Pathways, Partnerships, and Progress: Transforming a Community College
In 2010, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC) implemented a restructured academic model. The Pathways to Academic, Career, and Transfer Success (PACTS) initiative aimed to create academic pathways for students in particular fields, including tailored liberal arts classes, built-in student services, and dedicated counselors — and bring it to every LATTC department and degree field. The end goal was simple: a career-technical community college where all students, particularly those from traditionally marginalized groups, can easily plan and complete a certificate or degree.
Beginning in 2014, LATTC partnered with the University of Southern California’s Center on Urban Education (CUE) for a developmental evaluation of the program and its implementation. It was not a traditional evaluation process. CUE stepped beyond the typical “data collection, analysis, and assessment” method of evaluation to incorporate strategies of support aimed directly at on-the-ground implementation.
This report describes the methods that LATTC and CUE used to build PACTS while simultaneously developing the capacity to implement PACTS. It showcases the learning and inquiry tools created by CUE researchers to develop the implementation capacity of LATTC’s faculty and administration — a partnership that eased PACTS implementation and led to a more productive campus culture. Personal accounts from faculty, administrators, and CUE researchers demonstrate the on-the-ground importance of this campus transformation.
This story about the development of career pathways at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College provides both technical strategies and motivation for the change process that can be instrumental for adult education programs. It provides real-life context for practitioner inquiry and demonstrates the effectiveness of tearing down silos, using data, and real-time observations and feedback from trusted experts during the change process. Specific examples highlight the effective partnership between the college and the researchers that brought about real change that led to improved student outcomes.
The project focused on improving equity, stressing the importance of not assuming that what works for the broader population will eliminate gaps for subpopulations. It explains how changes were made and how capacity to implement was strengthened. Examples of learning and inquiring tools, including rapid feedback memos and change laboratories in the appendix, help illustrate the principles in action. The story is impressive and the description of the buy-in from the academic community is a model of true collaboration that takes a realistic view of adult education students. Practitioner stories illustrate how people saw their roles in the change process.