Achieving the Dream
What is Achieving the Dream?
Achieving the Dream (ATD) is a multiyear, national initiative to help community colleges provide all students with the best opportunity for successfully completing a college certificate or degree.
The initiative focuses on student groups who face the most significant barriers to success. ATD is committed to using student success data to help make decisions. For more information about the initiative, visit the national Achieving the Dream website.
NOVA joined ATD in 2007 and assembled a core team and campus teams. Through ATD, NOVA has been at the forefront of several initiatives, hosted several professional development events and presented at national conferences. In 2010, ATD designated NOVA as a Leader College for having “shown three years of sustained student success improvement.”
Achieving the Dream Initiatives
What is Achieving the Dream doing now?
Over the past few years, several ATD initiatives have shown to have positive effects on student retention and GPA. However, these initiatives are currently not mandated for new students to NOVA. Based on the past success of these programs as a way to improve student success, ATD is recommending six policy changes.
Mandate New Student Orientation and Student Orientation Advising and Registration Sessions for first-time-to-college students.
In Summer 2008, NOVA piloted components of a New Student Orientation (NSO). During summer 2009, this New Student Orientation was implemented across the College. This orientation is now provided in two parts: Student Orientation Advising and Registration (SOAR) and NSO.
Data collected over the past five years shows that students who attended SOAR and/or NSO were more likely to remain enrolled in the Spring and to have higher GPAs at the end of their first semester compared to all other first-time students who did not attend SOAR/NSO. The data can be seen below.
Based on the promising data on the impact of SOAR and NSO, ATD recommended that these programs be mandated for all first-time-to-college students. Click to review the data.
Mandate placement test for first-time-to-college students.
Students new to NOVA are asked to complete one or more placement tests. These include the Virginia Placement Test (VPT) for English and Mathematics. These tests are used to assess student competency at the time of entry to help students select courses based on where they stand. Many students do not take these tests upon starting at NOVA. ATD recommended that placement tests be mandatory for first-time students to ensure appropriate course placement.
Mandate enrollment in developmental courses during first semester, if placed.
In recent years, NOVA has adopted an NCAT emporium style developmental math redesign for all developmental math courses.
The redesigned developmental math courses have shown to be effective in improving student success in college-level math courses. Click here to review data.
Developmental English courses at NOVA are also being redesigned in collaboration with the Virginia Community College (VCCS). The redesigned courses started in Fall 2012.
Many students who are placing into developmental level math and English courses are not taking them when they start at NOVA and are putting off taking them until later. The result is that some students are taking classes for which they might not be prepared (e.g. a history course with no English prerequisite in which they may then struggle with the reading). As such, ATD recommended that if placed into them, first-time-to-college students be mandated to enroll in developmental courses at the start of their college career.
Enforce current policy on SDV 100 enrollment within first year for first-time-to-college students.
SDV 100 is NOVA’s Student Success course. This course has recently been redesigned.
Data suggests that students who complete the SDV course have higher GPAs and are more likely to return the following semester compared to students who did not take SDV. NOVA’s policy asks students to take the SDV course by the time they complete their 16-credit hour. However, this policy is not currently enforced. Based on the data suggesting the efficacy of the SDV course in improving student success and retention, ATD recommended that this policy be enforced. Click to review the data.
Mandate early advising for first-time-to-college students.
First-time-to-college students will receive comprehensive advising as part of NOVA’s GPS for Success.
Research at other institutions has found that students who register late persist at a lower rate and have lower GPAs than students who enroll early or on-time. Although this has not yet been studied at NOVA, it is expected that our institution would show similar results. Thus, ATD recommended elimination of late registration.
Town hall meetings were held at each campus to get faculty and staff input on the recommended policy changes. Now, a college-wide Student Success Taskforce is being formed and has been charged with the overall responsibility of implementing the six policy changes recommended by the ATD Team. This Student Success Taskforce will be comprised of NOVA staff and faculty with the necessary involvement, skills, and experience as well as a project manager to carry out the implementation of these policies.