Iowa Lakes Community College has become the first college in Iowa to receive national certification in three areas of developmental education.
The National Association for Developmental Education (NADE) honored the Success Centers of Iowa Lakes with certification in the entire developmental program of reading, writing and math.
A great deal of study was required to achieve the official recognition.
Success Center staff compiled data to make informed decisions of program improvements. That data covered five to seven years and validated the analysis.
The evaluators from NADE were impressed and outlined their thoughts in a letter officially notifying the college.
"The reviewers were intrigued by your use of longitudinal data and analysis of cohort student groups," the letter stated. "Reviewers appreciated the depth of that analysis that clearly connected goals, data, and actions"
It went on to say, "This reflects your understanding of the importance of collecting and analyzing relevant data in order to make program improvements. The quality of your program is reflected in this focus."
This is a significant achievement.
"Since Iowa Lakes was the first college in Iowa to receive this designation, it's quite an honor to achieve," said Lynn Dodge, Success Center professor. "Other community colleges who were interested in pursuing certification have been awaiting our results."
And, the review of data has been used effectively.
"As a result of our self-study, we learned a lot about our students, our program and ourselves," said Colleen Peltz, developmental studies professor. "We feel confident about our mandated placement cut scores because those scores identify prerequisites for certain classes. Our constant concern is that our students are being placed accurately for their success."
All students take an assessment in reading, writing and math which identifies areas in which a developmental course is needed to prepare students for success in college classes.
"We looked at the number of students who placed in at least one developmental course and our non-duplicated count showed 50 percent of our students need a developmental class," Dodge said.
Math showed the most need with 26 to 30 percent of student scores indicating a preparatory class was needed prior to a college math class. In writing, the number was 20 percent and reading showed eight percent of students identified as requiring a prerequisite course.
Upon review of the data, the college made some changes.
"As a result of our study, we increased our placement score for reading because the success rate for our developmental students was higher than those who did not place into our developmental reading course," said Dodge.
And, there was more.
"Along with that, we found that our developmental reading students made almost two grade levels of improvement in one semester - basically from a ninth-grade reading level to an 11th-grade level," Dodge reported.
The impact of the report will have a lasting effect.
"We evaluated the percent of those successful and not successful in developmental classes - as well as how they did at the next level," said Peltz. "We found that our math and writing students needed more time in developmental coursework so we raised the credits from two to three last spring term."
Achieving the certification means the developmental program of Iowa Lakes will be certified for seven years. Success Center services are provided at all campuses of Iowa Lakes.
Both women will travel to Denver in late February to receive an official award during ceremonies at the NADE annual conference.