Plan to certify campus begins

Committee reshapes accreditation plan

By Jose Arebalo, Advocate Staff

Accreditation is central to any college’s existence and currently Contra Costa College is preparing to submit a report to the accreditation commission to be reviewed to reaffirm its status for the next seven years.

“The whole idea is to show, with evidence, that the college is doing the things we should be doing,” Academic Senate President Katie Krolikowski said. “Your degree will not mean much if we are not accredited, so it’s a serious deal.”

Senior Vice President of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Stephanie Dorker said the evaluation process is overseen by the ACCJC.

“The accreditation cycle begins with the institution engaging in a robust self-evaluation process, which culminates in a report submitted to the commission,” she said.
Dorker serves as the staff liaison for CCC.

“Once the report is submitted, the college receives a site visit from a peer review team whose job is to validate the claims made in the report,” Dorker said.

“Their findings will identify areas of exceptional practice, areas where the college may need to improve and where the college is not meeting standards,” she said.

Those findings are then reported and reviewed by the accreditation commission.

Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Equity Marya Padilla said, “Every (standard) team has gone through a first process where we were looking at evidence that we meet each of the standards.

Then we have to analyze that evidence to say how we think the college is doing around the standards.”

Since this project is time sensitive, the reins were handed to Dr. Padilla during Dean of Instruction Tish Young’s extended leave.

Teams of five to seven people were created with classified and faculty level representatives to address each standard. These teams worked to create topic sentences, and from their paragraphs provide evidence on how they meet each standard.

“Everyone has gone through each of the standards and bulleted all the evidence that they think supports that we meet that standard,” Padilla said.

Padilla plans to share a draft of the report with the college’s student government, Classified Senate, Academic Senate and Management Council by the end of November. “That way input from the general campus gets put into the document,” Padilla said.

In December, there will be a first read of the second draft at a College Council meeting.

On Oct. 4, there was a meeting in which groups reviewed each other’s written submissions.

Padilla said this is an important part of the process that faculty and staff are devoting energy and time to in order to ensure the college turns in a solid report.

The next meeting on Oct. 16, was used to look at the next steps everyone suggested.

“We’re going to triage them back to the group so that they can incorporate those suggestions and create a second draft,” Padilla said.

An additional goal she hopes to be born through this process is to standardize the way evidence is named so everybody is using the same template.

The process is also moving forward into the analysis portion.

“If there are places where we are exemplary, then we say that. But if there are areas that need improvement, then we make recommendations,” Padilla said.

There is also a chance for the college to select areas for improvement on its own through a quality focus essay.

“This is really about all of these things that we’re doing to improve students’ experience and student learning,” she said.

Working through this process has shown the team what areas on campus could use more support. “We haven’t been doing as great a job as we could have in terms of communicating where processes and procedures live,” Padilla said.

Every unit on campus has to do a program review every four years, with Career Technical Education programs doing theirs every two years.

“We have made lots of improvements into that process over the last few years,” Padilla said. “That is really the core of accreditation — how we do continuous improvement of the college.”

Padilla said the project has been a great opportunity to get input from students as well. “We’ve increased the number of student representatives on our planning committee to four,” she said.

“It is important that students stay informed and understand that we are going through an accreditation round,” she said. “The process has also allowed faculty to see what other departments are doing. It’s a really good opportunity to hear what everybody else is doing and just be able to learn from each other.”

All three Contra Costa Community College District campuses (CCC, Los Medanos and Diablo Valley) are going through the accreditation process at the same time, so there is a lot of support at the district level. The process speeds up next semester as the report needs to be sent to the ACCJC by July to schedule an October visit.

The CCC team will have January through March to finalize all the writing before it goes to the College Council for approval.

Dr. Krolikowski said, “It takes a lot to provide an education. That isn’t directly what the teachers do every day”

There’s more that goes on behind the scenes to provide students an education and the accreditation commission examines all of that, she said.

“Our college hoped to have drafted paragraphs of the self study done over the summer. That didn’t happen,” Krolikowski said.

All through the spring semester there were meetings putting together teams to set up outlines, she said.

“But what has happened now is that those teams have been gathering evidence,” Krolikowski said.

The Academic Senate president said things are different this time around as the ACCJC has shifted the way it approaches accreditation.

“As opposed to looking for everything wrong, it’s to try to help the college know where it should be focusing its improvement efforts,” Krolikowski said.

“Of course, the college has places to improve, but we’re not at a state of zero in any category. I don’t think you have to be a perfect college to be accredited, but you have to be aware of your weaknesses and working on them,” she said.

There may be some feedback from the commission on areas to improve, but in the end, the college has been a high functioning institution for close to 70 years, she said.

After a review of the material reported, the commission will decide on the college’s accreditation status. It will decide to reaffirm accreditation for seven years, 18 months or to place the college on warning or probation if conditions warrant, Krolikowski said.

Droker said, “In severe cases where the college does not meet standards, a college can be placed on show-cause or its accreditation can be terminated.”