Having had about a week to review notes and consolidate ideas from our SACS leadership team, I thought it would be of some value to expand on the brief statement that I previously shared about the SACSCOC Visiting Team exit interview.
I must begin with how complimentary the visiting team was about the hospitality they enjoyed here. They commented often about the grounds and facilities and how impressed they were with the college. Dr. Trina Boteler of Chattahoochee Technical College, the team chair, shared how much they appreciated the openness and helpfulness of everyone at the college. From personalized airport pick-up by college employees to 24/7 IT support at the hotel, our preparations were unmatched.
Prior to the SACSCOC Visiting Team’s arrival, the college had originally received 22 recommendations from the off-site team on our Compliance Certification. In response to these recommendations, the college then submitted a Focused Report for the visiting team. After two intensive days of meetings and interviews, the team gave just eight recommendations on the SACSCOC Comprehensive Standards (CS) with none at all on the Federal and the Core Requirements.
In addition to the CS recommendations, the visiting team brought four items relating to the college’s QEP to our attention. The QEP was reviewed for the first time by the on-site committee along with our chosen QEP evaluator, Dr. Karen Agee from the University of Northern Iowa.
Most important, our QEP topic met the Core Requirement and was accepted. To complete the QEP evaluation process, we will make changes to address the four items. Two of these are relatively simple fixes. One focuses on revising the QEP budget to reflect all the relevant expenses for the QEP. In short, the QEP budget must reflect any expense related to the QEP even if the funds already reside within departmental budgets. For example, marketing and some support and services for the QEP were not fully captured in the QEP’s proposed budget.
We also received a recommendation to expand the QEP implementation committee to reflect roles and needs which will change from that of the current committee’s emphasis. Similarly, we need clearly to show how we will integrate the QEP into the broader college goals, including our Brookhaven College 2018 plan currently underway.
The final recommendation was tied to narrowing the overall focus and scope of the QEP, developing assessments that measure changes in knowledge, skills, values and behavior through student learning outcomes based clearly in the QEP goals. The committee recognized that while it is worthwhile to examine student reading on multiple levels, the broad nature of “improving reading” could pose an assessment challenge.
As for the other Compliance-related CS recommendations, we knew it was likely we would receive some related to institutional effectiveness. Four of the eight fall into this category. We need to continue to add to and clarify our measurements and application of data in planning for the educational programs, administrative services, educational support services, (student services) and community public service units. The on-site team recognized the strides we have taken as a college toward improving our planning, measurement, assessment and goal setting for institutional effectiveness and continuous improvement, but they observed that we are not where we need to be. We will continue to refine our metrics, data collection and analysis and our use of results to ensure compliance for the long term.
On a related standard, the visiting team stated that they “could not definitively determine the extent to which we assessed general education competencies.” We have been working diligently in this area and will continue to clarify and expand our assessment efforts. Some areas were noted as doing a solid job of gathering data and using assessment for program and course level improvements. However, the visiting team determined that improvement is needed in how we define student learning outcomes and their associated measures, the frequency of our assessment and the ways in which we close the loop toward program improvement.
The remaining Comprehensive Standard recommendations have ties to the district. The first is related to intellectual property where the current policy was seen as perhaps unintentionally limiting the rights of students as students, as opposed to students acting as employees. We are confident a policy clarification and revision can remedy this. There is plenty of time for the approval process too.
The other two recommendations focus on the relationship between college and system operations. This interrelationship raised questions from the off-site teams throughout the seven DCCCD colleges. In short, the on-site committee asked for clarification about how many district and college functions and departments with overlapping interests operated with respect to one another. The definition and details of these could impact the college’s autonomy as an independently accredited institution. Responding to these observations and questions provides a well-timed and essential opportunity for the college and district to define and review our reciprocal relationship.
Soon we will receive a draft of the full formal report of the SACSCOC on-site visiting committee and have the opportunity to fact-check it before it is presented as the final report. This report will contain more detail about the committee recommendations. Our response will be included with the committee reports for the SACSCOC Board of Trustees’ final review and re-affirmation vote at their June 2013 meeting.
Yes, there remains important work ahead. Yes, many of you may be called upon again to supply information, insight and expertise. Yes, Brookhaven College is up to the challenge and will finish strong. I will continue to keep you informed of our progress and remain grateful for your participation and support for the process and each other.