Achieving the Dream by 2020

Pierce College has been part of ATD for four years and has set the goal to close the college’s educational gaps by 2020.

Andrea MendozaReporter

With the purpose of helping more community college students stay in school to earn a college certificate or degree, Pierce College participates in the Achieving the Dream program.  

The program is designed to help college administrators recognize and close educational gaps in colleges. It gives the opportunity to increase student success and join the academic movement.

“It’s a national movement to really look at equity in students and their performance,” Pierce College Puyallup President Marty Cavalluzzi said. “It’s trying to make more students more successful when they go to college because when you look at all the data, some students perform more than others and we want to know why that is.”

According to, the ATD National Reform Network includes more than 200 colleges in the country to help more than 4 million community college students.

It leverages targeted focus areas to close achievement gaps and accelerate success among diverse student populations.

These integrated building blocks advance individual and system-wide strategies, ultimately providing measurable and sustainable outcomes for students and colleges alike. ATD makes Pierce look at their equity data and notice the differences, recognize and fix them, Cavalluzzi said.

“You realize all the different gaps there are, like how women do better in English classes,” Cavalluzzi said. “There are so many different gaps that then you have to try and address these equity gaps. We want to know what is it that these people need.”

Pierce College has been part of ATD for four years and has set the goal to close the college’s educational gaps by 2020. Because of this program, officials at Pierce have been able to recognize these gaps and start taking measures to reach their goal.

Currently, a guided pathway program that administrators are implementing is expected to create an interest for students in a major, help them stay in that pathway and ensure they’re learning as part of the start-to-finish model.

“We saw pathways as a way to hopefully solve all these issues,” Debra Ghilchrist, Fort Steilacoom campus vice president for learning and student success, said.

Other steps Pierce has taken are mandatory new student orientations, college success courses, enhanced advising as well as advocated tutoring support, part of the start-to-finish model.

“We want to make students realize that getting help is fine,” Cavalluzzi said.

Since Pierce has been part of ATD, faculty members have had the ability to evaluate their own courses and compare with other classes of the same field to make courses fit the needs of the students. With ATD’s help, Pierce has increased its fall-to-winter retention by six percent since 2010, meaning that students are staying in school for at least another quarter. Its fall-to-fall retention has increased by 16 percent and students have increased their degree and certificate completions by 25 percent.

“Out of all the students learning here at Pierce, students in pre-college courses don’t transition and don’t get a degree,” Cavalluzzi said. “One of the things we did, which is just outstanding, is the Pierce College adult diploma. That way, these students will be able to take college level courses and be in college and they stay here longer.”

ATD process has helped Pierce College officials realize the flaws that create the educational gap, and they plan to start closing that gap by 2020.

“This is long term,” Cavalluzzi said. “It takes a long time to get there, but at least we’re committed. And if we close that achievement gap by 2020, it’ll be such an achievement and I’m positive we can do it.”

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Andrea Mendoza
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Achieving the Dream by 2020

by Andrea Mendoza time to read: 2 min