Achieving the Dream

Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.

Bunker Hill Community College was chosen in 2007 to participate in the national Achieving the Dream initiative. After three years, the College achieved “Leader College” status as one of only 66 community colleges nationwide. Leader Colleges demonstrate the power of the Achieving the Dream Student-Centered Model of Institutional Improvement. To be eligible for Leader College distinction, colleges must show three or more years of improvement on one or more of these five measures:

  • Course completion
  • Advancement from developmental to credit-bearing courses
  • Completion of college-level math and English courses
  • Term-to-term and year-to-year retention
  • Completion of certificates or degrees

Bunker Hill Community College’s (BHCC) teaching and learning environment has been positively impacted by its student success initiatives, but most noticeably the college’s Learning Communities have been associated with enhancing success.

In 2012, BHCC was named as one of only four community colleges nationally to earn a Gates Foundation Catalyst Fund grant to expand its Learning Communities.

In 2014, BHCC received the Leah Meyer Austin Award for its success in increasing student retention and completion. Along with this prestigious recognition, BHCC received $25,000 to support its ongoing student success work. The award honored BHCC’s focus on college-wide, data-informed decision making that has resulted in measurable increases in critical areas. The college has:

  • Increased fall-to-fall persistence from 41 percent to 51 percent
  • Improved black students' completion rates from 68 percent to 72 percent
  • Increased Latino students’ completion rates from 68 percent to 74 percent
  • Raised completion rates in gateway English from 67 percent to 74 percent
  • Improved completion rates in developmental English courses (reading and writing) from 72 percent to 78 percent

BHCC attributed its impressive gains to strategies basic to Achieving the Dream’s Student-Centered Model of Institutional Improvement: committed leadership, use of evidence, broad engagement, systemic institutional improvement, and equity. BHCC embraced the Achieving the Dream model to meet the needs of specific student populations, with a particular focus on the highest-need students. 

The Leah Meyer Austin Award, sponsored by The Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was established in 2008 to recognize outstanding achievement in supporting and promoting student success through the creation of a culture of evidence, continuous improvement, systemic institutional change, broad engagement of stakeholders, and equity, with particular attention to low-income students and students of color.  

What We Are Doing: 

Learning Communities interventions are driving measurable student success rate improvements, as can be evidenced by:

  • Fall-to-spring persistence rate for Fall 2010 Learning Community students was nine percentage points higher than the general college population  
  • Fall-to-fall retention for Fall 2010 Learning Community students was six percentage points higher than the general college population  
  • Fall-to-fall-to-spring retention rate for Fall 2010 Learning Community students was five percentage points higher than the general college population

BHCC is effectively using data to create institutional change that will close achievement gaps and enhance student success rates.  Leadership committed to fostering a culture of evidence, broad engagement, and systemic institutional improvement is also driving success at BHCC as evidenced through the creation and development of a comprehensive college-wide student success agenda.

BHCC has analyzed data and success rates in developmental learning communities that lead to developmental mathematic reform, including an accelerated developmental math curriculum.

Who We Are: 

BHCC is an open-access, multi-campus, urban institution located in the Boston metropolitan area that  serves the diverse educational needs of its multi-ethnic, global community.

For Fall 2012, approximately 67 percent of the college’s 14,000 students were students of color, while its international students hail from approximately 100 countries. Fifty-six percent of all students received Pell grants.

The richness of diversity both demands and invites a dedication to a dynamic educational environment that is accessible to, and fosters the success of, all ethnic and racial groups represented among BHCC students. The college offers a sound foundation in developmental studies, as well as a variety of levels of English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction.  

How We Work: 

The college’s Achieving the Dream work aims to use data to implement strategies that will help students persist, succeed, and graduate by:

  • Creating the Dreamkeepers Student Emergency Assistance Fund
  • Developing the LifeMap online platform
  • Hosting the “Getting Past Go—The Journey to Completion” strategic planning conference
  • Hiring two additional full-time Success Coaches: a data-driven decision
  • Having 109 unduplicated faculty and staff participants in professional development programs in 2010-2011
  • Institutionalizing a Learning Community Seminar, and bringing to scale more than 100 Learning Communities serving more than 4,000 students.

Student Success Strategies  - The implementation of new and improved strategies helps promote institutional change that is necessary to enhance student learning and success, the college’s number one goal.

  • Expansion of Learning Community Clusters
    The College’s Learning Community Clusters have employed contextualization and acceleration to increase retention and course completion rates for developmental education students. In Clusters, the same students enroll in two or more courses taught by faculty teams who have integrated their curricula around academic topics. Some Clusters link developmental or ESL courses with college-level courses in which students would otherwise not be eligible to enroll. Other Clusters combine two developmental courses, enabling accelerated completion of developmental coursework.
  • Learning Communities with Integrated Support Services
    Since 2007, the College has created 100 Learning Communities that now serve 4,000 plus students per academic year.
  • Learning Community Seminar with Integrated Support Services (Success Coaching and Peer Mentoring)
    The Learning Community Seminar is a three-credit course that helps incoming students successfully transition to College as they explore an academic topic of interest. Seminars are taught by faculty from across disciplines, with each Seminar section exploring a different academic theme. Collaborative learning, experiential learning and problem-based learning fully engage students in their learning. Success coaching and peer mentoring are integrated into the Seminar classroom to provide a just-in-time support network.
  • Professional Development
    To build on the robust professional development offered from 2007 to 2011, the College implemented an Innovative Teaching and Learning Series in 2011-2012 for faculty and staff teaching in learning communities and beyond. The program was designed to introduce new faculty and staff to the learning community concept as well as provide seasoned learning community faculty and staff with the opportunity to hone their skills at creating successful learning environments for students across the academic spectrum. Learning community faculty leaders played a primary role in designing and delivering these professional developmental programs. External consultants were brought to campus as needed to provide expertise.

Leah Meyer Austin Award 2014