Inspect what you expect

For those of us in the education field, summer evokes thoughts of slowing down and catching up on the projects that are lingering from the recently completed semester. But, the truth is that for most community college leaders, summer is just as busy as the rest of the year.

At the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), this summer is already a very busy and very exciting time. In addition to the work that we do on a daily basis, we have several projects underway, including the cooperative partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor to increase apprenticeships by 16,000 people in the coming years. We also are embarking on a new program to address the achievement gap in America with the AACC Unfinished Business Initiative.

In addition, we continue to work with many of you to implement AACC Pathways Project initiatives on campuses across the country. The AACC Pathways team and the partner organizations have transformed the way many of you design and implement programs, services and class schedules in order to provide clear academic and career pathways for students. This work was born in 2012 from the report and recommendations of the AACC 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.

This article comes from the June/July issue of AACC’s Community College Journal. Read the entire issue online.

Following up on that initiative, we are working to assess the initiatives implemented as a result of the recommendations from the 21st-Century Commission. In 2020, we will release a report that I consider to be our report card on the progress toward implementation of the commission’s recommendations.

As you recall, we were tasked by President Barack Obama to increase completion rates in order to ensure that America’s students could complete in a 21st-century workforce. This summer, we will dive into the data from the many efforts undertaken by our members to increase student success. From there, we will work to quantify your successes, illustrate the efficacy of programs and services implemented to increase student success and show where we need to focus any continuing efforts. It’s a heavy lift, as they say, but it is important to AACC and to the work that you do every day.

Keeping tabs

So, how do you ensure that all of these initiatives are on track? As leaders, we have implemented processes and policies that reflect continuous process evaluation for academic programs and services. But, what about the administrative or campus-wide efforts that may be process-driven or impact the business side of community college management? There is no doubt that all of these efforts impact student success. Facility planning and construction, for example, has a deep impact on current and future students. How do you measure that impact and determine if the initiative brings value to your organization?

Like a report card for a student or a review of student learning outcomes for an academic program, assessment and evaluation of processes and initiatives at all levels is important. As a leader, it helps to determine if and how your goals for the college will be met. As is it your job to articulate those goals and set the vision for the college, having a clear understanding of the work that is happening to make sure those goals are met is important.

Without a plan to track progress and tasks required to meet goals, you are not able to effectively determine the success or failure of any particular initiative. In other words, you can’t inspect what you expect (a saying that my team has heard many times). Inspecting what you’re expecting is simply a mindset to help you toward a constant process of assessment that provides you with the feedback and data needed to make sure your goals—and the goals of the organization—are being met in an effective, positive and efficient way.

If you inspect what you expect regularly, your report card won’t ever surprise you.

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.