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External Evaluations and Technical Assistance


Washington State Student Achievement Initiative Policy Study: Final Report
December 2012
This report, jointly produced by IHELP and the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University, analyzes the impact of the Washington State Student Achievement Initiative (SAI) on college efforts to improve student outcomes and on student outcomes. SAI, a policy adopted by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, draws on intermediate measures of student progress to reward colleges for improvements in student achievement. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this three-year evaluation includes both data analysis and extensive interviewing of faculty and staff and is intended in part to draw lessons for leaders in other states who are considering adopting performance incentive policies for community colleges. Report findings include that SAI is viewed by the colleges as one force among others pushing them to improve student success, and its intermediate milestone framework as helpful in focusing collective efforts on student progression and in publicly accounting for college performance. The funding mechanism has proved unpopular, however, as SAI funding has come from reallocated base funds rather than as additional funds as originally intended. While larger colleges earn more awards than smaller colleges, there is little evidence that colleges serving more at-risk, low-income students are penalized by the SAI awards method. Consistent with the SAI’s goals, the basic skills metric appears to have encouraged enrollment from traditionally underserved groups.

On Balance: Lessons in Effective Coordination from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges – An Organizational Perspective
July 2012
This report examines the importance of effective coordination of postsecondary education in boosting educational attainment and economic competitiveness. This report is a case study of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), and analyzes the key strategies and conditions that have led to the effectiveness of the Board as a coordinating agency over locally governed colleges. The study, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that three sets of factors -- state political and economic context, institutional design, and organization and leadership strategies -- explain the success of the Board. The report includes a self-assessment instrument intended for use by other states that seek to improve the effectiveness of their own postsecondary education coordination to better serve students and meet state needs. Click here for the self-assessment instrument.

Beyond the Rhetoric: Improving College Readiness Through Coherent State Policy
June 2010
This policy brief, jointly produced by the Southern Regional Education Board and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, examines the college readiness problem and offers recommendations to help government and educational leaders strengthen their efforts to lessen the college readiness gap. IHELP Director Nancy Shulock participated in the workgroup that produced the report, which analyzes the causes of the college readiness gap and discusses how states could better address the problem. The brief recommends specific policy changes and offers state leaders a model college readiness agenda consisting of state-wide college readiness standards developed and adopted jointly by P-12 and postsecondary education. It describes assessment, placement, curricular, teacher development, and accountability practices carefully designed to reflect and implement the standards.

Strategies for Improving Higher Education in California: Some Lessons from Florida for California's Higher Education Policy
March 2010
This policy brief, sponsored by the Campaign for College Opportunity, examines the public higher education policies and practices of the state of Florida in order to determine possible lessons for California in its efforts to increase student success and degree completion. Florida was chosen for evaluation due to its large and diverse higher education system, the importance of community colleges in its higher education system, and its participation in national projects and education reform efforts. While Florida still faces significant challenges, some of the state’s policy approaches for public higher education warrant consideration in California’s quest for improvement, specifically the comprehensive student data system, policies related to student transfer from community colleges, statewide Career Technical Education program standards, and standardized policies for assessment, placement and remediation.

States, Schools, and Colleges - Policies to Improve Student Readiness for College and Strengthen Coordination Between Schools and Colleges
November 2009
This recent report published by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education draws attention to the need for better coordination and cooperation between K-12 and postsecondary education in order to improve college readiness and college completion in the nation.  Part I of the report provides an historical and national overview of the P-16 alignment challenge and efforts to increase the college readiness of high school graduates.  Part II, written by IHELP director Nancy Shulock, examines, through three state case studies, the effectiveness of P-16/P-20 councils as mechanisms to bridge the divide between high schools and colleges and increase college readiness and success.

Student Flow Analysis: CSU Student Progress Toward Graduation
September 2009
The above is a linked excerpt of the report to the California State University as part of its one-year planning grant from the Lumina Foundation’s Making Opportunity Affordable project. The report studies the 23-campus system’s efforts to improve graduation rates, analyzes systemwide data on student progress toward degrees, and makes recommendations for future steps. IHELP researchers drew on their previous work on student success in Steps to Success in order to use the “milestone” framework to analyze student patterns of progress toward completion.

Community College Student Outcomes: Limitations of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Recommendations for Improvement.
August 2009
This report on the IPEDS analyzes the value and effectiveness of the system for understanding student outcomes in community colleges. The report discusses the system’s shortcomings such as the limitation of the graduation rate data to full-time students, the difficulty in discerning student intent in order to report on the appropriate outcomes, and the limitations for using the data to make comparisons across colleges. Recommendations are made for improving the data collected and for better use of the data.

Draft Case Studies on P-16/P-20 Councils:
Arizona Case Study
Kentucky Case Study
Rhode Island Case Study
Cross-State Analysis

April, 2009
These papers examine the experiences of several states that have used P-16 /P-20 Councils as a means of bridging the governance divide between K-12 and postsecondary education.

California Community Colleges' Leadership Challenge: A View From the Field
April, 2002
This report discusses the growing leadership challenge in the California Community Colleges, based on interviews with current administrators, trustees, and faculty leaders.

Envisioning a State of Learning: Conference Summary and Observations on the California Master Plan for Higher Education
November, 2003
These Proceedings of the 14th annual Envisioning California Conference were edited by Nancy Shulock, and includes her chapter summarizing lessons of the conference.