HLC Self Study
Chapter 8 Graphic

Underprepared Student Populations

National education trends indicate that only 70 percent of students graduate from public high schools. Two-thirds of these graduates are unprepared for college. Half of Maricopa County’s high school graduates entering Arizona universities or colleges are required to take a remedial math course, and a quarter of high school graduates have to take a remedial English course. Of the more than 18 million U.S. college students, 3.9 million were enrolled in at least one remedial college course in fall 2007. This is an increase of 13 percent from 2006.

At Estrella Mountain, 44 percent of incoming fall 2010 students tested into developmental courses.  As a result, the College has increased its commitment to underprepared student achievement. Many college initiatives have been discussed in different areas of Chapter 6: Criterion 3.  However, collectively it is relevant to outline the institutional efforts as follows.

  • Developmental Education Professional Learning Community: Administrators, faculty (teaching developmental courses) and staff who research best practices, participate in District meetings and communicate efforts with the College
  • Modularized developmental math courses
  • Integrated learning communities embedding study skills and college resources into developmental education courses
  • Title V Grant focus on programs and initiatives to service underprepared students
  • Peer mentor program focus on working with and supporting underprepared students
  • Student Success Pilot Program/I Start Smart’s mandatory enrollment steps and advisement into a college success course
  • Elimination of late registration
  • Diversity in delivery options in developmental education course offerings: five-week, eight-week, 10-week, hybrid and online courses
  • Reading and developmental English courses have been moved to the divisions housing 100 level courses and above in the respective disciplines, with the goal of improving student preparedness and transition into college-level courses
  • Increase student support efforts (e.g., tutoring, Starfish, NASA, and My Math Lab) to improve student success in developmental education courses

President’s Community Advisory Council

To strengthen community relationships, Estrella Mountain established a President’s Community Advisory Council comprised of key community, business and education partners. Through bi-annual meetings, college leadership works with West Valley community members to gain insight and counsel regarding trends, educational opportunities, strategic directions, and collaborative program efforts. The Community Advisory Council provides a forum for community members to become personally involved with and connected to the College. Through the publication of an Annual Report, the College communicates to members the experiences of Estrella Mountain students, the College’s institutional directions and priorities and its progress toward becoming a comprehensive Learning College.

As a result of a request from the President’s Community Advisory Committee, as well as input gathered from a student forum, Estrella Mountain implemented an Athletics program in 2010 to provide another engagement opportunity for students and the community.

Student Forums

At Estrella Mountain, communication with students is ongoing and dynamic. In order to obtain candid and relevant feedback from students, student forums are held throughout the academic year. These forums are designed to give students an open platform to express concerns, opinions and ideas about various issues affecting them. Facilitated by student leaders, topics have included financial aid, advisement/transfer, tuition increases, administrative updates, accreditation, and college master planning. The forums also allow for the free flow of communication between administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Over 200 students attended student forums during the 2010-2011 academic year. Outcomes from student forums have resulted in the creation of a college mascot, implementation of an Athletics program and the inclusion of independent study rooms in the construction of Mariposa Hall.

Learning College Inventory

In spring 2008, Estrella Mountain commissioned the League for Innovation in the Community College to conduct a learning college assessment to help gauge the College’s perceptions of itself as a Learning College.   As previously describe in Chapter 4: Criterion 1, the comprehensive assessment involved a review of major college documents to provide background on the College and its connection to the Learning College movement; meetings with 17 different focus groups, representing various employee groups across the College; as well as the administration of a survey to all employees. The data collected were compiled and results presented to the College in a Learning College Inventory report.

Results of the survey were used to identify strategies for strengthening and intensifying the focus on learning across the Institution.

The report indicated that Estrella Mountain was well positioned to transition to a Learning College. Several fundamental elements were already in place:

  • Leadership and support at many levels, including commitment from college leaders to advance this effort
  • Many services available to support student success
  • Many opportunities for employee professional development
  • Technology infrastructure and physical space to support learning

The report also indicated several areas of improvement, including the need to further strengthen the institutional focus on learning. This report served as the catalyst for the re-evaluation of all college programs, policies and practices to place learning at the core. Results have included:

  • The adoption of new vision, mission and core value statements that reflect learning as the primary goal of the Institution
  • New strategic directions and institutional priorities that align with the five learning college objectives of underprepared students, learning outcomes, organizational culture, technology, and employee recognition and recruitment
  • Core indicators of effectiveness and student learning outcomes linked to each of the Estrella Mountain strategic directions
  • Revision of the Program Review process to include a greater focus on learning
  • The creation of a Learning College Web page and yearbook to document efforts

Defining Us: The Learning First Tour and Learning College Yearbook

During the 2010-2011 academic year, the campus community was invited to participate in “Defining Us: The Learning First Tour.” Structured as hour-long workshops, the employee-driven tour provided a forum for all Estrella Mountain staff to learn about the Institution’s Learning College Journey and come together to discuss how they contribute to learning individually and collaboratively. Defining Us: The Learning College Yearbook 2010-2011 was published in May 2011. The yearbook documents Estrella Mountain’s Learning College Principles, captures highlights from tour discussions that explored how employees put learning first in their daily activities and responsibilities, highlights the story of the Estrella Mountain Learning College Journey, and documents the Institution’s Mission, Vision, Core Values and Strategic Directions. Distributed to all employees, the Learning College Yearbook provides an in-depth look at how college faculty and staff play a integral role in the learning process.