Progress in the First Five Years: An Evaluation of Achieving the Dream Colleges in Washington State

Jenkins, Paul Davis; Wachen, John; Kerrigan, Monica Reid; Mayer, Alexander K.

In 2004, Lumina Foundation for Education launched an innovative national reform initiative, Achieving the Dream (ATD), with the purpose of increasing the persistence and completion rates of community college students, especially low-income students and students of color, through evidence-based institutional change. Originally consisting of 26 partner colleges in five states, today more than 150 colleges in 30 states and the District of Columbia participate in ATD, which in 2010 became a national nonprofit organization.This report examines six community and technical colleges in Washington State that joined the initiative in 2006 (“Round 3”) and were provided with grant funding from College Spark Washington and the services of a leadership coach and data coach to facilitate their ATD efforts. The report (1) describes the progress each college made in implementing ATD’s “culture of evidence” principles for institutional improvement; (2) examines strategies implemented by the colleges to improve student outcomes, comparing them to interventions developed by the 26 “Round 1” colleges that joined ATD in 2004; and (3) charts trends in student outcomes in the period before and after the Washington colleges joined the initiative. The report also examines lessons from the experiences of the Washington ATD colleges for other colleges seeking to improve student outcomes. This study was conducted during a period of both rapid enrollment growth and sharp cuts in state funding. Making systemic changes in practice in ways that the Washington ATD colleges have begun to do and in the other ways recommended in this report requires resources — resources for new and strengthened information systems, for professional development and training, and for coordination. The Washington colleges have shown that even during a period of dramatic cuts in funding, they have been willing to make major changes in practice. The fact that they have reallocated scarce resources toward practices that have the potential to be more effective illustrates their commitment to greater student success.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
April 2, 2014