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Article updated: 1/29/2013 6:18 PM

ECC Alliance for College Readiness wins college national award

By Tara García Mathewson

Elgin Community College was recognized Tuesday with the 2012 Bellwether Award, education's equivalent to football's Heisman Trophy.

The Community College Futures Assembly chose ECC over hundreds of other schools, declaring its college readiness initiative the top instructional program in the country.

The Alliance for College Readiness brings together more than 250 teachers and other educators from ECC and all of the public school districts in its service area -- Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300, St. Charles Community Unit District 303, Burlington-based Central School District 301 and Elgin Area School District U-46. ECC President David Sam said the award is really an award for all of the participating districts as well as ECC.

"It underscores what we've been doing for a long time, indicating to people that partnership works," Sam said.

Since 2006 educators in the Alliance have worked to improve the K-12 curriculum and create such programs as the Summer Bridge, helping prepare students for college-level coursework.

Libby Roeger, dean of college transitions and developmental education at ECC, presented with six other Alliance representatives this week at the Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Fla. The conference presentation was the final stage of the application process. The team replicated an Alliance meeting, showing the level of faculty participation across the community college district and sharing student performance data.

Hundreds of programs were nominated for the category in which ECC won; 10 of them presented at the conference. Emotions were high in Orlando Tuesday as the Alliance team, including faculty and staff from the college, an ECC trustee and a District 300 assistant superintendent, left for the airport to return home.

The Bellwether award is welcome recognition for all the hard work so many educators have put in over the years but the impact goes beyond ECC.

"It gives us a national platform, it makes us so we have the ability to leverage more grant money for the program and it means what we do in Elgin, that program that was started in 2006, will be replicated by community colleges all over the United States," Roeger said.

The Bellwether Awards are given in three categories, also including workforce development and planning, governance and finance. The awards do not have a cash prize.

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