Northern Illinois University (NIU) and five community colleges are working together to address a common problem: increasing the success of college and university students so they graduate in a reasonable time. The community colleges are Elgin, Kishwaukee, McHenry, Rock Valley, and Waubonsee. For these six partners, improving student success is critical, and all of the institutions have implemented internal strategies for raising the achievement of their students.
A key problem, confirmed by both local and national research, is that too many students starting college are not prepared to succeed in credit-bearing courses. Raising the level of preparation requires that K-12 schools and higher education share expectations for what incoming students should know and be able to do. The lack of agreement about what "ready for college" means has contributed to inadequate preparation of students.
The six partners are collaborating on faculty professional development, research, and policy analysis at the regional level. This work includes faculty-to-faculty dialogues across the three levels in a variety of disciplines. They are also coordinating college readiness activities with high schools in the community college districts in order to maximize their impact. Most of these activities are connected to implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which affect teacher preparation and general education courses at the college level as well as influencing content and pedagogy in K-12.
Funded by a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Regional College Readiness Partnership began pursuing joint activities in April 2013, building on work done by the NIU Higher Education Transitions Committee from 2009-2013 and on the successful alliances with high schools built by the community college districts.
Four goals drive the partnership activities: