In early September, PCC received a letter from the Accrediting Commission of Community Junior Colleges (ACCJC) stating that the college had been placed on enhanced monitoring because of it’s poor record of documenting student learning success.
Student learning outcomes (SLO) are statements made by each faculty member that identifies what students will learn and be able to demonstrate after they complete their course. The outcomes of those should be expressed through their knowledge and/or skills of what they learned in that specific class.
ACCJC determined that only 57 percent of PCC’s SLOs were assessed. Out of 117 schools, PCC was one of only 15 schools that received the notice.
“The reaction to everyone that I talked to directly and the indirect censoring action is pretty much that it’s a wake-up call,” said Robert Bell, assistant superintendent of academic and student affairs. “It’s a wake-up call when you’re put on probation. Then when you realize that there aren’t many other schools in the 117 campus system that have similar numbers of assessment, the wake up call is we need to team together and figure out how to get it done.”
Though the school was already placed on probation by ACCJC, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Accreditation Liaison Officer Kathy Scott believes the problem is easily resolvable.
“A number of colleges got the letter of enhanced monitoring,” said Scott, who serves as the school’s accreditation liaison officer. “Even colleges that weren’t on sanction with ACCJC. They’re just looking for us to improve by the next time we turn in our report, which would be March.”
SLOs are a requirement of ACCJC and it is the responsibility of each faculty member to develop those outcomes for their class and indicate whether their students have met those outcomes, which can be through a final project or test. It is then the faculty member’s task to assess those SLOs and submit their results into a system called WebCMS.
WebCMS is an online system that is similar to a spreadsheet allowing the accrediting team to log in and look over the results for each class.
“We haven’t been documenting that assessment and that’s key,” Bell said.
According to Scott, the countless student services available throughout the campus such as tutoring, counseling, the Pathways program are continually helping students achieve academic success and recently being ranked number one in awarding associate degrees shows that students are in fact succeeding.
“It really is an issue of compliance and making sure that we have all the paperwork and making sure everything gets in the system,” Scott said. “Just because the paperwork isn’t done properly doesn’t mean that faculty aren’t assessing and making sure that their students are continually improving.”
The school updated their computer system two years ago and many on campus experienced issues with it.
“The school hasn’t had the best process in terms of getting the information into the system,” Bell said. “We need to find an easier way for faculty to do that.”
Aside from faculty not being able to easily input their assessments, Academic Senate representative and social sciences instructor Kaitzer Puglia feels the overall SLO assessment, structure, communication and message has been inconsistent.
“The information needs to be structurally consistent and faculty need a lot of lead time to complete the SLOs, as well as an understanding for what the end goal is supposed to be,” Puglia said.
Paul Jarrell, the dean of instructional support, is leading the learning assessment committee alongside SLO coordinator Melissa Anderson, who will act as the chair of the faculty committee.
According to Jarrell, the committee was formed to “reinvigorate the process, make it a little more streamlined and a little bit more accessible.
“As well as, do a better job of indicating to faculty the why’s, the where’s, the how’s of doing SLO’s,” he said.
Currently, the committee has between six to eight faculty members who are working to redesign the process of assessment so that it fits better with the integrated planning model.
“We want to be able to have the student learning outcomes data feed into our program review process and the program review process was one thing we were cited for in the accreditation report,” Jarrell said. “The integrated planning involves program review. To make sure that we automate all this so processes feed and data feeds from one end to the other is very important in the long run.”
The accreditation standards require that data be broken into various groups such as by gender and ethnicity as a way to try to identify achievement gaps. That can be “very cumbersome to do it it’s outside of some kind of software system that ties into the database that has that information regarding students,” Jarrell said.
“This semester we’re going to allow faculty to submit it in a paper form so they don’t have to struggle with a piece of software that they don’t feel comfortable using,” Scott added. “Ultimately though we want to move to more of an automated system because it’s going to be difficult for us to continually do this on a paper system.”
Even though Scott and Jarrell are confident that this issue will be resolved and will not affect our accreditation, some on campus are still in high alert due to being on probation.
“This isn’t a question about whether we want to do it, we know we have to and now we just have to make the commitment to getting it done,” Bell said.
The school is required to report to ACCJC on SLOs every year and the next report will be submitted next March.