Tag Archives: Community College

What Happened in Your State This May?

This past month, seven policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: Arkansas, Idaho, New York, New Mexico, Ohio and Wyoming.

Higher Education

Idaho: In 60×20 in Idaho: New Community College and Update on Complete College Idaho, Karen Uehling writes that English “remedial” writing courses were “re-conceived as co-requisite courses” rather than as non-credit, pre-composition level classes. Idaho also approved a new community college.

New Mexico: Erin O’Neill describes the New Mexico Budget Standoff on Higher Ed Funding between Governor Susana Martinez and the legislature. Because the governor vetoed the legislature’s tax increases and “in effect defunded higher education,” the New York State Supreme Court heard oral arguments on May 15 to determine whether Governor Martinez overstepped the power of her office.


Arkansas: In Charter School Expansion Proposed, Donna Wake notes that ten more charters were proposed, coinciding with the proposed closing of three schools. Donna also noted that a Walton-controlled entity bought one elementary school and intends to open a charter school.

Idaho: Darlene Dyer reports that Select Idaho K-3 Students Will Take New Reading Test that will “provide teachers … with a better understanding of student reading skills.”

New York: Derek Kulnis files three reports:

Ohio: Robin Holland describes Ohio House Bills 176 and 181-Standards, Testing, and Teacher Evaluation, introduced to eliminate Ohio’s Learning Standards based on the Common Core and implement a new set of standards and assessments.

Wyoming: In Wyoming Enacts “Indian Education for All” Legislation, Tiffany Rehbein shares that Governor Matt Mead signed House Bill 76 requiring all students in Wyoming to learn about the American Indian tribes of the region. Tiffany noted that this “decision aligns with NCTE’s long-standing Guideline on Non-White Minorities in English and Language Arts Materials (1978).

Process and Professionalism

This post is written by member Galen Leonhardy.

GalenLeonhardyI wrote to an online student and, after assessment comments, explained her paper was not coherent and needed more editing before I would accept it. The student responded:


 So I read that comment you left on my paper. I don’t not have the time to use Tudors. Sorry. Just being honest. You are just gonna have to accept my papers without any revisions other than the ones you leave me or the other students. Sorry. Wanted to let you know.

The student is making two important points. First, she only has limited time for school. Accordingly, she will edit one time using my assessment (and peer assessment).

It’s an open-admissions school, and this student represents an everyday fluency/versatility/ perceptual/sociological reality. As composition theorists in community colleges, we interact with a vast range of versatility levels. That’s reality.

I meet such challenges by providing process-oriented assessments based on criteria and rhetorical possibility. I must trust that a student will do the best she or he can with what she or he has. I must allow a student to succeed on her or his terms. I can’t force learning.

In an authoritarian reality, this student would receive some kind of retribution for not doing what the teacher commanded. Composition theory, however, tells us linguistic versatility will change gradually if she persists. We believe in the process, not domination.

What I decided to do was give the student full credit for completing the process. It’s no skin off my back. I did not harm the student with a grade. Students in my classes have a binary evaluation based on completion of a process: the assignment is submitted for assessment and then for final assessment commentary and evaluation. Students get an A for accomplishing the process.

It is not my job to rank student proficiency or be a gatekeeper. Teachers from a different time and educational reality did that. I facilitate process-oriented instructional opportunities. It is each student’s job to do what he or she can with what he or she has to the best of his or her ability. Grades are meaningless in terms of what success is. Process-oriented instruction is really all we have. If I structure my classes around process and trust that process facilitates transference, then I am facilitating learning opportunities.

The student’s response was a bit abrupt, and the temptation might be to construct a rigid authoritarian response in order to maintain standards. But I know that if the student stays in the class and writes more while experiencing process-oriented interactions, then the likelihood of bettering her linguistic versatility increases. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but rudeness cannot harm me. If I relinquish authority, I increase my ability to serve.

We offer our learned opinions and facilitate. We also do what it takes to become better able to facilitate: write, publish, study, assess our strategies, and revise. If we accept that what we do is better our own skills, provide process-oriented learning opportunities, and facilitate, then we no longer need to worry about being the people who establish limits and enforce standards.

Galen Leonhardy teaches at a community college in Illinois. His work has appeared in CCC, TETYC, and other publications. He most enjoys spending time with his wife, Lea, and his daughters, Sarah and Hallie.

College Scorecard

PrintThe following post was written by Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt, who served for a year as the CCCC Policy Fellow and will become the CCCC Assistant Chair in December. Carolyn is a full-time instructor at Yakima Valley Community College in Washington state.

In 2013, the Obama administration announced an ambitious plan to improve college “value” by “paying for performance,” “promoting innovation and competition,” and “ensuring that student debt remained affordable” (Fact Sheet).

Toward that end, the Department of Education developed an interactive consumer information tool populated with IPEDS and NSLDS data, the College Scorecard. This tool was designed to enable students and families to research and compare colleges on metrics such as cost, student loan default rates, graduation rates, and, most controversially, post-graduate earnings, in order to determine which colleges offered the best return on investment, or as President Obama put it, “which schools provide the biggest bang for your buck.” However, the administration’s ultimate goal was to develop a Postsecondary Institutional Ratings System (PIRS), which would rate institutions on measures related to access, affordability, and outcomes, and would tie federal student aid to colleges’ performance on those metrics.

Seeking buy-in from higher education leaders and the public, the Department of Education invited input on the development of the scorecard and rating system proposal. While many stakeholders praised the federal government’s efforts to improve the transparency of and easy accessibility to important consumer information for students and their families, the proposed rating system was met with much opposition.

Critiques focused largely on the rating system’s reliance on overly simplistic metrics, primarily tied to economic outcomes, and its use of incomplete and often inaccurate federal data. Additional concerns were raised about the potential consequences, particularly for colleges with large liberal arts programs and for institutions that serve underrepresented populations, of defining educational value and student success through short-term, economic gains, and of rating colleges comparatively based on these narrow criteria.

The consumer-facing College Scorecard, too, met with criticisms about the presentation of data as averages and medians, the lack of contextualization and customizability of information, and the failure to consider today’s heterogeneous student body and  students’ priorities and needs in the metrics.

On September 12, 2015, President Obama unveiled the “new” College Scorecard, a consumer-facing website that provides similar information to the previous iteration, but makes no attempt to compare colleges directly or rate their performance.

According to the White House’s press release, the new College Scorecard was redesigned using student input and provides more comprehensive and customizable data.

While the Department of Education’s abandonment of a federal college rating system and federal performance-based funding is likely welcome news to the higher education community, the College Scorecard still aligns with market-based ideologies that have undergirded this administration’s higher education accountability proposal from the beginning.

The scorecard operates from the premise that providing greater transparency about costs of attendance and student outcomes will enable educational “consumers” to make rational economic choices about what institution will provide the greatest return on investment. “Empowering” students with data to rate colleges will also foster competition and lower prices. As Forbes contributor Ryan Craig describes, the Department of Education “should be in the business of trying to move higher education from an Economy of Reputation to an Economy of Data.”

While there is, of course, nothing wrong with making more reliable data available to the public, the metrics still reflect a narrow and instrumentalist definition of educational “value,” one that privileges economic outcomes. Even more problematically, the new College Scorecard reflects a fundamental misconception about how many—if not most—students determine where they will enroll, overestimating the role data plays in driving consumer behavior and the degree of choice available to students with limited financial resources. Students are theorized as wholly independent “consumers,” unattached to and unaffected by historical backgrounds, families, communities, cultures, and structures of social inequality.

The reality is college students today are no longer 18 year-old high school graduates who attend full-time without the responsibility of work or family.  Most choose colleges based on accessibility—geographic, financial, and academic. Furthermore, this reliance on such a market-based instrument also seems to push the responsibility for identifying predatory institutions onto educational “consumers.”

The College Scorecard may provide some much needed transparency of information about postsecondary institutions; however, it continues to promulgate the misguided notion that education is a commodity and that it is available to all equally.

Creative Writing as a Path to Finding One’s Tribe

"It is nice to find your tribe, or actually, what happens is, your tribe finds you; and you are so happy." Quote by Lucille Clifton

Those of us who are writers and part of writing communities know well the truth in Clifton’s quote.

And in a recent article Kris Bigalk, director of creative writing at Normandale Community College, shines a light on how creative writing programs at community colleges can actually play a critical role in building that tribe for struggling students.

She describes how the student population at community colleges is often unique in its makeup because of the open-door nature of these institutions:

“The bottom line is that students attending community college usually have stressors or challenges in their lives that traditional college students do not typically face.”

But that is precisely why creative writing programs can offer powerful learning and community building experiences for these students. To prove the point, she offers many wonderful vignettes, like this one:

“For an entire semester, Sam came to class with amazingly complex poems. He said little, often staring at the floor or at his shoes when speaking or listening. His comments on peer’s poems, however, were sophisticated and helpful, though he rarely believed this was so. . . . Then, he entered a creative writing contest—and won. The next day, he was waiting for me at my office. “Do you think I could be a writer?” he asked. “I think you already are a writer,” I replied. After we sat down and talked awhile, he confided that as a student labeled as having a disability, he had always disliked school, and thought that his complex writing was a liability, not an asset. . . . But now that he had found something he was good at, he wanted to graduate with an AFA in creative writing. And he did just that.”

Bigalk describes the exponential growth of this program at her school over the past 15 years and offers concrete guidance on what’s needed to support AFA programs at other community colleges.

Check out the full text of her article Creative Writing at the Two-Year College: Creating Opportunity and Community in the current issue of Teaching English in the Two-Year College.