Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon Seeks Performance Standards for Community Colleges

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon

Excuse me if I was thinking of the PPBS performance standards the United States Budget Bureau was trying to impose on Federal agencies when I was a baby Budget Examiner in the Executive Office of the President in 1965 when I listened to Illinois Lt. Governor Shiela Simon at McHenry County College today.

“Performance Program Budgeting System” is what I think it stood for, although some of the more disrespectful call it the “Piss Poor Budgeting System.”

Simon heard presentations from a number of college administrators, plus three students, one who learned how to manage his plant after being put in charge.

“Measuring success is important,” she told those gathered for her McHenry County stop on her community college tour.

The adult, Coy McQueen told an exciting story of how McHenry County College had spurred the McHenry County economy.

Coy McQueen explains how he and his factory have benefited from his education at MCC.

He took some courses in 1972, came back in 2000, got an Associates degree in 2004, another one in 2005, a BS at Columbia in 2005, a Master’s degree in Industrial Management in 2008 and a Master’s degree in Business Administration after that.

All the time he was managing his factory.

In eleven years, the stock value went from $7 a share to $42. Sales grew from $5 to 412 million. Labor was reduced. Some other measure (I assume related to cost) was reduced by 84%.

I’m sitting there thinking. “Wow!”

Anecdotal tales are good, but when measuring the performance of an institution, one needs hard data.

Perhaps the most disturbing was the proportion of students who have to take catch-up courses in English and math.

Look at the chart showing the percentage of students who have to take remedial English and math:

Half of McHenry County College students are not ready for college math. About 10% are not up to speed in English.

MCC Math Instructor Deb Alheit with Trustee Linda Liddell in foreground.

Mathematics Instructor Deb Alheit told of the math deficiencies in entering students.

The former high school math teacher said there was a good relationship between high school teachers and the college.

Simon didn’t ask why those needing remedial assistance in math were getting out of high school with a degree, but that was the obvious question.

How can high school boards and administrators live with themselves when their teachers, usually paid significantly more than MCC faculty, don’t get their students up to high school standards in math before graduating?

Can’t wait to get a break down by high school district and share it with you.

Another student obviously not in need of remedial courses was Miguel Solis.

Miguel Solis participated in the McHenry County College Promise program, which resulting in his having his tuition paid by generous contributors.

“I was a Promise Student,” he revealed.

He did so well that he was Speaker at the Spring Convocation and is headed off to Western Illinois University. He specifically said he “got a lot of help from the counseling office.”

Besides the pressure from the Promise Program to keep his grades up, he credited the soccer team.

Another student, Sammi Zelm, told of her having been a “Promise Student” as well.

She talked of seeing “a level of enthusiasm I haven’t seen anywhere else before.”

She took me back to my freshman year at Oberlin College.  The biggest difference between Crystal Lake Community High School and college was that my peers really wanted to learn in college.  That was not my impression at CHCHS.

Sammi Zelm, also a Promise Student.

Zelm intends to be a Dietetics major at the University of Illinois.

She went on two summer service projects.  She coached pre-teen girls on healthy lifestyles and diets.

New President Vicky Smith shared her experience of having been out of Illinois for the last ten years.

Things have gotten worse.

Of course, it is common knowledge that state decision-makers have abandoned community colleges in the better off parts of Illinois.

MCC President Vicky Smith

Smith pointed out that five years ago MCC received 23% of its revenue from state taxes.

Considering state officials promised 33% when they were pushing for the creation of the local tax districts in the mid-1960’s, 23% is an atrocious example of how state officials lie.

This year, Smith revealed, the state is paying only 4.3% of the budget.

But, she noted, the state has relaxed none of its mandates.

The obvious implication of her comment was that maybe MCC would be better off with no state aid…and no state regulation.

“We know you probably can’t get more money.  Focus on Illinois being a better place to live where education is accessible.

“If we could get the state to be a more attractive place for economic growth” were the words I got down as I was thinking she was talking to a Democrat whose party was the reason Illinois is not considered an attractive place for economic growth.

 

MCC President Vicky Smith greets Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.

Smith’s third point was the need to align high school education with college requirements.  She suggested community college folks be included on committees that decided what high schools should teach.

The fourth suggestion had to do with four-year institutions accepting college credits earned at community colleges.

“They still can’t transfer courses in their majors,” she point out.  “They can transfer (only) general ed courses.”

“That’s the arrogance of the four-year institutions,” I heard an audience member say.

What he didn’t say was that four-year institutions are job providers first, educational institutions interested in the best interest of their students second.  I have written previously at being astounded that the four-year state universities measure success in the percentage of their students who graduate in six years.

When I went to college, I absolutely knew that there was money to assist me, assuming I worked during the summer and at school at least some of the time, for four years for my undergraduate education.  That was it.  So I think President Smith was being too mild in her criticism of the non-acceptance of community colleges over forty years after they began providing more education than the four-year state institutions.

Smith made one more comment on the stultifying impact of state bureaucrats.

She pointed out that ten years ago, it took a year to get a community college program approved.

Now it takes two years.

Ten years ago non-credit programs did not have to be approved.  They provided community colleges the ability to be flexible in meeting local needs.

Now there is a movement to force approval by regional accrediting agencies.

If that is not the stupidest idea to come down the educational bureaucratic track, please add your nomination in the comment section.

There was undoubtedly more, but I was off to wait for the verdict in the Rod Blagojevich case.


Comments

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon Seeks Performance Standards for Community Colleges — 2 Comments

  1. - Simon didn’t ask why those needing remedial assistance in math were getting out of high school with a degree, but that was the obvious question.

    How can high school boards and administrators live with themselves when their teachers, usually paid significantly more than MCC faculty, don’t get their students up to high school standards in math before graduating?

    Can’t wait to get a break down by high school district and share it with you. –

    Where do I learn more about what a student needs to learn to be considered up to high school standards in math before graduating HS.

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