Executive SummaryThe Higher Learning Commission April 2002 comprehensive evaluation report of Sauk Valley Community College called for a 2005 focused visit on assessment of student academic achievement and strategic planning. The report identified nine expectations to be met for assessment by the time of the focused visit, and eight for strategic planning. SVCC's full compliance with the HLC's expectations is described and explained in this report.
Since 2002, SVCC's systems for assessment and strategic planning have undergone revolutionary change. We now recognize and communicate clearly that quality student learning resides at the core of decision making. This focused visit report describes Sauk's journey towards becoming a learning-centered college and specifically how we have redesigned and implemented our assessment and strategic planning processes. Separately bound appendices have been included with this document to provide supporting documentation. The College website (www.svcc.edu) and the HLC team resource room also contain documents referenced in this report.
Sauk Valley Community College serves a 100,000-resident, mostly rural district in northwestern Illinois. It was founded in 1965 and is governed by a seven-member publicly elected Board of Trustees. It offers courses in vocational-technical fields; academic transfer areas; developmental, adult and continuing education; community service; and career education. The College prides itself on offering a variety of experiences that assist students in exploring the community's diversity. In 2004 Sauk adopted the Learning College model and developed governance and systems changes needed to support this philosophy's impact on the strategic planning and assessment systems. The new system includes the Organizational Planning and Improvement System Chart, a graphic representation of the interrelationships among students, faculty, staff, committees, administration, and external stakeholders as they continuously work to achieve quality learning. Revised committee structures and charges support the new system, with the Organizational Planning and Improvement Committee (OPIC) providing a central collection point and linking strategic planning, budget, and assessment. A task timeline lends cyclical reliability to the system by setting deadlines and communicating to committees the effect of their actions on other stages of the process.
The HLC's comprehensive evaluation team charged Sauk with improving its strategic planning system by achieving more inclusive employee and Board involvement, demonstrating accountability, linking plans to the mission and goals, coordinating plans across departments, assessing progress, and communicating and supporting the mission. Since the comprehensive visit Sauk has worked through College-wide activities to adopt revised vision, philosophy and mission statements and new goals, objectives, and operational plans. Emphasis has been placed on strong communications and the involvement of the Board of Trustees and employees from throughout the College. The strategic plan is generated through the support of the new OPIC-based committee structure and timeline. It gains input from individuals, the assessment system, program reviews, and SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis and feeds into the annual budget. Enhancements of the system are ongoing.
The HLC's comprehensive evaluation team charged Sauk with improving its academic assessment system by developing a clear philosophy statement of general education, specific outcome competency expectations, quantifiable measures of student attainment of competency, systematic data collection, communication about the process, a link from assessment data and information to planning and budgeting, and commitment of budget to the assessment program. Since the comprehensive visit faculty have developed six major general education competencies and built a way to collect consistent data about the competencies and career goals. They adopted the Nichols model for developing the plan, created and piloted a data collection system, and incorporated linkages between the assessment system and strategic planning, which then feeds into budget. College-wide assessment data collection began in Fall 2004, with initial analysis in Spring 2005. Significant staff development time and resources have been devoted to developing and implementing the assessment plan. Enhancements of the system are ongoing.
The Learning college model provides that systems developed in response to HLC expectations can be maintained into the future and embedded in the organizational culture. Significant professional development activities have helped faculty, staff and administrators learn about the new system and philosophy.