Achieving the Dream, a nationwide initiative dedicated to community college student success and completion, has recertified Temple College as an Achieving the Dream Leader College.

Leader College status recognizes the college’s commitment to improving student success and equity, and demonstrating measurable gains on important student success metrics over a three-year period. Only about 200 of the nation’s 1,200 community colleges have achieved Leader College status.

“Too many students leave community colleges without earning a certificate or degree, or without transferring to continue their studies,” said Temple College President Dr. Glenda O. Barron. “Consequently, they risk losing the opportunity to earn a livable wage. We are delighted to be recognized for our efforts to improve student success.”

The Achieving the Dream initiative was conceived of in 2004 by the Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations. It is based on the premise that to improve student success on a substantial scale, colleges must fundamentally change the way they operate. All Achieving the Dream institutions commit to a set of institutional change principles and receive expert coaching and technical assistance to establish an evidence-based, student-centered culture that is dedicated to closing achievement gaps and increasing student success. The initiative is particularly focused on helping low-income students and students of color complete their education and obtain credentials that are valued in the marketplace.

Temple College joined the Achieving the Dream initiative in 2009 and received the distinction of Leader College in 2012, the first year it was eligible to apply.

In its application to become recertified as a Leader College, the college highlighted two signature programs that were started as a result of its participation in the initiative – Continuous Orientation and Zero Week. Zero Week takes place the week before classes start and provides time for students to connect with important services such as financial aid, the bookstore, advising and counseling.

Continuous Orientation exposes students to the same important services throughout the semester by means of short “infomercials” that are facilitated by faculty members. Each session is placed online after the initial presentation.

Other recent initiatives include the purchase of a new data analytics software package that is specifically focused on student success. The software will enable the college to make timely, data-driven decisions as well as track strategic goals and benchmarks. For example, student services personnel will be able to retrieve, on demand, a complete picture of student performance that will allow them to react while there is still time. The software is expected to be fully functional by spring 2016. In addition to the software, the college has also hired two new student success coaches to ensure that students are prepared to progress through their coursework.

The college has also recently started a major new initiative to develop “academic maps” for each program of study. Such maps will help students navigate through the many pathways available and the multitude of steps that are needed to successfully transfer to baccalaureate institutions.

In its recertification application, the college also documented the success of initiatives it has already undertaken. For example, it noted that in the past three years, the number of students who successfully completed the developmental course requirements for math increased by almost 7 percent. Much of this can be attributed to the implementation of a program called New Mathways, which the college initiated with the help of the Dana Center at UT-Austin. The number of Temple College students who return for the next semester also increased by 3 percent over the past four years.

Leader Colleges are expected to serve as mentors to other institutions within the Achieving the Dream community. Since becoming a Leader College, Temple College has shared its Zero Week program with other schools as well as its experience with New Mathways. The college currently serves as a co-development partner with the Dana Center on the New Mathways project and is working on a regional initiative to develop seamless mathematics pathways between two-year and four-year schools.