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CGCC helps students ‘achieve the dream’

With the importance of college success on the minds of many young people and their families, help toward completing those educational paths to employment will certainly be welcomed news. This initiative will help not only young students but also those returning later in life.

Columbia Gorge Community College was recently selected as one of 25 institutions in the country to be included into the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network — a non-governmental coalition working for improved student success.

As an Achieving the Dream (ATD) Institution, CGCC will analyze its own institutional strengths, problem areas and achievement gaps and lay out strategies to better ensure Gorge students succeed in their educational goals.

“Being an Achieving the Dream Institution takes courage, discipline, and a tenacious institution-wide commitment to student success and equity,” said Beverly Fletcher, senior director of ATD. “Columbia Gorge should be applauded for helping tackle one of society’s most daunting challenges: success for more college students.”

Using a five-step process and the help of ATD coaches, the college will implement programs and policies that are data-informed and that build on our commitment to student success,” said Dr. Frank K. Toda, CGCC president.

According to Toda, the college’s number-one priority is a commitment to improving student success.

“The success of each student means improved skills, better employability and economic growth for our communities and our nation as a whole,” he said.

In an effort to reach that goal, the college is undertaking four additional steps toward that success.

The second step for CGCC as an ATD institution is to more effectively collect and use student data in prioritizing decision-making and program planning. That includes identifying existing barriers to student success, and adopting strategies to overcome those barriers.

Using a recent college-wide survey process, Toda notes that students are providing a road map to improved success. That type of personal engagement is an integral part of the third step in the ATD process — engaging stakeholders in the institutions’ efforts to improve.

In addition to students, CGCC is engaging regional stakeholders to provide important feedback on the college’s efforts to improve students’ success and connections beyond the classroom.

To achieve the fourth step in this process, a core ATD team including students and staff is taking shape at CGCC and will begin to implement new strategies, evaluate their success and make improvements along the way.

“The first four ATD steps are designed to create a culture of continuous improvement in the forefront of our efforts as an institution,” said Toda. That ever-improving culture is the fifth step in ensuring increased student successes. This ties the process the college is currently undergoing as they move forward on the path toward independent accreditation.

In addition to the internal work of the college, one of the benefits of becoming an Achieving the Dream institution is the opportunity to learn from other successful educational institutions. CGCC will be receiving assistance from experienced practitioners in using data to identify problems, set priorities, and measure progress toward student success.

“The work of closing achievement gaps and improving student success is extremely difficult and critically important,” Fletcher said.

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Achieving the Dream is a national nonprofit organization leading a national, comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success.

The ATD network, including nearly 200 institutions, helps 3.75 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.

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