Community College Leaders Address College Readiness

By Angel M. Royal

The nation’s top community college leaders gather in Arlington, Va., to outline strategies to better prepare students for the challenges of higher education.

If America’s community college leaders are truly going to move the needle on college completion, they need to do a better job of preparing entering students for the rigors and challenges of college-level work.

This was the focus of a joint dialogue hosted by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the National Superintendents Association (AASA) on Sept. 16 in Arlington, Va.

As part of the day-long event, some 35 community college CEOs, school superintendents, and federal education officials came together to identify effective, scalable partnerships between local K-12 schools and community colleges that have proven to increase student success. Organizers say the goal of the session was to highlight promising practices that could be replicated by communities across the country.

One such partnership is DirectConnect. Originated in Florida, the program establishes a pipeline between the Seminole County Public Schools, Seminole State College and the University of Central Florida. The program, which guarantees admission to the University of Central Florida for participating students who meet its requirements, ensures that students can earn their high school diploma, associate degree and baccalaureate degree without ever leaving the community. Read more about the other partnerships highlighted in the Community College Daily.

Participants also spent significant time discussing the importance of curriculum alignment between secondary and postsecondary schools, increased accountability across institutions and how to ensure that high school counselors understand the opportunities offered at community colleges.

Officials representing AACC and AASA resolved to spearhead collaborative efforts between K-12 schools and community college partners and attendees agreed to continue to advance the reform strategies outlined by AACC’s 21st Century Initiative.

Community college CEOs and leaders in attendance:

Ken Atwater, president, Hillsborough Community College (Florida)
Jim Catanzaro, president, Chattanooga State Community College (Tennessee)
Charlene Dukes, president, Prince Georges Community College (Maryland)
Ken Ender, president, William Rainey Harper College (Illinois)
Jim Henningsen, president, College of Central Florida
Steve Johnson, president, Sinclair Community College (Ohio)
Anne Kress, president, Monroe Community College (New York)
Ann McGee, president Seminole State College of Florida
Shirley Reed, president, South Texas College
Julie Schaid, associate dean, college readiness, school partnerships, Elgin Community College (Illinois)
John J. “Ski” Sygielski, President, Harrisburg Area Community College (Pennsylvania)

Also in attendance from the U.S. Department of Education: Mark Mitsui, deputy secretary for community colleges in the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education and Laura Thompson-Starks, senior policy advisor.

Looking for more ideas to ease the transition from K-12 schools to college? Don’t miss the strategies and practices outlined in Empowering Community Colleges to Build the Nation’s Future: An Implementation Guide.

Angel M. Royal

is chief of staff for the American Association of Community Colleges.

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