On Education: Turning high marks into high performance

Students go to college to earn high marks. Now Glendale Community College has a report card of its own.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office Tuesday released performance profiles for each of the system's 112 campuses, a new accountability feature known as the Student Success Scorecard.

Born out of the Student Success Task Force that was assembled in 2011 to modernize the mission of California community colleges, the scorecard details certificate and degree attainment, transfer rates and other data. The information was previously available, but in disparate reports that were difficult for the public to access.

The scorecard will help California educators determine best practices, aligning the community college system with President Barack Obama's call to add 5 million associate-degree holders to the American workforce by 2020, state education officials said.

"This new set of performance metrics makes the California Community Colleges the most transparent and accountable system of public education in the nation and is designed to help more students achieve their educational goals," California Community Colleges Chancellor Brian Harris said in a statement.

So how did Glendale Community College do?

The numbers vary dramatically between students classified as "college prepared" and "unprepared for college." Still, nearly 75% of all students tracked for six years through 2011-12 earned at least 30 units, which strongly correlates with completion and wage gain.

In what is categorized as "persistence," 73% of students enrolled for the first three consecutive terms. And 57.3% completed a degree, certificate or transfer goals, according to the scorecard.

The Chancellor's Office data system doesn't rank colleges, but please, let's not pretend like no one's looking.

The good news is that Glendale Community College topped statewide averages in all categories. The better news, perhaps, is that it also bested many of its peer institutions. Pasadena City College recorded a completion rate of 55%. Santa Monica College had a completion rate of 51%. Pierce College, the top-performing school in the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District, logged a 52% completion rate.

The release of the Student Success Scorecard came just one day after Glendale Community College announced the five finalists for its president/supt. position. The board of trustees, and the voters who elect them, should be using this data to fine-tune the decision on who should fill the top job.

While overall Glendale Community College's performance is good, it is disheartening to see the achievement gap that plagues some student subgroups. For example, while completion rates for Asian and white students were 69% and 63%, respectively, the completion rate was 37% among Latino students and 45% for black students.

I want a new president who can clearly articulate how to best serve those who have fallen behind their peers.

Moreover, Glendale Community College enrolls large numbers of immigrant and first-generation students. With the U.S. birth rate at replacement level and falling, these individuals will man our banks, police stations and research labs. Why not make Glendale the standard-bearer among community colleges for educating this population?

We want to see our students earn a 4.0 GPA. Let's give them the leadership and the environment necessary to achieve that goal.

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MEGAN O'NEIL is a former education reporter for Times Community News and current graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She may be reached at megan.oneil.06@gmail.com.

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