Careers, Academic Support, Service-Learning, Community Service and related

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1 Award Title SmartStart: A Successful Transition Program for Underprepared Community College Students Awards Categories Careers, Academic Support, Service-Learning, Community Service and related Executive Summary The State of Academic Under-preparedness: -Fewer than half of all New York State students who graduated from high school in 2009 were prepared for college or careers, as measured by state Regents tests in English and math. --Smart Connection: SmartStart students require two or more remedial courses prior to the program. The Effect of Academic Preparation: -Success in remedial courses decreases the probability that a student will drop out of school and increases a student s probability of degree completion. --Smart Connection: By the end of the summer portion of the SmartStart Program, students have advanced their placement in at least two courses on average. The Long-Term Effects: Persistence and Graduation: -Persistence: Slightly more than half (52%) of first-time, full-time college students in public community colleges return for their second year. -Graduation: Only 28% of first-time, full-time associate degree-seeking community college students graduate with a certificate or an associate degree within three years. --Smart Connections: -Persistence: Over 70% of SmartStart students return for their second year (based on a 6-year and continuing longitudinal study at Dutchess Community College, 2011). -Graduation: 31% of SmartStart students graduate with a certificate or an associate degree within three years (DCC Longitudinal Study, 2011). Program Overview: SmartStart is a summer transition and year-long academic support program that improves first-time, full-time students academic skills and accelerates their progress towards graduation. Students are invited to participate based on placement test results that indicate the need to enroll in two or more pre-college level courses. After a rigorous four-week

2 summer program, students are given the opportunity to retake their placement tests, often improving course placement, resulting in accelerated progress towards graduation. The three-year graduation rate for SmartStart students exceeds local and national rates for today s entering community college freshmen. On-going support services, such as academic advisement, mentoring, tutoring in the Student Academic Success Center, and enrichment workshops, continue to augment a student s success well beyond the summer program. The Office of Academic Services and Testing coordinates SmartStart with assistance from many campus offices including: Academic Affairs, Admissions, Counseling and Career Services, Financial Aid, and the Writing Center. Dutchess Community College has presented on the success of SmartStart both regionally and nationally since its inception in Most recently, the New York College Learning Skills Association (NYCLSA) selected SmartStart as a 2011 Symposium presentation and featured SmartStart in the May 2011 Newsletter. The following link provides more information on the program: ml (We hope this link will soon have a student-produced video about the program and the success of SmartStart students.) Award Description Entering its 14th year, SmartStart, a program from the Office of Academic Services and Testing, continues to expand, improve and make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students. SmartStart began as a pilot pre-college program with 20 students in the summer of 1998 designed to improve the success of entering first-time, full-time community college students, who required multiple remedial courses. As an open enrollment institution, Dutchess Community College (DCC) developed SmartStart to fulfill its mission of providing not only access to but also success in higher education. As such, DCC covers all of the costs of SmartStart for students. In addition to providing access and success, part of the College Mission Statement includes a commitment to ensure that all students achieve their individual potential. Following suit, SmartStart is not only a pre-college summer program, but also a holistic support program that lasts throughout a student s first year of college and often longer. The program description that ensues will include the following components: holistic academic support, program growth and fulfillment of the College Mission. Holistic Academic Support SmartStart s summer component includes coursework in writing, reading, mathematics, college success skills and faculty-led tutorials. The courses are taught by adjunct faculty, who work collaboratively to improve instruction on an annual basis and maximize student learning. Completing the summer coursework earns students the opportunity to retake the College s placement test (DCC uses ACT s COMPASS placement test). Through retesting, almost 80% of students improve their scores and on average students advance beyond at least two remedial

3 courses. For example, 47% of students advanced to college-level writing (English 101) in SmartStart SmartStart s academic year component includes ongoing advising, mentoring and academic outreach. This ongoing student connection increases student engagement. According to SENSE (Survey of Entering Student Engagement) data from the Center for Community College Student Engagement less than a quarter of students (23%) say that a specific person was assigned to them so they could see that person each time they needed information or assistance during their first year; whereas, 100% of SmartStart students have a specific person assigned to them that they can see each time they need information or assistance. This continued academic support is completed through the following activities: three first-semester mentoring/advising meetings, tutoring, academic study skill workshops (e.g., note-taking and test preparation), enrichment programs (e.g., connections with local professionals and book clubs) and student reunions. The most recent additions to this support include peer mentoring and the completion of Graduation Plans of Study, which sequence courses with planned support, at the onset of a SmartStart student s college career. The Office of Academic Services identifies students who would benefit from increased contact through the use of the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI). The LASSI measures students in cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal areas; the multiple scales allow advisors/staff to identify student strengths and opportunities for growth. Students complete the LASSI at the beginning and closing of the summer program, which allows the Office to identify students who need the greatest outreach and to measure student development in the summer component. Program Growth In recent years, SmartStart has experienced tremendous growth and improvement. Over the program s first 11 years, it grew from one to three sections and from 20 to 57 students. However, from 2008 to 2011, the program has grown by 160% from 57 students to 146 students completing the program and registering for the following fall semester. The number of sections has grown from three to eight during the same time. The tremendous expansion of SmartStart has been facilitated by the Assistant Directors and Director in the Office, who share a commitment for student learning and success. The Office made intentional decisions to expand in sustainable ways. For example, families of students became more included as part of a student s support through a family night as an orientation requirement and as guests at the closing ceremony of the summer program. In addition, Academic Services secured an additional part-time, grant-funded employee to assist with the growth in student numbers. The support of numerous offices has also aided the growth. For example, the Office of Admissions assists in promoting SmartStart to local high school guidance counselors and collaborates in presentations to high school audiences on college readiness; the Office of Financial Aid presents to and assists with the early promotion of financial aid to SmartStart students. In addition, the Office of Academic Services coordinates placement testing, advising

4 for SmartStart students, and a majority of campus tutoring, so internal office partnerships allow SmartStart to maximize Office collegiality and form meaningful relationships with professional staff. A longitudinal study demonstrates how program success has accompanied the growth. The growth has only increased student success for many more students as the Assessment Data section indicates. Fulfillment of Dutchess Community College s Mission SmartStart assists Dutchess Community College in fulfilling its mission of providing an educational experience that meets the needs of students admitted in an open-enrollment environment and of expanding those students academic capabilities. Graduates from the SmartStart program and DCC tell the story of the program best. Schools that these one-time academically underprepared students have transferred to in the last two years include: Penn State University, Marist College, Iona College, Pace University, SUNY New Paltz, Mount Saint Mary s College, Mercy College, Florida Gulf Coast University, Massachusetts Liberal Arts College, and many more. Given the growing desire of students to transfer for a bachelor s degree, DCC leveraged the excellent outcomes of SmartStart and formed a strategic partnership with Marist College creating Bridges to Excellence (B2E). B2E commenced in the Fall 2011 semester with 22 students on pace to complete DCC in two years with automatic acceptance to Marist College. B2E is designed to facilitate transfer to and success at Marist College, by working with qualifying students throughout their two years at DCC. B2E students start in the SmartStart Program and are on track to complete their bachelor s degrees in four years over one year faster than the national average. References: Attewell, P., Lavin, D., Domina, T., & Levey, T. (2006). New evidence on college remediation. Journal of Higher Education ACT Institutional Data File, 2010 Assessment Data SmartStart has three primary objectives, which guide program decision-making and assessment: 1. Providing a successful transition from previous educational experiences (such as, high school or a GED program) to college

5 2. Supporting student persistence and increasing graduation rates 3. Fostering cognitive and psychosocial student development Academic Services evaluates these objectives annually through a longitudinal study of student success and through a review of the Summer Component. The longitudinal study commenced in 2005 when Dutchess Community College (DCC) received a five-year Federal Title III Grant to strengthen the institution, particularly to implement a Comprehensive Development Plan aimed to address the persistence and graduation rates of underprepared students. At the onset of the Title III Grant, the College s 3-year graduation rate for students requiring multiple remedial courses was 15 percent. One of the goals of the Title III Grant was to increase this rate through SmartStart. Beginning with the Title III Grant and still continuing past its end in 2009, the Office of Academic Services has completed an ongoing six-year longitudinal study of the success of SmartStart students. The assessment data that follows includes excerpts from both the longitudinal study and the SmartStart 2011 Summer Program Final Report. 1. Providing a successful transition from previous educational experiences (such as, high school or a GED program) to college The composite average second semester persistence rate of SmartStart students is 83.8% from 2006 to Comparatively, the overall DCC rate is 82.7% and the rate of students requiring multiple remedial courses and not participating in SmartStart or other DCC developmental education programs is 71.1%. In addition, the SmartStart second semester persistence rate has increased to as high as 90% in the last two years, which coincides with the program s expansion and addition of more psychosocial support components. A review of student surveys from the 2011 Summer Program Final Report produced the following information and comments: -94% of students rated the overall program very good or excellent out of the 135 students (96%) commented affirmatively when asked, How has the SMARTSTART Program prepared you for college? Select examples include: I'm more confident about the transition to college; After finishing SmartStart, I now have a new and improved attitude towards school; I love learning now; It gave me the push and confidence I need to go to school. I feel it was a great program; It helped me feel more comfortable in a college environment. 2. Supporting student persistence and increasing graduation rates SmartStart annually meets or exceeds its goal of supporting student persistence and sustaining students on a path toward graduation. The second year persistence rate composite average from 2006 to current is 70%; this rate peaked at 75% with the SmartStart 2009 cohort. As a point of comparison, students not in SmartStart, who are eligible for the program based on their multiple remedial course placements, have a composite average second year persistence rate of 52%.

6 The 31% three-year graduation rate of SmartStart students exceeds the DCC College average, the national community college average, and is 100% higher than the 15% rate of eligible, nonparticipants. Coupling SmartStart s growing success with expanded program size the program will begin to double the number of graduates it produces in each of the next three years. Simply, this means more students are achieving the mission of Dutchess Community College and changing their lives. In addition to the broad persistence and graduation rates, the following statistics indicate course placement changes achieved through the summer component in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Writing has achieved the most significant success in the last couple years, with 95% of students requiring a pre-college level English course before SmartStart began compared with only 53% at the end of the summer program. Most importantly in the Fall 2010 semester, 75% of SmartStart students who placed into ENG 101 in their first semester earned a C or better compared with 66% of the entire college population of first-time, full-time students. Some additional statistics follow: -Post-SmartStart test results indicate that the number of students placing into the lowest level of remedial English was cut in half from 40% to 19%. -Pre-SmartStart, 30% of students placed at the lowest Reading level compared to only 9% at the end of SmartStart. -Students placing at college-level in Reading increased from 17% before SmartStart to 33% after the summer program. -Post-SmartStart placement test results indicate a substantial decrease in the percentage of students placing into the lowest level of mathematics (pre-algebra) from 32% to 10%. 3. Fostering cognitive and psychosocial student development SmartStart uses the LASSI (Learning and Study Strategies Inventory) as an assessment of students' awareness about strategies related to cognitive and psychosocial components of learning. The focus is on both covert and overt thoughts, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that relate to successful learning. The LASSI is both diagnostic and prescriptive. Used as a pre- and post- measure to assess student growth, LASSI outcomes indicate that SmartStart improved students attitudes, behaviors and beliefs about their chances of college success. Post-SmartStart LASSI Scores indicate average increases from 15 to as much as 26 points for the ten unique scales. In all scale areas, SmartStart students average post-lassi scores exceeded the national average of college student results; whereas, before the program, average scores fell below national averages in all areas. Over the last 14 years, SmartStart has assisted the development of underprepared students entering Dutchess Community College. Through recent program growth, assessment and

7 enhancement, the SmartStart Program will continue to increase student success through carrying out the mission of DCC.

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