Valencia Wins National Student Success Award

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dr. Sanford Shugart accepts the first Leah Meyer Austin Institutional Award at the Achieving the Dream 2009 Strategy Institute in San Francisco, Feb. 17, 2009. In thanking the Lumina Foundation for Education he expressed appreciation for their instigation of Achieving the Dream.

Valencia was selected as the inaugural winner of the Leah Meyer Austin Institutional Student Success Leadership Award, presented by the Lumina Foundation for Education and Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count.

As part of the award, Valencia received $25,000 to put toward student success initiatives.

The award was open solely to institutions actively affiliated with Achieving the Dream, a national initiative by Lumina Foundation to help more community college students succeed. The award recognizes outstanding institutional achievement in creating policies, practices and a culture of equity and excellence that support and nurture student success.

“We are deeply honored to be selected for this award in recognition of the outstanding and continuing work of our faculty and staff to support excellence in learning,” said Dr. Sanford Shugart, president of Valencia. “The Leah Austin award is particularly gratifying because of the partnership we have enjoyed with the Lumina Foundation, which I believe is nourishing some of the best and most important work in higher education today.”

Valencia’s Achieving the Dream work has been focused on identifying and closing achievement gaps across racial and ethnic groups, between college-ready and under-prepared students, and between student success in mathematics and other discipline courses.

Valencia has focused on three strategies to close the gaps: supplemental instruction (hiring successful students to serve as peer mentors), linked courses (taught by two faculty from different disciplines, working from a shared syllabus) and requiring a student life skills course for students needing remedial coursework in three disciplines (reading, writing and mathematics).

These strategies were applied to six “gateway” courses, including four mathematics courses, an English composition course and a U.S. government course. Since the strategies were first implemented in the 2005-06 academic year, more than 29,000 Valencia students have taken at least one of the six courses.

Compared to 2004, before the strategies were implemented, the average success rate for all ethnicities in the six courses improved by three percent, rising to 66 percent by 2008. The success rate for Caucasians held steady from 2004 to 2008. Hispanic students, who lagged behind Caucasians in 2004, outperformed them by 2008. African American students also significantly closed the gap between themselves and Caucasians in the six gateway courses, from 13.4 percent in 2004 to just 3.6 percent in 2008.

“The goal is to create conditions for student learning that improve success for all students and eliminate the predictability of success or failure based on demographic factors,” said Shugart.

In addition to continuing its Achieving the Dream initiatives, Valencia is designing new ways to improve student success. Currently, the college is working with The Policy Center on the First Year of College to conduct a one-year self-study through Foundations of Excellence to identify ways to promote learning and success among first-year students.

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