HLC Self Study
Chapter 5 Graphic

Institutional Effectiveness

Estrella Mountain Community College demonstrates that its evaluation processes provide evidence that its performance meets its stated expectations for institutional effectiveness. The Estrella Mountain Office of Planning and Institutional Effectiveness coordinates all campus planning and continuous improvement processes. 

Estrella Mountain’s continuous improvement processes have been characterized by two general approaches over the last 15 years. The first approach, dating back to 1995, included the following standard components:

  • Core indicators of institutional effectiveness
  • Student outcome assessment
  • Traditional Program Review processes that were conducted as separate but related processes

The most recent approach that began in 2008-2009 was built on the principles of the original processes, but has integrated strategic planning as the core catalyst of change.

Historical Approach to Institutional Effectiveness

In fall 1995, Estrella Mountain Community College began work to develop a way to document institutional effectiveness.  An Institutional Effectiveness Advisory Team was created for the purpose of developing and implementing a plan for Institutional Effectiveness.  The team’s vision for Estrella Mountain was as follows: Institutional Effectiveness efforts set standards for the successful achievement of the College’s mission and goals, resulting in an exemplary system of continuous improvement. The following foundational principles were created and can be found in the historic plans for Institutional Effectiveness.

The Institutional Effectiveness effort will:

  • Be consistent with all Estrella Mountain core values
  • Be consistent with District mission and goals
  • Be an integral part of the Estrella Mountain strategic planning process
  • Convert the college mission and mission goals into measurable outcomes
  • Establish internal and external benchmarks to measure the College’s progress over time
  • Provide feedback related to student need
  • Function as a feasible, systematic and college-wide process for evaluation and measurement
  • Meet the requirements for public accountability
  • Rely on multiple measures
  • Allocate resources for appropriate administration of the plan

Estrella Mountain then developed an institutional effectiveness process that is based on the Community Colleges: Core Indicators of Effectiveness Model created by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).  The AACC Core Indicators of Effectiveness Model focuses on student progress and six common community college mission areas.  These mission areas were identified by a national Community College Roundtable (1994).  The following table illustrates the relationship between the AACC mission areas and Estrella Mountain’s mission and goals through 2008.

Figure 38

Like the AACC model, Estrella Mountain has core indicators and measures for each mission goal.  Over time, Estrella Mountain has created its own model that includes core indicators recommended by the Community College Roundtable and unique indicators identified by Estrella Mountain stakeholders.

Institutional Effectiveness Plan

As part of the College’s Institutional Effectiveness process, Key Stakeholder Improvement Teams were formed around each mission area. These teams included staff and faculty who were responsible for delivering service for specific components of the mission (e.g., Transfer Education) and those who receive benefit (e.g., students and community members).  A key stakeholder interview process was used with these teams to review data in detail, identify strengths and opportunities for improvement, identify improvement strategies, and solicit volunteers to implement the strategies. 

The Estrella Mountain Institutional Effectiveness Model was created to provide a visual representation of the core indicators and measures, and the stakeholders who deliver on, and those who benefit from, the specific mission categories.

Figure 39

While Estrella Mountain’s institutional effectiveness and improvement process served the College well for more than a decade, there were challenges. The institutional effectiveness process and other college assessments such as Program Review were only informally linked to planning and budget processes. While there had always been a strong intent that these processes would directly impact all forms of planning, and some attempts to integrate these approaches in the past were executed, full integration was not achieved. Data from institutional effectiveness measures were shared and discussed at the annual strategic planning meetings; however, there were no formal requirements to document these linkages explicitly in the planning process.  Additionally, occupational Program Reviews were being conducted, but it was unclear if the recommendations from the Program Reviews were being addressed in the annual update of Division Plans. 

Systemic Changes to Planning

As a result, systemic changes were made to college planning processes to address long-standing challenges. During 2008-2010, one of the major changes occurred with the formal linkage between Institutional outcomes data (e.g., core indicators of effectiveness, student academic achievement and unique institutional outcomes) and the Strategic Plan of the College as outlined in Figure 40.

Figure 40

Now progress toward institutional outcomes is updated each year and regularly reviewed by Leadership Council and the Strategic Implementation Teams. In addition, instead of having separate strategic planning and institutional effectiveness stakeholder teams, the review of institutional effectiveness data is now conducted by Leadership Council and the Strategic Plan Implementation Teams. Program Review processes have been institutionalized and now align with the strategic directions. Finally, increased accountability has been added to the planning and improvement process by making public the lead administrators and employees (faculty and staff) who are responsible for coordinating the implementation of each strategic direction. Each team is required to make progress reports to Leadership Council each year.

In fall 2011, the Estrella Mountain Community College Institutional Effectiveness Model was updated to reflect the newly adopted mission goals, which now include global engagement and civic responsibility.

Figure 41