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Community Colleges: Ensuring Student Success

**California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force. (2012, January). Advancing student success in California community colleges: The recommendations of the California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force. Sacramento, CA: California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. Available at

[Note: The priority reading is only the 2-page overview, not the full report.] The California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force, consisting of community college leaders, faculty, staff, researchers, and external stakeholders, sets forth 22 recommendations for the community college system aimed at raising completion rates, reducing achievement gaps, and meeting California’s labor market demands. The Task Force identified core priorities for the system to focus on, including developmental education, transfer preparation, and career technical training and degree attainment. The recommendations were endorsed by the California Community College Board of Governors and have been submitted to the state legislature.

Moore, C., & Shulock, N. (2011, August). Sense of direction: The importance of helping community college students select and enter a program of study. Sacramento, CA: Institute for High Education Leadership & Policy. Available at

This brief argues that community colleges must increase student access to well-defined programs of study in order to support student success. The authors demonstrate that community college students who complete a program of study (by passing nine college-level credits in one program area) are more likely to obtain a certificate or an associate’s degree, or to transfer to a university within six years. Furthermore, students who enter a program of study in their first year are more likely to be successful than those who enter later. The authors provide nine recommendations for colleges to promote entry and completion of programs of study, including providing “roadmaps” to help students understand course sequences and available options, increasing contextualized instruction to integrate basic skills into content courses, and ensuring that academic advising staff are trained to provide students with high-quality guidance on their academic options. 

Barnett, E., & Hughes, K. (2010, September). Issue brief: Community college and high school partnerships. New York: Community College Research Center. Available at\Websites\ccrc_tc_columbia_edu_documents\332_816.pdf&fid=332_816&aid=47&RID=816&pf=Publication.asp?UID=816

This brief, prepared for the White House Summit on Community College, discusses models of partnerships between community colleges and high schools designed to increase the likelihood that students will enroll in college, to raise the college-readiness of entering students, and to ease students' transition to college so that they are more likely to persist through completion. For each type of partnership, the authors discuss the partnership’s purpose, the population it serves, evidence of its success, and a real-world example. The brief concludes with policy and funding considerations for federal and state policymakers.

Venezia, A., Bracco, K. R., & Nodine, T. (2010). One-shot deal? Students’ perceptions of assessment and course placement in California’s community colleges. San Francisco, CA: WestEd. Available at

This study analyzes assessment and placement policies in the California community college system through focus groups with students, counselors, and matriculation officers. The authors found that a majority of students lacked information about community colleges and were not encouraged to take challenging courses while in high school. Students also felt unprepared for and were unaware of the stakes of placement assessments. Community colleges’ inconsistent policies and uneven enforcement of placement rules combined with students’ lack of clarity about the policies for re-testing and for challenging placement decisions led to frustration and diminished educational aspirations among students. The authors conclude with recommendations for the K–12 and community college systems to improve assessment and placement practices.

Scott-Clayton, J. (2011, January). The structure of student decision-making at community colleges. New York: Community College Research Center. Available at

This brief provides an overview of the kinds of decisions students face as they navigate community college (e.g., what course of study to pursue), the factors that affect how students make these decisions, and how these factors can often lead to adverse consequences. For instance, students may base their decisions on whatever information is easily available, not necessarily on what information would best address their questions about what courses to take or what program to study. The authors find strong evidence that students would benefit from more structured pathways and enhanced advising, and conclude with an overview of promising interventions that provide students with this additional support.

Hill, E. G. (2008, June). Back to basics: Improving college readiness of community college students. Sacramento, CA: Legislative Analyst’s Office. Available at ccc_readiness_0608.pdf

This report finds that a large percentage of students who enter the California community college system without sufficient reading, writing, and mathematics skills do not overcome these basic skills deficiencies during their community college experience. The author recommends several policy changes that could help identify the degree to which high school graduates are prepared for community college and could improve educational outcomes for community college students in need of basic skills.

**This document is considered a priority reading.