High School to Community College Transition

Success Factors at the community college level, are the policies, procedures, and principles proven to be most effective in helping all students successfully reach their goals and move on to the next level of education or job. This framework summarizes these success factors applied across the country that have proven success.

Use this framework to analyze whether or not or how effectively success factors are applied in your community college, and use this information for continued improvement in building greater success for all students.

The framework is made up of five themes and three levels within the college. This is meant as a diagnostic tool to help you identify strengths and weaknesses by using a series of rubrics, audit questions, and honest conversation with one another. Did you find a theme or two that clearly identifies where you need to start working for improvement? Now you should have a clear roadmap identifying where you should begin and how your time should be spent to reach your improvement goals.

Organizing ThemeInstitution-LevelAcademic DepartmentClassroom
Curriculum Goals and Expectations

Develop an institution-level collaborative committee on curriculum to integrate system wide priorities in curriculum. Self-Audit

Inform and train faculty and staff on system level curricular policies and procedures. Self-Audit

Use a variety of instructional strategies, to plan and teach the competencies and skills students need to know to demonstrate academic success. Self-Audit

Curriculum Goals and Expectations

Nuts and Bolts of Key Practices

Offer classes for students of color to learn more about their own culture.

Align high school exit standards with entry level college curriculum expectations to better prepare students for CC in math and English.

Consistently monitor and ensure implementation of cultural classes.

Consistently communicate to students the expectations of learning outcomes and mastery.

Integrate social-emotional learning that supports academic success.

Heavily engage students during cultural classes to contextualize and motivate learning at the college level.

Clearly understand and communicate which skills/competencies students must master to successfully move on to the next course at the college level.

Culture of Achievement

Establish a system wide mission for student success and provide departments with leadership and resources to support a culture of achievement. Self-Audit

Develop a collaborative community that fosters and believes in the ability and achievement of all students. Self-Audit

Carry out and maintain high instructional expectations through a collaborative professional culture. Self-Audit

Culture of Achievement

Nuts and Bolts of Key Practices

Purposefully engage with students and provide the resources and support they need to have greater academic success, retention on campus, and successfully complete a degree or transition to a four-year institution.

Reduce the number of students in remedial classes by setting the policy for multiple measures to be used for accurate placement of each student in their beginning academic level in math and English where they are more likely to succeed while also accelerating time to completion.

Provide academic support services and facilities where students have easy access seven days a week.

Build success centers where students can network with students with similar challenges and where mentors support their cultural needs as they transition from one cultural system to another.

Commit resources to promote collaborative partnerships with high schools to establish dual enrollment programs and make those courses available to all students.

Work with high schools to advise students early to take 3-4 math classes in high school to mitigate academic skill gaps and successfully enroll in CC.

Demonstrate evidence of orientation programs or bridge programs that socially and academically assist students in becoming part of the campus culture.

Understand the impact that poverty has on this population and attend to the everyday life needs and challenges of students (ex. providing food at little to no cost, bus passes, clothing, etc.).

Counselors personally look at each entering student transcript to get to know each student better, to holistically assess their accomplishments, and to understand academic patterns and capacity to succeed at college.

Support and provide resources for extended day classrooms assisting students who are one level below transfer.

Provide resources to train faculty to encourage students’ use of academic thinking. (e.g. Habits of the Mind)

Establish initiatives, with institutional commitments from K-12 districts, community colleges and universities to remove barriers and articulate a clear, accessible pathway for students to complete college.


Encourage faculty to spend extra time with students to provide academic support, to be more aware of individual needs, and to connect them with the appropriate resources and support.

Ensure students are properly placed in their beginning academic level using multiple measures of assessment determined at the system level.

Promote collaboration among departments, faculty, and staff to support students socially and academically.

Establish a mentoring program for new faculty and staff to share strategies and promote success.

Frequently promote small group orientation opportunities for students (to encourage engagement and dialogue) and assist them in understanding the benefits of these groups.

Demonstrate use of formative assessment results to improve the classroom instruction and learning environment.

Carry out extended day classrooms by providing a strong, supportive instructional program to assist students who are one level below transfer.

Frequently check with faculty to see the effect that academic thinking has on academic performance.

Collaborate around key elements for students, including early enrollment, accelerated pathways, success in transfer pathways and academic/support.

Collaborate in teams by course or department to discuss and better support the individual needs of YMOC.

Share best practices from courses where students are succeeding.

Observe other classes, share ideas, and learn from one another to improve instruction.

Develop a clear understanding of the impact individual courses and instructors have in helping students remain on a successful overall education trajectory.

Support extended day classrooms to assist students who are one level below transfer.

Continuously reinforce academic thinking with students when in the classroom environment.

Utilize early warning indicators and data to provide support for students to reach important milestones and persist in college.

Human Capital

Hire highly qualified department leaders and build systems for monitoring student performance, teaching practices, and provide continuous support. Self-Audit

Establish a rigorous faculty selection process. Provide strong leadership that recognizes the need for targeted professional development, while empowering faculty and staff to collaborate and own their own professional growth. Self-Audit

Actively pursue and participate in staff development opportunities aligned to system programs and policies while collaborating with colleagues and department leaders to support an environment of continuous improvement for students. Self-Audit

Human Capital

Nuts and Bolts of Key Practices

Support targeted professional development of faculty and staff who work with YMOC to better understand their social and academic needs, and provide the appropriate support and resources.

Recruit the brightest and best educators with experience in working with vulnerable student populations and who have a deep commitment to the systems vision of student success for all.

Build a mission on a shared sense of responsibility for all students to succeed.

Build a mindset that fosters high degrees of collaboration among leaders and educators.

Hire educators with a strong commitment to the systems culture of achievement.

Evaluate professional development on the alignment to college/system goals and success in developing the growth mindsets of educators improving instructional practices, impacting student learning, and understanding cultural differences and poverty.

Cultivate dialogue about teaching and learning for students.

Prioritize opportunities for collaboration across or within departments for improving instruction and promoting student achievement.

Make professional development a priority in better supporting and teaching students who are historically disadvantaged.

Value collaborative opportunities with fellow educators to improve instructional practices and impact academic success for these students.

Data and Assessment

Maintain a data system to monitor department and classroom student performance and provide resources for using data in all departments and classrooms to improve teaching practices at all levels. Establish a policy that identifies which multiple measures will be used to determine fair student placement. Self-Audit

Use multiple measures to monitor instructional practices and student achievement while also setting expectations with faculty and staff to use disaggregated data to monitor group gaps or individual student needs and the impact on instruction. Self-Audit

Monitor student achievement daily and use the results to adjust instruction to better meet individual and collective learning needs. Grow and improve teaching practices with data from student evaluations. Self-Audit

Data and Assessment

Nuts and Bolts of Key Practices

Establish regularly scheduled meetings with campus leaders and departments to examine student data.

Establish a system of utilizing multiple measures of student capacity (i.e., high school performance data as well as assessment tests) to improve placement of all students into appropriate courses and to reduce unnecessary remediation.

Use student performance data to drive policy development, decision making, and resources and support to ensure academic success and to mitigate the disproportionate impact that institutional and instructional practices have on disadvantaged populations.

Deploy a system for collecting data that demonstrates academic improvement within the system, such as student retention, GPA, course success, certificate and degree completion, successful transfers to four year colleges or universities.

Set institutional expectations for data usage across all departments and classrooms, focusing on strategies to improve outcomes.

Provide department leaders with support in capturing, interpreting, and sharing data in a timely and actionable forum.

Assign a data researcher to each department to monitor, provide and interpret student data, and illuminate instances of disproportionate impact.

Establish a policy for monthly meetings with educators and other department staff to examine student data.

Create consensus to use multiple measures of student capacity within certain disciplines (i.e., high school performance data as well as assessment tests) to improve placement of all students into appropriate courses and to reduce unnecessary remediation.

Utilize student performance data in developmental courses (as well as prior academic history) to improve the basic skills sequence and implement curricular changes to accelerate completion of basic skills and credit coursework.

Model the relevance of actionable multiple measures of assessment to directly inform goals, evaluation, and allocation of resources.

Use data to closely monitor the effectiveness of interventions for YMOC.

Train all faculty on how to use learning outcomes assessment results to improve learning and success.

Prioritize the use of data to accurately determine students needs and strengths.

Collaborate with fellow faculty to compare performance data and determine what instructional practices were used to accomplish the greatest success.

Respond to students needs quickly and provide or direct them to the appropriate support or resources needed.

Use learning outcomes assessment data to improve teaching and learning.

Personalized Learning

Provide funding for support resources and guidance for students to meet their various needs. Self-Audit

Establish and utilize systems to carry out identification of students specific needs and strengths and provide specific learning and support experiences. Self-Audit

Work collaboratively with colleagues to personalize instructional practices and learning support to successfully meet the needs of students. Self-Audit

Personalized Learning

Nuts and Bolts of Key Practices

Establish and ensure a campus-wide vision at all levels for meeting the needs of students by building relationships through academic support, counseling and mentoring.

Set expectation and funding for creating cohorts within colleges to academically and socially engage students.

Provide resources for mentoring programs to help students express themselves and successfully guide their transition from the system they grew up in to that of college and preparing for the future.

Set expectations and funding for summer bridge programs for students to mitigate academic skill gaps, create a college-going mindset, and facilitate a smoother transition from high school to community college.

Establish CC outreach to the high schools to register all students and provide information and answer questions.

Provide resources for CC’s to spend time building relationships with the parents of high school students to build trust in the college and understanding of the value of having their children attend college.

Establish baccalaureate programs at the CC level so students can complete a four-year degree while minimizing the costs and life disruptions associated with transitioning to another campus.

Work at all levels to create a seamless transition from remedial/ developmental coursework to gateway courses.

Offer fast track classes to minimize the amount of time and money students spend to get to their credited classes.

Establish strong partnerships with local school districts and high schools and have consistent conversations around curriculum and building relationships with students, parents, and educators.

Provide evidence of alternative funding opportunities to provide financial assistance to students for classes, and books.


Clearly communicate expectations for students to demonstrate academic success to all faculty and staff.

Work collaboratively across leadership levels to set up a system that quickly identifies and responds to the specific needs of this population of students and guides them to the appropriate support resources.

Support and carry out learning communities, summer bridge programs, mentoring programs and supplemental instruction in order to support and retain students on campus.

Develop and offer study skills classes for those students who need them.

Encourage faculty to participate and support tutoring programs for students having trouble with specific academic skills.

Build integrated support such as skills development and supplemental instruction into coursework to assist with closing academic gaps especially in math and English.

Require an academic plan for students within the first semester to set specific goals, create a plan for achieving them and keeping them on track to complete their degree.

Ensure instruction is engaging and is teaching students what they should know. Be able to do so according to course competencies.

Recognize the individual needs and strengths of YMOC and provide instruction that meets those needs.

Build relationships and establish a culture of support for students.

Ensure these students feel welcome and cared for. Set reasonable office hours so students have access to faculty.

Report student attendance concerns in a timely manner and have a plan in place for positive intervention.

Recognize students may learn differently. Motivate learning and promote intense student engagement through instructional strategies in every lesson taught.

Discuss students academic plans with them when appropriate.

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