Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success

By Shane, Cherise | Community College Enterprise, Spring 2017 | Go to article overview

Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success


Shane, Cherise, Community College Enterprise


Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success

Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Davis Jenkins

Harvard University Press. $35 (USD)

If you are anything like me, you took your position at a community college with a passionate zest and pedagogy to teach students with diverse educational, socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, but without an astute awareness of the structure of community colleges. Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Davis Jenkins' Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success offers insight about community colleges' initial structure and the requisite for its change; hence, the title's use of the vital words "redesigning" and "clearer." Redesigning ... is a must tead for anyone invested in refining his/her role as it contributes to the current mosaic, discourse, and "pathway" of empowering students with adequate tools of success while attending and after graduating from community colleges.

The book is a practical, well-organized, enjoyable read without pretense, though the authofs' work is steeped in research. The scholars of this text ate a part of the Community College Research Center (CCRC) and theit work is the result of the American Association of Community Colleges Pathway Project (AACC) "[t]o promote the scale-up of promising practices," given the low matriculation rate: "fewer than four of every ten complete any type of degree or certificate within six years. The failure of students to complete college represents a loss to the overall economy, which has prompted calls from the federal government, major foundations, and public intellectuals for a significant increase in the number of people with postsecondary degrees." Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success shows the way to "improve student success at community colleges [. . . in response to . . .] little evidence that the nation is moving toward a widespread and significant improvement in the outcomes of community college students." Their findings are valuable, unveiling the real issues deteriorating the existing purpose for community colleges, which could easily be disregarded without intentional consideration of its consumers.

As a professor, I consider myself a reflective practitioner invested in improving my practice, so I really appreciate Redesigning['s ... ] "over sixty years" of "collective" study and its sincere efforts to refine community colleges' worth: ". . . achieving the aspirations of their students, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds [, and] improving educational equity and in efficiently developing skills and talents essential for a thriving economy and society." The authors argue that community colleges are not experiencing the success that is expected because they are structured based upon an antiquated system that is not applicable to current needs. It is not enough for some to consider the needs of its constituents but the entire structure must be redesigned with the goal of everyone working cooperatively to better serve the current and future students.

In the text, the writers often reference the "cafeteria model" in grave contrast to the "guided pathway model," indicating the former is ineffective and outdated because both the "underprepared" or even the finest of students are required to fend for themselves through an impossible myriad of overwhelming options that "most experienced advisors, let alone students themselves, [are not equipped] to understand and evaluate. …

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