COC named a 2021 Bellwether Award finalist

College of the Canyons

News release

College of the Canyons was one of 30 community colleges selected by the Bellwether College Consortium as a finalist for a 2021 Bellwether Award, which is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most competitive and prestigious recognitions for community colleges.

The college was among 10 other colleges nominated in the Instructional Programs and Services category for its submission entitled “Dismantling Barriers to Support Students: Placement Exams & Developmental Courses.”

“It is an immense honor to be selected by the nationally recognized Bellwether Award, which focuses on cutting-edge, trend-setting programs worthy of replication,” said COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook. “Our application highlights the college’s innovative approach to English and mathematics assessment and course sequence design that has resulted in increased student completion in transfer-level English and mathematics while greatly reducing equity gaps.”

Before 2012, only 10% of new students enrolled in college-level math, and 16% in college-level English, with the remainder taking developmental courses. With students required to complete as many as three developmental classes before qualifying for college-level math and English, they took much longer to graduate.

“Over the past seven years, we worked to reduce transfer-level completion in both disciplines by two semesters, which resulted in dramatically reducing equity gaps,” said Omar Torres, assistant superintendent/vice president of instruction at the college.

In addition, the college made substantial changes to its assessment process. Rather than relying on a standardized test to determine whether new students are ready to enroll in college-level math and English, the college now evaluates students’ high school courses and grades to help determine placement.  

All 30 Bellwether finalists will compete at the virtual 27th Annual Community College Futures Assembly on Jan. 25, 2021. One winner will be selected from each of the three categories by a panel of national experts.

Besides recognizing Bellwether winners and finalists, the Assembly operates as an independent national policy forum for key higher education leaders to work as a “think tank” in identifying serious issues facing community colleges.

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