The Intersection of Policy & Practice


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Managing the Balance at the Intersection of Policy & Practice
In this podcast, Michael Lawrence Collins, VP for Postsecondary State Policy with Jobs for the Future joins Civitas Learning Co-founder and Chief Learning Officer Dr. Mark David Milliron. The two discuss and explore the tenuous balance at the intersection of policy and practice in higher education’s student success initiatives. This podcast runs 18 minutes and 52 seconds. Key topics and time stamps follow below.
About Jobs for the Future (Starts at 00:46)
Michael Collins explains the work Jobs For the Future does as a research, policy and advocacy firm, working in three main areas: college readiness, college success and workforce advancement.
We’ve been working with 15 states on their state level policies that are most relevant to student success. A lot of work focuses on students coming into community colleges who are underprepared and seek a postsecondary credential. – Michael Collins
Partnering with Philanthropically-funded Completion Initiatives (Starts at 02:00)
Michael and Mark discuss the work being done in partnership with Achieving the Dream, the Developmental Education Initiative, Completion by Design, and most recently, the Kresge Student Success Center Initiative – a national initiative from the Kresge Foundation creating hubs on the ground, typically attached to community college associations, with the responsibility to disseminate evidence-based best practices across community colleges in states.
“This really speaks to the arc of our work… We acknowledge we can’t get there 100 percent through state policy work, we have to have connections to institutional practice.” – Michael Collins
The Balance at the Intersection of Practice & Policy (Starts at 03:32)
Learnings from the last three to five years show that the people Jobs for the Future, and more recently, that Civitas Learning are working with are leveraging data. Policy makers and institutions are consumers of data, and increasingly faculty and students are becoming consumers of data. Finding the balance between policy and practice is important.
Great practice in student success can’t happen until the brush is cleared on the policy side, so the innovators can have the space and grace to do that work. – Mark Milliron
The Challenge in Dev Ed’s Linear Sequence (Starts at 05:30)
When examining the data from Achieving the Dream, it became evident that the linear sequence of multiple developmental education courses was not successful. Students were able to successfully complete a course, but would not continue to enroll in multiple courses.
“The problem is, by and large, the majority of community colleges continue to use that linear sequence so the challenge to state policy makers is how to create incentives for colleges to try something different.” – Michael Collins
When Policy Changes to Accommodate Practice (Starts at 07:37)
In some cases, intervention practices have bumped up against state policy, as when states want to move from one high stakes test instrument to multiple measures assessments. Examples are cited.
We see states relaxing policies… They have revised placement and assessment policies to allow institutions to have more flexibility about how they place students into interventions. – Michael Collins
Working with Imperfect Information (Starts at 10:30)
Policy and practice are often faced with insufficient or imperfect information. Collins advocates for acknowledging that, while committing to using the information available in a practice of professional discipline rather than in a model of complete flexibility.
“We have to marshal all of the evidence, and the preponderance of evidence should guide how we implement practice or promulgate policy.” – Michael Collins
The Need for Communities of Practice (Starts at 12:00)
There are many challenges for policy makers working within professional guidelines, and for educators working to determine which interventions and initiatives succeed. This section highlights the need for collaborations like the student success centers and rising communities of practice.
Innovators need to tightly link and sync the work they are doing. – Mark Milliron
Empirical Evidence & Data Informed Conversations (Starts at 14:45)
Collins states concern about the diminishing support for public higher education and speaks to the limitations on the campus stuff dedicated to student success initiatives. Collins advocates for using evidence-based conversations across institutions to grow the field and improve practice.
“It’s really critical that somebody gets up everyday and thinks about what the conversation is we need to have as a community of practice and what it means for our individual colleges, as well as for us collectively. “ – Michael Collins
Million More Matrix: Empowering the Student Success Scientist (Starts at 16:06)
See the illustration on right for a visual on the matrix Mark Milliron explains in this sequence. He encourages universities to move deeper into both insight and action toward the student success scientists quadrant on the matrix.
There’s nothing wrong with education that can’t be fixed by the best of education. – Mark Milliron
The Exciting Work Ahead in 2014 (Starts at 16:53)
Education is well positioned to this work but has a long history of being tradition-bound. Michael and Mark discuss the challenges in bringing evidence to bear and holding each other accountable to improve our practice. Students Success Centers as the next step are discussed.
“I think education is well positioned to do some of this work. We can, together, develop the field.” – Michael Collins

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