Teachers College, Columbia University

Formative Evaluation of the Student Achievement Initiative "Learning Year"

By Davis Jenkins, Todd Ellwein & Katherine Boswell

In 2007, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges launched the Student Achievement Initiative (SAI), a system-wide policy to reward colleges for improvements in student achievement.

This report lays out results of CCRC’s qualitative review of SAI during its first year (2007–08). The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the extent of awareness and understanding of the initiative among college personnel and examine the initial responses to it by the colleges.

Key findings:

  • Colleges strongly supported the initiative’s goals and principles.
  • Colleges grappled with their performance data throughout the year.
  • Several colleges were beginning to link the initiative to strategic planning and accreditation activities.
  • Colleges were concerned that use of the achievement point framework and the incentive funding model may produce unintended negative effects.
  • College presidents emphasized that the initiative must bring new funding to colleges, over and above base budget funding.
  • While state policymakers indicated support for the initiative, there was limited awareness of the initiative, and there were no strong champions among state legislators.