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Article updated: 1/29/2013 3:55 PM

ECC readiness initiative up for award

By Tara García Mathewson

Elgin Community College's Alliance for College Readiness initiative has been recognized on a national stage for being a "cutting-edge, trendsetting" program.

ECC is a finalist for the Community College Futures Assembly Bellwether Award, which has recognized noteworthy programs across the country since 1995. Five representatives of the college will give a presentation at the assembly Jan. 28 in Orlando, Fla., with an announcement of the winners set for Jan. 30.

"Obviously it's an honor," said Julie Schaid, associate dean for college readiness and school partnerships at ECC. "But what makes it really exciting for me is that it really recognizes all the hard work that the faculty and staff have done voluntarily through their work on the alliance. They have created incredible projects and initiatives that have made a difference for students."

The alliance 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.

The goal is to adequately prepare students for college-level classes by tailoring their middle and high school curriculums with input from ECC faculty.

A major highlight of the college readiness initiative is a three-week Summer Bridge program to give a crash course in reading, writing or math to get students up to speed with college-level coursework.

According to ECC's Bellwether application, 73 percent of the 150 students participating in the Summer Bridge increased their placement at the end of the course, saving time in remedial classes and money on tuition.

Since the alliance began, ECC has watched college readiness rates rise from 24 percent to 32 percent, the application states.

Libby Roeger, dean of college transitions and developmental education, said being named a finalist for the award is a big deal for ECC. It could give its college readiness model the chance to take off nationally. Already, Schaid said she speaks about the initiative with multiple colleges every year from outside Illinois and several come to observe the monthly Alliance meetings.

It was at a 2006 state conference that Roeger heard ECC English Professor Alison Douglas speak about the alliance, which she helped create, motivating a move for Roeger from the City Colleges of Chicago to ECC.

The final step in the Bellwether process -- a presentation at the Community College Futures Assembly -- will bring the initiative to even more people, whether ECC wins the award or not.

Nearly 250 applicants were narrowed to 10 finalists in three different categories -- Instructional Programs and Services, Workforce Development, and Planning, Governance and Finance. ECC will compete against nine other colleges in the Instructional Programs and Services category.

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