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College earns praise from Achieving the Dream coaches

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Faculty and staff members with Athens Technical College have done an “outstanding” job in outlining and implementing plans focused on student success at the college, two Achieving the Dream coaches told a team of college officials this week.

Achieving the Dream is a national network created to help community colleges reform their approaches to education in order to improve student success and completion. The initiative is designed particularly to help low-income students and students of color stay in college and earn a college certificate, diploma or degree. By creating more students with college credentials, Achieving the Dream and its participating community colleges are helping build a highly skilled workforce for their states and the nation.

Achieving the Dream invited Athens Technical College to join the network in 2011, and the college was Georgia’s to do so. The college undertook a comprehensive analysis — both quantitatively and qualitatively — of its strengths, areas of concern, and achievement gaps and began designing an improvement plan based on findings from that study. The model fits in nicely with the college's strategic plan and Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a required element of the reaccreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

David Hartleb, leadership coach with Achieving the Dream, and Jan Lyddon, data coach with the national organization, met Monday and Tuesday, November 11 and 12, with members of the Athens Technical College core and data teams to discuss progress on their Achieving the Dream efforts.

The coaches told the team that it was obvious they are committed to nurturing student success at the college.

“We are very impressed with the data you’ve compiled and the work you have accomplished,” Dr. Hartleb said.

“Your desire to continue improving, to ask questions about your data such as why and how you can do better is very impressive,” Dr. Lyddon said.

Team members reviewed the research and data related to Priority 1: to transform developmental education. They discussed the college Learning Support classes, and they presented information on the redesign of developmental courses such as the Fast Pass for College Success class and learning support Math. They also discussed plans for acquiring National Association of Developmental Education certification.

Other plans they shared with the coaches involved initiatives for Priority 2: develop a strategic student engagement model to increase retention and graduation rates.  Team members highlighted efforts to modify orientation for new students and expand online orientation by adding testimonials from students; to develop a first-year experience course; to modify the college Early Alert program; to train faculty about how to use Early Alert effectively; and to provide students with access to DegreeWorks.

Representatives from the team also gave a presentation on the college QEP, which is designed to improve the first-year experience of students by providing a better foundation for academic and career success. The QEP includes the creation of a First-Semester Seminar (FSSE) course and a Student Success Professional Development program that would offer certification for faculty and staff and would help enhance the culture of success at the college. The FSSE will cover a variety of topics crucial to student success, including time management, critical thinking, communication skills, study strategies, education and career planning, and Athens Technical College resources.

 The Student Success Certificate program for all Athens Technical College faculty and staff  is being designed to help all college employees help and encourage success in students and is a very unique concept that would interest many other colleges, the coaches said.

The coaches also praised the comprehensive scope of the research and planning the college team has developed to affect everyone at the college.

“The desire for student success is woven into all your efforts,” Dr. Lyddon said. “But you’re not only looking at changing student outcomes, you are looking at a change in yourselves as well.”


Photo caption: Achieving the Dream coaches, Dr. David Hartleb, left, and Dr. Jan Lyddon.