while this is a good point-of-reference, it is not tangible or actionable to faculty in the classroom. The College now includes these indicators, as appropriate, in PIE for each department to indicate how it is addressing the indicators (that is, how it is going to improve upon its success rates as needed). Data are presented both at the college- and program-levels which allows for more actionable outcomes. Through the QFE Action Plan, this work will progress to better link data to SLOs and to resource allocation.

The support for this work at the College is paramount to the success of this action plan. The Academic Senate appointed an ISS Task Force to determine the ISS and then the IEPI via the Institutional Effectiveness Committee (IEC), which also oversees implementation of the Strategic Plan. Currently, ISS and IEPI indicators and data are presented by IEC to the President's Advisory Council (PAC). KPIs are reviewed as part of the annual Strategic Plan update. Additionally, these indicators and data are presented to the Board of Trustees for review as is the Strategic Plan. The Academic Senate and the Classified School Employees Association (CSEA) are supportive of these indicators being a part of the PIE process. The Board and President's Cabinet approve funding for new initiatives in order to improve the College's meeting and/or exceeding of the indicators.

While Mt. SAC does have a resource allocation process that links to SLOs, the new inclusion of KPIs, ISS and IEPI indicators and data into PIE leaves an opportunity to strengthen this. The anticipated outcomes of this action plan that will positively impact academic quality and institutional effectiveness are:

  • Programs will spend time discussing not only SLOs, but also KPI, ISS and IEPI data in an authentic manner.
  • All units at the College will be more engaged through having more input in the goal-setting processes of the Strategic Plan, ISS and IEPI.
  • Units will use this as an opportunity to reflect on the findings as they relate to the curriculum and alignment. While units already do this with their SLOs, looking at KPIs, ISS and IEPI will provide a different lens for this review.
  • Units will engage in cross-department communications within or between divisions.
  • This process will create an opportunity for the deans and associate deans to further understand, engage, and use these metrics to improve student success.

This process will be evaluated as a natural extension of the PIE yearly evaluation process. Because this action plan will be accomplished and evaluated within PIE, which in and of itself is sustainable as demonstrated by its many years of being in operation, the plan, as well, will be sustainable. The following timeline outlines the tasks to be undertaken and the anticipated outcomes and impact on academic quality and institutional effectiveness.

Table QFE-1. Timeline for PIE Process

Task Responsible Party Anticipated Outcomes Impact on Academic Quality and Institutional Effectiveness Timeline
Determine method for authentic integration of KPIs ISS and IEPI into PIE IEC IEC will decide upon a method for ensuring the completion of the action plan. A method for ensuring deeper College-wide conversations of KPIs, ISS and IEPI will be in place. Fall 2016
Solicit input from constituency groups Constituency group representatives on IEC Constituency groups will have a voice in the work on the action plan. The process will have been one of collaboration, ensuring constituent group support. Spring 2017
Communicate the change to the College via IEC PIE Memo IEC The College will understand the new addition to the PIE process. The units will be able to analyze the KPI, ISS and IEPI data in addition to SLO data resulting in deeper analysis in anticipation of requests for resource allocation. Fall 2017
Have units respond to the change in their PIE documents Instructional and Student Services Units Units will integrate KPI, ISS and IEPI data with SLO data to encourage participation in College-wide goal setting processes. Cross-departmental discussion either between or within divisions will allow for the free-flow of ideas for student success related to College-wide indicators. Spring 2018
Evaluate the effectiveness of the change IEC IEC will be able to communicate the results of the integration to the College. The College can assess the results of the integration and determine the need to make changes to the process. Fall 2018
Have College-wide discussions of the process Professional and Organizational Development (POD) POD will schedule discussions for miss personnel to discuss their response to the integration. The loop will be closed, resulting in a College-wide understanding of the integration of KPIs, ISS and IEPI with SLOs and resource allocation. Spring 2019

The Integration of the SSSP, Student Equity, and Basic Skills Initiative plans.

In recent years, the CCCs have committed to increasing access for the most marginalized students with the goal of improved outcomes, including progression and completion. A great deal of research has occurred on high-impact interventions, evidence-based practices, and the support structures needed to help these students achieve successful outcomes. Mt. SAC has a high number of disproportionately impacted students with low college preparation levels, so interventions and services are critical for their achievement. In response to this data, Mt. SAC has been at the forefront of implementing these practices. For example, the College implemented mandatory orientation for years prior to the requirement by the Student Success and Support Program (SSSP), as well as requiring probation interventions. The Student Equity Plan (SEP) at the College was in place well before it was mandated by the state and is an ongoing priority of the College that drives its equity directives. A variety of state initiatives along with significant funding streams have supported efforts to improve student achievement by directing services to the neediest students.

For purposes of strengthening student outcomes, Mt. SAC will increase the integration among the SEP, credit and noncredit SSSP, and Basic Skills Initiative (BSI) plans. In doing so, the primary focus will be on coordinating services and learning support for students to improve access to courses and programs, success in completing those programs, and equity in accomplishing those goals. And although there have been many instances of positive student outcomes as a result of these individual plans and resources, successes can be scaled up with a combined focus of how Mt. SAC provides service throughout the student lifespan and how achievement can be improved.

To begin the coordination, it is important to determine an appropriate structure and to identify potential stakeholders that will join to lead the integration as well as establish adequate professional development and training. An example of such a structure would be an integrated team of faculty and staff from each committee, a combined committee, or workgroups around specific topics of the integrated plan. Mt. SAC will promote accessibility for meetings among all stakeholders with regards to time and location, which will support transparency and optimal communication. Integrated planning can present complex challenges and opportunities, so professional development and training will most likely be needed. Strategic planning is the norm at Mt. SAC, so it is anticipated that this transformation will be well received on campus.

The integration of plans will complement the current AACC Pathways Project by examining how Mt. SAC supports new students who place in basic skills levels. With successful collaboration among initiatives and resources, students will have thorough and appropriate assessment, orientation, advising, and placement from the first point of contact. The above integrated team will create processes that monitor, track, and provide the appropriate support and structured interventions through every basic skills course including integration of counseling and in-class instructional support. Specifically, counselors may be embedded in a basic skills class to assist students with goal direction or study skills.

Establishing these combined processes will be guided by a crosswalk that Mt. SAC already has in place. Mt. SAC was forward thinking and developed a crosswalk which identifies common goals and practices among the plans. Along with this tool, our integrated team can then review existing gap analyses from the three plans to combine them into one plan. Additionally, the group will identify and eliminate redundancies, outdated gaps, and overlaps.

As part of determining shared campus goals, it is imperative to ensure alignment and relevancy to the Mt. SAC Strategic Plan, Educational Master Plan, enrollment management, accreditation standards, and the Technology Master Plan. It is also important to consider noncredit plans including Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG) and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title II so their success goals are included in the integrated plan.

Existing data sets for each plan will be needed to support goal setting. These datasets will include reports from Mt. SAC's Banner data system, regional demographics, Basic Skills tracker, Datamart, and other college, state, and local data tools. This data will guide goal setting for the integrated plan and may inform the creation of a success dashboard.

The process used to integrate these three plans will be evaluated to determine functionality and outcomes. The ongoing nature of these funding resources indicates sustainable support for students. It is important to assure the redesigned structure improves student access and goal attainment and does so in an equitable manner. The following timeline outlines the tasks to be undertaken and the anticipated outcomes and impact on academic quality and institutional effectiveness.

Table QFE-2. Timeline for Integration of Plans

Task Responsible Party Anticipated Outcomes Impact on Academic Quality and Institutional Effectiveness Timeline
Gather stakeholders and determine structure for ongoing dialogue Committee chairs
  • Coordination and collaboration among stakeholders
  • Understanding of each plan
  • Overlaps and differences of plans
Alignment with other plans Spring 2017
Gap analysis for services to students and filling the gap Committee chairs, Pathways to Transfer manager
  • Identify how services are delivered throughout the student's educational lifespan
  • Identify redundancies, and outdated gaps, and overlaps
  • Compile a joint gap analysis of campus services for disproportionately impacted and low skilled students
  • Scale up
  • Students will have thorough and appropriate assessment and referrals from the first point of contact
Spring 2018-Spring 2020
Identify the goals for the integrated plan and data needs Committee chairs Data will guide goal setting for the integrated plan and may inform the creation of a success dashboard. Improved student achievement data Spring 2017-2020
Evaluation of Impact Committee chairs Evaluate functionality and outcomes. The ongoing nature of these funding resources indicates sustainable support for students. Redesigned structure provides support to students at an improved level Fall 2017-2020
Professional development Committee chairs, POD
  • Synthesis of the topic of Institutional Planning (IP)
  • Application of IP with multiple plans
  • Application of IEPI IP Tools
  • Use of Professional Learning Network, Lynda.com, etc.
Improved understanding of IP and its applied application to the College Spring 2017-2020

Pathways

At Mt. SAC, Academic Pathways for students to follow are growing more pronounced each year. Over many years, Mt. SAC offered guided pathways programs along with purposeful student support services. The Bridge Program is an example of this, offering several learning communities designed to increase students' academic and personal success through the structuring of the learning environment. Students participating in a learning community are enrolled in linked or clustered classes that are taught in a cooperative environment among instructors. There are various learning communities offered: Summer Bridge, Math Bridge, English Bridge and others. Each learning community focuses on a specific academic need and has an assigned counselor to assist students. The Bridge Program assists incoming freshmen students who are underprepared academically, are economically disadvantaged, and need additional support in their first year at Mt. SAC.

Mt. SAC's Pathways to Transfer allows students to be in a cohort, or group, taking three sequential linked English or mathematics classes to reach transfer level in an accelerated manner. Passing the class means guaranteed enrollment in the next class in the sequence. The intrusive counseling component also includes tutors in the classroom and supplemental instruction. Student achievement results indicate Pathways to Transfer students are more likely to progress through the course sequence and complete college-level math and English than are non-Pathways students.

Based on the College's Guided Pathways work, Mt. SAC is honored to be one of 30 elite community colleges across the nation chosen to participate in the Pathways Project sponsored by the AACC. The project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and focuses on building capacity for community colleges to design and implement structured academic and career pathways at scale, for all of their students. The Guided Pathways model is built upon three important design principles:

  1. Colleges' program redesigns must pay attention to the entire student experience, rather than to just one segment of it (such as developmental education or the intake process).
  2. A Guided Pathways redesign is not the next in a long line of discrete reforms, but rather a framework or general model that helps unify a variety of reform elements around the central goal of helping students choose, enter, and complete a program of study aligned with students' goals for employment and further education.
  3. The redesign process starts with student end goals for careers and further education in mind and "maps" programs and supports to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in employment and education at the next level
    (1-3).

Mt. SAC strongly supports the AACC Pathways Project and sends several faculty and administrators to each of the Pathways Institutes. Led by a Pathways Workgroup, the College is implementing lessons learned from the institutes to engage faculty in higher-level discussions that are guiding the design of career clusters and re-examining program sequencing through course mapping. In summer 2016, counselors and faculty from 19 degree and certificate programs participated in course mapping exercises and 350 first-time college students provided feedback on which programs should be clustered together based on career options. The College's new online catalog provides for the use of this clustering. Students who join a cluster will be more likely to take courses at the College that align with their final career goals. For example, students who are interested in the sciences would take courses in that cluster and as they determine their final major, their course work would count toward that degree or certificate.

In a related vein, contextualized learning in developmental education courses is woven into the program clusters. Contextualized learning offers students a developmental education experience with curriculum flavored to be relevant to their career goals. This provides an opportunity for students to engage in their proposed field of study earlier in their college careers which supports persistence through their programs.

Based on the work the College has done thus far, the following timeline outlines the tasks to be undertaken and the anticipated outcomes and impact on academic quality and institutional effectiveness. Being a leader across the nation in Guided Pathways work is something the College very much values and this work indicates its strong commitment to and continued focus on improving student success. The College knows what is effective. Now it is time to scale up, providing access for more students to be part of an informed Pathway guiding them to their academic success.

Table QFE-3. Timeline for Pathways

Task Responsible Party Anticipated Outcomes Impact on Academic Quality and Institutional Effectiveness Timeline
20+ programs will evaluate course sequence Content faculty and counselors Content faculty and counselors will collaborate on guided pathway sequencing Programs are reviewed for appropriateness to student needs Fall 2016
Contextualized learning is offered in five developmental education courses Content and basic skills faculty Content faculty and basic skills faculty will collaborate to enhance existing curriculum with relevant content Student are engaged earlier in academic career increasing persistence Spring 2017
20 more programs will evaluate course sequence Content faculty and counselors Content faculty and counselors will agree on guided pathway sequencing Collaboration between content and counseling faculty for developing appropriate course sequencing Spring 2017
All remaining programs will evaluate course sequence Department Chairs All programs will complete evaluation of course sequencing for programs and degrees Collaboration between content and counseling faculty for developing appropriate course sequencing Fall 2017
Contextualized courses are offered in 10 percent of developmental education courses Office of Instruction and Department Chairs Contextualized developmental education courses are offered across all career clusters Increased student persistence through developmental education sequences Spring 2018
Career clusters will inform enrollment management Counselors and Department Chairs Student career choices assist in determination of course offerings Student needs met through strengthened enrollment management Spring 2018
Educational Plans will inform enrollment management Counselors Student Education plans assist in determination of course offerings Time to completion shortened with increase in student success. Fall 2018
New program offerings will include mandatory course sequence and mapping Department Chairs Course sequencing and mapping included in new program proposals Research demonstrates increased student persistence and completion Spring 2019
50 percent of developmental education courses offer contextualized learning Office of Instruction Contextualized developmental education courses are offered across all career clusters Increased student persistence through developmental education sequences with higher completion rates. Spring 2019

List of Evidence

Title Content
I.A.3-1 Strategic Plan 2015-17 pg. 5-20
QFE.1-1 ACCJC Accreditation Standards
QFE.1-2 Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative (IEPI)
QFE.1-3 AACC Pathways