Patrick Henry Community College education award

Patrick Henry Community College education award (Image 1)
Patrick Henry Community College education award (Image 1)

MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) – Patrick Henry Community College is being recognized for improvements in education. They won the 7th annual Leah Meyer Austin Award given by Achieving the Dream. It includes $20,000.

Some of the achievements:

-gateway English completion rates have increased across all student groups.
-the achievement gap between African-American students and white students has closed by 10 percent.
-Developmental mathematics and English completion rates have increased across all student groups.

More from Patrick Henry Community College:

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) is the recipient of the seventh annual Leah Meyer Austin Award, given by Achieving the Dream (ATD) Inc., for dramatic improvements in student outcomes. Along with the award, PHCC also received $20,000 from ATD to support ongoing student success efforts.

A group of representatives from PHCC accepted the award on Feb. 17 at ATD’s DREAM 2015 conference in Baltimore, Md.

Dr. Greg Hodges, dean of academic success and college transfer at PHCC, said this award is the result of cooperative learning and the trainings the SCALE (Southern Center for Active Learning Excellence) Institute has completed since its inception in 2008.

“This really is an incredible award – it’s just about as big as it gets in the community college world,” he said. “Major community colleges across the nation, like Valencia Community College and El Paso Community College, have received this award, and now, PHCC is being recognized with them. It’s quite an honor.”

SCALE Institute was created by PHCC to allow internal facilitators to train Patrick Henry faculty as well as faculty from community colleges across the country, Hodges said. It also serves as the college’s outreach mission.

Here are PHCC’s exceptional student outcomes as listed by ATD since the college joined the organization more than a decade ago:
· Completion and transfer-within-three-years have more than doubled across all student groups, including low-income students and African-American students.
· Gateway English completion rates have increased across all student groups and nearly doubled for Pell recipients.
· The achievement gap between African-American students and white students has closed by 10 percentage points.
· Developmental mathematics and English completion rates have increased across all student groups.

Hodges said Carolyn Byrd, former dean of instructional support services at PHCC, was instrumental in developing strategies to improve cooperative learning.

“Our folks on campus were trained with these strategies,” Hodges said. “They brought them back here and expanded them over subsequent years, and then they began to explode internally on our campus changing the dynamic of instruction at our institution. It was Carolyn’s vision and leadership that really made this take off.”  

Cooperative learning was selected as a strategy for PHCC before its time thanks to Byrd, Hodges said.

“From the beginning, this has been a faculty-driven initiative,” Hodges said. “You don’t change the culture of the classroom with a top-down approach. You need faculty buy-in. It takes a tremendous amount of buy-in for this initiative to transform from a lecture-based approach to a cooperative base in the classroom.”

In 2012, PHCC was awarded the Catalyst Grant through ATD, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant targeted two things: improving instruction internally and then externally. Hodges said internal instruction involved implementing cooperative learning for distance learning and online courses, and externally, taking SCALE Institute trainings across the country to other ATD colleges.
“Over the last four years, faculty from 120 different community colleges nationwide have benefitted from our instruction,” Hodges said. “When we started the SCALE Institute, cooperative learning wasn’t done in higher education. Now, when looking at student success, all major initiatives across the country tap cooperative learning as a major strategy.”

Hodges said these strategies make students better employees and it also supports the community.

“Employers often ask for individuals who can think critically, work in teams and have problem solving skills,” he said. “There’s ample research that shows cooperative learning leads to significant gains in critical thinking.”  

PHCC President Angeline Godwin said, “We are honored to receive this recognition from Achieving the Dream. Our college is committed to the transformative power of cooperative learning in the face-to-face classroom and the online environment. These strategies make our students better learners and employees, and it gives us a chance to enhance our community’s economic development.”

The Leah Meyer Austin Award was established in 2008 to recognize ATD colleges that design and implement college-wide approaches that promote student success and result in significant, sustainable and institutional improvement. Successful colleges implemented policies, processes and programs that reinforce and build to improve student achievement and meet equity goals.

The Community College of Baltimore County also was a joint recipient of this year’s Leah Meyer Austin Award. Hodges said it was great for PHCC to share this award with CCBC because “PHCC trained CCBC in cooperative learning, and CCBC trained us in the accelerated learning program where we combine developmental education and on-level college work. It was quite nice to be recognized with them because we have both utilized our initiatives to better our institutions.”  

“These colleges truly are exemplars,” said Dr. William E. Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, in a news release. “Even in the face of serious challenges, they had the courage to make major changes because they believe their students’ success required and deserved them.”

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