Eight TN community colleges selected for national Achieving the Dream Network, focused on success of all students

Eight Tennessee community colleges are among 20 institutions across the U.S. accepted into the 2018 class of the Achieving the Dream Network, strengthening their commitment to college access and the success of all students.

Achieving the Dream is a national reform movement for student success, created in 2004 to help community colleges close academic achievement gaps for low-income and minority students and assist all students achieve their goals of academic success and economic opportunity. Its founders include the Lumina Foundation, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, and the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin. It has grown into a national network of more than 220 community colleges.

Achieving the Dream’s new Tennessee members are:

  • Columbia State Community College
  • Dyersburg State Community College
  • Motlow State Community College
  • Nashville State Community College
  • Northeast State Community College
  • Pellissippi State Community College
  • Volunteer State Community College
  • Walters State Community College

Their selection increases to 12 the number of Tennessee Board of Regents colleges in the program. Jackson State and Roane State community colleges are concluding their third year, and Chattanooga State and Southwest Tennessee community colleges are finishing their second year.

TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings encouraged participation in ATD as part of the College System of Tennessee’s commitment to student success, closing academic achievement gaps and improving graduation rates.

“Our system shares the ATD vision of community colleges highly valued for preserving access and ensuring success for all students, especially low-income students and students of color.  We want to achieve that vision for Tennessee and we understand the value and benefits of collaboration, so it makes sense for us to establish a systemwide Achieving the Dream network,” Tydings said.

Before her appointment as TBR chancellor, Tydings led two colleges which she served as president into ATD membership: Athens Technical College in Georgia and Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee.

“Having led the first college in Georgia and one of the first in Tennessee into the program, I know the value of Achieving the Dream and I believe in its mission of achievement and equity, its data-driven approach and the results that can be achieved. I am pleased that eight of our community colleges and the system office have been selected to join Achieving the Dream’s 2018 cohort, bringing to 12 the number of `Dream’ colleges in our system,” she said.

Colleges work intensively in Achieving the Dream for three years, establishing ATD teams on their campuses who work closely with a leadership coach and a data coach assigned to them from ATD to help them set and achieve goals related to student success. In addition to the coaches, many of whom are retired college presidents, the ATD network provides colleges with a platform for scaling up evidence-based effective practices and policies, a set of peers to share knowledge, and other expert sources of innovation.

Small teams from the 20 new member colleges – including leaders of the eight Tennessee institutions – participated in an intensive three-day ATD Kickoff Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, in late June that set the stage for their work as ATD Network institutions. They were joined by five leaders from the College System office supporting the colleges’ work, including Vice Chancellor for Organizational Effectiveness Wendy Thompson, who is heading the initiative; Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Randy Schulte; Vice Chancellor for Student Success Heidi Leming; Chris Tingle, assistant vice chancellor for data strategy, and Josh Koller, research and assessment coordinator.

Much of the conference was devoted to organizing the colleges’ student success work for the year, including preparing for their on-campus launch in the fall. During the week, they received an in-depth orientation to ATD, including how to leverage the power of the national Network. The teams alternated between attending workshop sessions and meeting with their assigned leadership and data coaches – community college leaders who are carefully matched with each institution to provide personalized advice and guidance.

The conference also included an introduction to ATD’s capacity-building framework and self-assessment tool that enables colleges to pinpoint their strengths and areas for improvement across seven institutional capacities needed to facilitate change. The framework integrates and aligns efforts that the colleges have already implemented, such as guided pathways and developmental education redesign, and assesses their readiness for other large-scale change activities.

During the month leading up to the Kickoff Institute, the colleges worked on a student success inventory of activities already underway, compiled data for key performance indicators, read studies of major success initiatives, and participated in a data and analytics webinar.

Two of the Tennessee college presidents who attended the Kickoff Institute said they’re excited about their colleges' participation.

“I can think of no better way to embark on my first year as Nashville State’s president than by joining Achieving the Dream, said Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, who became president of Nashville State Community College June 1. “Our experiences with Achieving the Dream will provide the right framework to build on the strengths of Nashville State while solidifying a culture committed to systematically improving student success.  We are excited to begin this journey!”

Dyersburg State Community College President Karen Bowyer said, “The students, faculty and staff from Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC) will benefit from the opportunities offered by our participation in Achieving the Dream. It will help us continue to address and improve the success rates of minority and low-income students, thus closing the achievement gaps.

“At the Kickoff we had the opportunity to work with our Leadership and Data Coaches. Both have had extraordinary careers working in community colleges like ours. We are so fortunate to have them help us examine our data and determine new strategies to improve student success at DSCC,” Bowyer said.

ATD officials said the 2018 group is unique and among the largest in the organization’s 14-year history.

“The strength of local and regional economies, our ability to rebuild the middle class, and the possibility that a new generation will achieve their goals depends on community colleges,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream. “Colleges that join the ATD Network show an exceptional commitment to becoming the kind of institution that will lead the nation into the future.”

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.