New project will help ‘scale up’ student success initiatives
11.11.2015 | By Amanda Fenwick
PASADENA, Texas — With student success at the core of the San Jacinto College mission, the College has been selected as one of 30 colleges nationwide to participate in the Pathways Project, furthering the important work already in place in support of the national Success Agenda.
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is coordinating a national partnership to build capacity for community colleges to implement a pathways approach to student success and college completion. For San Jacinto College, this means scaling up student success initiatives already in place, so that more students can complete their certificates or associate degrees and begin working in their chosen career fields or transfer to a four-year college or university to continue their education.
“We are honored to be selected as one of the first community colleges to participate in this important project,” said San Jacinto College Deputy Chancellor and President, Dr. Laurel Williamson. “We are well down the road on the national completion agenda, so participation in this project will allow us to take our student success initiatives to the next level. I look forward to having in-depth conversations with the other colleges selected to better understand what is working for them and how we might translate those results to help our students.”
San Jacinto College is one of four Texas colleges to be included in the Pathways Project, alongside Alamo Colleges, El Paso Community College, and Paris Junior College. The Pathways colleges are in urban, suburban, and rural locations in 17 states, with Fall 2015 headcount enrollments ranging from less than 3,000 to almost 60,000 students. The selected colleges are the first to participate in the pathways institute series over the next 2.5 years, and colleges will work with expert coaches who will contribute to the learning and analysis of each institutional team involved in the initiative. One of the goals is take this important work and disseminate best and promising practices to community colleges nationwide.
“These very diverse community colleges can feel proud of the strong foundations they have laid for this transformational work,” said AACC President Walter G. Bumphus. “We are pleased with the rigor and integrity that the Pathways partners have ensured in the selection process, and all of the partners look forward to the intensive work ahead.”
Proof it Works
Over the last five years, San Jacinto College has put in place several student success initiatives, and they’re working. Five years ago, data showed that students who were allowed to register into a class that had already met at least once had a course success rate that was 15 percent lower than the college average. As a result, the Board of Trustees, upon reviewing the data, eliminated late registration into courses that had already met at least once, and college-wide success rates have risen each Fall and Spring term for the last five years.
Another example of an important student success initiative at San Jacinto College is the College Success Intervention (CSI) program. Through this program, students who have repeated a college preparatory math course are required to meet with the faculty member and an educational planner to discuss why they did not succeed and what can be done differently in the current semester. Students sign a commitment form and meet two more times with the faculty member and / or educational planner. As a result, nearly 60 percent of the college preparatory math students completed on that second semester attempt, providing evidence that intervention and making contact with students have a positive effect.
“These are just two examples of the important work that our faculty and staff are doing here at San Jacinto College,” added Dr. Williamson. “We are continually tracking and evaluating student data throughout all areas of the College. This data is shared throughout the College community so that all employees understand our challenges, opportunities, and successes. We want to be a college where no student fails because of something we overlooked or a barrier we created.”
San Jac Innovations
Some of the College’s most successful and innovative work to date includes the Men of Honor program, Intentional Connections, and Acceleration in Mathematics (AIM). Originally a volunteer mentor program for African-American male students, Men of Honor has grown to include a full-time director, campus coordinators, mentors, and a budget for activities. Since the 2013-2014 academic year, the program increased from 117 participants to 144, with a persistence rate 19.2 percent higher than the general African-American population and increased success rates across all three San Jacinto College campuses. Having seen success with the male students, the College created Women of Integrity, expanded the populations of both groups to include Hispanics, and has received grant funding to assist both programs.
Intentional Connections is a career-linked pathway for at-risk students. The program was born out of data analysis that revealed a population of high-risk, low-skilled students who were not completing even one course in their first semester. It began at the North Campus with 20 students in a learning community incorporating student success and developmental courses with connections to careers and interventions by faculty and advisors. This Fall, the College has 23 cohorts and more than 600 students, with Intentional Connections coordinators on each campus. Students are evaluated for their educational strengths, weaknesses, and career goals, and they then “test drive” different programs prior to enrolling in a full semester course to determine if that area of study is a good fit. The success rate for the program in Fall 2014 was nearly 70 percent.
One student who found new direction through Intentional Connections is Charles Powell. By his own admission, Powell does not do well in language arts. He does, however, enjoy building things and doing light mechanical repair work. During his assessment process, he indicated he would like to attend some classes in the San Jacinto College auto collision repair program. There was an instant connection, and Powell is now on his way to earning a certificate in auto collision repair technology and, hopefully, a job at an auto body shop. “Intentional Connections has made a big difference in my life,” Powell said. “I found a career I really like, and I have a goal of finishing college. I am also doing better in other areas, too. My reading skills are improving.”
Acceleration in Mathematics, which combines college preparatory math with college algebra so that students complete both in one semester, has a 64.7 percent success rate, compared with 46 percent in stand-alone college algebra. This faculty developed course is co-taught, meets four days each week, and is supported by a collaborative learning session. Students benefit from having two faculty members in the classroom at all times, feedback through testing and graded homework, additional tutoring, and a supportive learning community, therefore expediting their pathway to completion.
“At the end of the day, we want to build on the work we have in place and have already accomplished by enhancing the pathways work, creating stronger transfer and articulated pathways to regional universities, and innovative design of courses and support services that identify and meet the needs of our students,” concluded Dr. Williamson. “We are excited to partner with the American Association of Community Colleges on this Pathways Project and to share with the partner institutions our vision for student success.”
To learn more about student success initiatives at San Jacinto College, visit sanjac.edu/san-jac-innovations. For a complete list of the 30 selected colleges to participate in the Pathways Project, visit the AACC website.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.