Recommendation 7 – Accountability

Implement policies and practices that promote rigor and accountability

Implement policies and practices that promote rigor, transparency, and accountability for results in community colleges.

To promote rigor and accountability, community colleges nationwide should implement the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) and improve measurement of student learning and employment-related outcomes.

At the same time, states should implement statewide data systems so colleges can track students on their educational and career pathways. Statewide data systems also will help education leaders demonstrate the employment- and wage-related results of a community college education.

How Can Colleges Do This Work?

Advice to colleges focuses on two actions:

  • Implement the VFA. Indicate publicly the college’s commitment to and implementation of the VFA.
  • Develop and use common indicators of student success. Work with states, funders, and national associations to develop a concise set of consistently defined indicators of student progress and success.

At the same time, to build and strengthen the college-level work, the following actions should happen at the national level:

  • Develop the VFA’s workforce metrics to incorporate labor and wage data that reflect outcomes of community college education. This work should include developing standard data definitions and collection methods so data can be useful nationally and incorporated into state systems.
  • Continue work to strengthen ways of reporting student learning outcomes as part of the VFA. It is important to colleges and the public to ensure that increased numbers of postsecondary credentials represent high-quality learning outcomes.
  • Encourage colleges nationwide to adopt the VFA, and promote statewide participation. By 2015, at least 50% of community colleges should adopt the VFA and/or colleges using the framework should account for at least 50% of community college enrollments. By 2018, 80% of AACC member colleges should adopt the VFA. By 2020, 100% of AACC member colleges should be using the tool.
  • Position the VFA as the standard for measuring community college performance. For example, work with the U.S. Department of Education to incorporate the VFA in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act; encourage entities including the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Achieving the Dream, and the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence to use the VFA metrics in their data collection and evaluations; and advocate use of the VFA to drive state performance funding and the design of state data systems.
  • Support colleges so they can use the VFA effectively. Build connections with the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, Association for Institutional Research, and other research organizations, and develop a technical support network for colleges with smaller institutional research offices.
  • Establish an annual evaluation of the VFA’s effectiveness. This assessment should address the percentage of colleges that have adopted the framework, the alignment of the VFA with other tools, user satisfaction, and website analytics.