Local Faculty Input on Student Success


Local Faculty Input on Student Success
Part One of a Series
By Adam Wetsman, Rio Hondo College

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Everyone is interested in seeking ways to enhance student success at the California Community Colleges: Governor Brown, faculty, students, the Legislature, administrators, and others. A key question surrounding this topic is which groups are in the best position to make substantial recommendations. When the Student Success Task Force was empaneled a few years ago, there was concern that it was light on faculty representation, and the ensuing report seemed to reflect this. With significant emphasis on student services, the report was lacking in addressing how to enhance classroom success. The Student Success Initiative, SB 1456 [(Lowenthal) of 2012], followed suit by incentivizing colleges to increase student services, with virtually no emphasis on classroom teaching.

There is no question that students need to be prepared when starting at our colleges, with a basic educational goal in mind, knowledge of where their skills lie, and an idea of what courses should be taken. However, success must eventually go through our classrooms. If we are truly committed to increasing completion rates, faculty input is essential, especially as it relates to ensuring that those taking our courses have the best chance to pass.

The reduced emphasis on faculty input in discussions relating to student success has been carried forward to our local colleges. As Academic Senate President at Rio Hondo College, I learned during the summer of 2013 that the college had put together a task force to examine how to increase student success and implement the Initiative. Excited by the news, I contacted the administration to learn about the makeup of the committee and how faculty would be involved. The reply was disappointing. The task force was to be comprised solely of administrators, but I was assured that all groups would be able to participate in the future (something that never really materialized to any significant extent).

By the fall of 2013, this participation portion came to fruition, sort of. The task force had developed a comprehensive presentation describing the new funding mechanisms stemming from the Student Success Initiative. The college would receive money based upon a complex equation relating to student services (such as the percentage of students who had educational plans developed, had taken assessments, and so on). Constituency groups (such as the Academic Senate, the board of trustees, our overall planning group at the college, and others) were given the information during lengthy presentations. A modest amount of time was allocated for comments and questions.

Armed with the buzzwords, “Student Success,” few could suggest that this was not a worthy enterprise. Even greater legitimacy was afforded to the plan because of the money involved. Who could claim that the proposed steps were nothing but the utmost urgency when millions of dollars were at stake? Overall, however, the Academic Senate and other faculty groups were disappointed with the results. While the plan included an important step relating to student success, it did little to address the challenges faculty faced every day, desperately trying to help students pass our classes. More concerns followed as a central part of the success plan was announced: an administrative position in the student services area would be enhanced (i.e. there would be a pay increase for an administrator).

Believing that little faculty input about classroom success would be part of the discussion, the Academic Senate decided to develop its own plan for student success, one that would emphasize input from faculty. This will be described in the next installment….


Adam Wetsman is a professor at Rio Hondo College and FACCC Regional Governor.


Contact Communications Director Austin Webster to contribute a future blog.


Top 10 Questions for 2016


Top 10 Questions for 2016
January 5, 2016
By Jonathan Lightman

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FACCC has welcomed the new year with an addition to its communications line-up. Joining its print, electronic, and social media, FACCC has launched a blog to offer additional perspectives on contemporary issues. Contact Communications Director Austin Webster if you would like to contribute to this effort.

The inaugural blog looks at the year ahead with 10 questions (in no particular order) we should ask in 2016.

1) Will the plug be pulled on the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)? The extreme lack of confidence in this body is now expressed up and down California, and in Washington, DC. Last month’s recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) to deny ACCJC any expansion of scope to accredit four-year programs while providing it only six more months to get its act together with federal law could portend a monumental change for this accreditor.

2) Will the Chancellor’s Office Workforce Task Force result in substantive, or merely cosmetic, changes for Career Technical Education in the California Community Colleges? Legislative, regulatory, and budgetary proposals will soon be forthcoming.

3) Will the Legislature finally allow for a substantive part-time faculty seniority/due process bill to advance to the Governor’s desk? Last year’s sidelining of AB 1010 (Medina) was one more slap in the face to this dedicated corps of faculty professionals.

4) Will the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision in Friedrichs vs CTA, the constitutional challenge to mandatory fair share union dues, wreak havoc on organized labor’s influence in California politics or will its effect be negligible? Labor and business leaders, along with Supreme Court watchers, are tracking this closely.

5) Will the 2016-17 Budget Act include additional money for full-time faculty hiring and/or restoration of categorical programs that were cut during the recession? While it’s too early to predict what will be included in the budget, the Legislative Analyst’s Office has already suggested that next year’s increase in community college funding will be substantially smaller than this year’s.

6) Will the November elections feature an epic initiative battle over Defined Benefit pensions? Recent polling suggests that the electorate might be less than originally thought to undermine the hard-earned retirement of community college faculty and other public employees.

7) Speaking of elections, will the Democrats return to a two-thirds legislative super-majority, and if so, will that make a difference? With fewer Republican victories over the past decade, the voters have shifted in a number of districts to supporting so-called “moderate” Democrats, those with a pro-business, and not necessarily a pro-labor, leaning. Although identified as Democrats, these “mods” do not necessarily follow traditional party leanings and might oppose tax reform or other grand policy items requiring a two-thirds vote.

8) Will the so-called “education reformers” intensify their attacks on the California Master Plan for Higher Education or will they find a new target this year? The whole concept of accessible, affordable, higher education available to all Californians through the California Community Colleges could disappear if the reformers have their way.

9) Will Congress and/or the Legislature address safety concerns at community colleges and other postsecondary institutions? While California state lawmakers are willing to engage on this topic, little is anticipated from our federal representatives who remain beholden to the gun lobby.

10) Finally, will the new Chancellor of the California Community Colleges respect and value diversity of opinion, particularly from faculty? Above all else, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors should consider this in its hiring decision.

Please share your predictions with me at jlightman@faccc.org It will be interesting to revisit these in a year, along with a new set of questions for 2017. Happy New Year!

Jonathan Lightman is the Executive Director of FACCC.