AACC joins national “Achieving the Dream” initiative

Anne Arundel Community College has joined Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, a national commitment to student success and institutional improvement, aimed at identifying new strategies to improve student success, close achievement gaps and increase retention, persistence and completion rates.

AACC believes this new effort mirrors its own Student Success 2020 initiative, launched in December, and the college hopes that being part of Achieving the Dream will bring more attention to and community support for the college’s student success efforts through its connection to a high-profile, nationally recognized organization.

The Achieving the Dream organization also will expose the college to a range of strategies being employed by Achieving the Dream colleges and give it a stable, nationally recognized set of benchmarks to work toward, as well as enable an effective collaboration with Maryland’s other Achieving the Dream college, the Community College of Baltimore County, to work on statewide policy issues.

AACC will concentrate its efforts on these commitments:

• Helping all students identify meaningful educational goals
• Building systems and programs to track, monitor and support students’ progress in achieving their goals
• Involving faculty and staff in examining current practices to identify potential vulnerabilities and barriers to students’ completing their goals
• Making changes necessary to increase students’ success

AACC President Martha A. Smith, Ph.D., said the commitment is needed to move our students forward, to move the nation forward, with well-educated citizens and workers.

“This new initiative will continue our commitment to student success, to help more students be more successful. We will measure student success in terms of our students’ educational goal attainment with emphasis on the completion of degrees, certificates and other workforce credentials,” she said.

AACC already has programs that target students who are the first in their families to attend college, such as Student Achievement and Success Program, Adelanté and First 2 College. To support these projects and additional efforts, AACC will look for additional resources, including more scholarships, more mentors and advisers and more dedicated space for individual and collaborative learning.

“Student success is what we do here at Anne Arundel Community College,” Dr. Smith said. “There is absolutely nothing new about this commitment to student success. … Anne Arundel Community College is already doing a lot to ensure our students’ success and we will do even more to help all students achieve their educational goals.”

AACC is joining 25 other community colleges from around the country in becoming new members of Achieving the Dream. Conceived in 2004 by Lumina Foundation for Education and seven national partner organizations, Achieving the Dream is focused on creating a “culture of evidence” on community college campuses in which data collection and analysis drive efforts to identify problems that prevent students from succeeding – particularly low-income students and students of color – and develop programs to help them stay in school and receive a certificate or diploma. With these new institutions, Achieving the Dream’s network now includes more than 130 institutions in 24 states and the District of Columbia, reaching more than 1 million students.

“We’re very excited about these incoming institutions for a number of reasons,” said William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “Community colleges are at the forefront of the national college completion movement. To be successful requires a structured, committed focus on using data and evidence to make important decisions that will positively impact students, campuses and communities. Anne Arundel Community College has made a vital commitment that will provide benefits to students and the entire community for years to come.”

Each new college has made an initial two-year commitment to focus its efforts on closing performance gaps among student subgroups including students of color and low-income students. These colleges will not only learn from those that are already a part of Achieving the Dream, they will receive assistance from experienced practitioners in building a culture of evidence campus-wide, using data to identify problems, set priorities and measure progress toward increasing student success. The Achieving the Dream colleges make lasting changes in policies, programs and services that are integrated to support success for all students. 

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