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Building a Culture of Evidence in Community Colleges: Lessons from Exemplary Institutions

Lili Allen and Richard Kazis

Across the education sector, calls for accountability and results—and for greater transparency in the reporting of student outcomes—have been increasing. While this pressure began two decades ago in K-12 education, community colleges are now also paying closer attention to how they can and should use data on student outcomes to drive better results. Some creative and entrepreneurial community colleges are taking a hard look at how they can create and sustain an internal culture of evidence-based practice.

Building a Culture of Evidence in Community Colleges, prepared with funding from the MetLife Foundation, looks at four colleges that are national leaders in using institutional research strategically and for improvement: City College of San Francisco; Community College of Baltimore County; Indian River Community College; and LaGuardia Community College. All four of these leading colleges have received or been finalists for the MetLife Foundation Community College Excellence Award.

The pioneering efforts of these schools in the use of student data for identifying problems and potential solutions provide a rich source of expertise on what it takes to build an institution-wide culture of evidence-based decision making. They also illustrate how community colleges can make routine the use of data to identify strengths and weaknesses, pinpoint areas for improvement, and assess the impact on students of new programs and innovations. The experiences of these institutions also suggest changes in state and community college system policies that can enable significantly more institutions to follow their lead.