Implementing institution-wide, systemic change is typically a long and often challenging task for college leaders to undertake. Because each institution is different, the combination of internal and external factors that drive institutional change can vary greatly from college to college, and from moment to moment.
Achieving the Dream (ATD), which began as a national initiative launched by the Lumina Foundation in 2004, provides expert guidance and tools for community colleges to enact positive institutional change aimed at closing achievement gaps and accelerating student success. Focusing particularly on students from low-income backgrounds and students of color, ATD draws upon the expertise of coaches, practitioners, and institutional leaders and helps the more than 300 colleges in its network to establish evidence-based policies and practices for improving student outcomes.
To further its support of institutions within its network, ATD partnered with MDRC in 2019 to investigate recent institutional change efforts at nine ATD colleges in Florida. Those colleges represent a diverse set of institutions with varying enrollment sizes, geographic environments, and levels of engagement in the ATD network. Some have been in ATD since its inception in 2004, while others joined as recently as 2018, which provides an opportunity to better understand the different stages of institutional change and the factors that facilitate change at these colleges.
This brief summarizes what stakeholders from these nine Florida colleges consider to be the common driving factors that prompted or sustained key institution-wide reforms. These drivers were reported by college leaders, faculty, and staff—as well as by ATD administrative leadership coaches, equity coaches, and student success data coaches assigned to the nine colleges.