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updated: 7/7/2011 10:54 AM

ECC works to close achievement gap

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I reported this week on a recent survey by "Community College Week." In the survey, Elgin Community College was ranked third in the state in awarding one-year certificates.

I didn't note that in the same survey, ECC was second in the state in awarding one-year certificates to Hispanic students, behind Harold Washington College in Chicago.

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According to Phil Garber, executive director of planning and institutional effectiveness, ECC has worked to improve the educational experience of Hispanic students through the Achieving a Dream initiative, which focuses on increasing success for low-income and minority students.

ECC also has a computer program that may account for part of the increase in certificates. The program determines if a student has completed the course work required to earn a particular certificate. If a student has completed the work, a certificate is automatically awarded, even if the student is working on a two-year degree.

"We've taken the onus off them of having to apply," Garber said.

ECC has a lot more work to do. While more students entering the college are college-ready, large gaps persist between whites and minorities.

The college created a team last year to coordinate college readiness efforts for Hispanic students and English language learners. Those efforts may prompt the college and its feeder districts to examine other populations so all students entering ECC have a fair shot at finishing a degree program.

U-46 recognizes volunteers: Last month, Elgin Area School District U-46 had its annual reception to recognize volunteers.

Sue Rakow, president of the U-46 Foundation, was named U-46 Volunteer of the Year. Rakow is one of three charter members of the U-46 Foundation, along with Jack Shales of Shales McNutt Construction and Leo Nelson, president of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce.

Since 2006, Rakow has served as the first president of the foundation, which works to provide educational opportunities for students in U-46 schools.

During the 2010-11 school year, the foundation provided a grant and worked with the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall to provide 800 U-46 students an opportunity to perform with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra.

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