2012 Winter Newsletter
The Inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
The Problem: The nation’s community colleges are under-recognized, underappreciated, and undervalued—and many are also underperforming.
The Need: The nation needs community colleges to be the best they can be—with evidence that students are learning, completing school and earning degrees, and landing good-paying jobs for which they were trained.
Thirteen million Americans—40 percent of all people who go to college—attend community college. Low-income, Hispanic and African American students who require an affordable option are disproportionately represented in these schools.
The Prize: The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence spotlights colleges that demonstrate dramatically improved student outcomes, and, in the process, serve as models for the 1,200 community colleges in this country. The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to identify and replicate campus-wide practices that significantly improve college student outcomes.
The College Excellence Program works—through the Prize, through Aspen projects targeting a new generation of college leaders, and through other initiatives—to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses.
In December, the inaugural winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was presented in Washington DC—a prize launched by the Joyce Foundation in coordination with the Aspen Institute, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation—to showcase not only strong adult education programs, but to highlight community colleges that place skilled workers in jobs close to home.
Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, took home the $600,000 top prize. Valencia excelled in offering clear employment pathways for students seeking a credential or transferring to a four-year university. And, faculty and administrators at Valencia also elevated the need to find common-sense approaches to help nontraditional students—often faced with challenging work schedules and family demands—persist in the classroom and complete their studies. Four other schools took home honors with distinction and prizes of $100,000 each to benefit their programs.
The Aspen Prize is the first national recognition of extraordinary accomplishments at individual community colleges and follows the 2010 White House Community College Summit that attracted participation and endorsement from President Obama, as well as luminaries in American education, labor, business, and civil society.
To learn more
The Aspen Prize and lessons learned from the finalists
White House blogs about the Aspen Prize
Coverage of the Prize in The Chronicle of Higher Education
VIDEO: Remarks from the December event
The Chicago Area Waterways Study
Aquatic invasive species pose a huge threat to the Great Lakes and have already caused irreparable damage to the Lakes and their ecosystems. A recent report from Joyce grantee the National Wildlife Federation examines how invasive mussels may have contributed to a breakdown of the Great Lakes’ food web by eliminating the food upon which fish depend and increasing algae blooms.
In late 2009, evidence that Asian carp were advancing on Lake Michigan through the Chicago Waterways focused the attention of the region on the continuous connection that the Waterway provides between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. This connection has allowed numerous aquatic invasive species to move between the basins, threatening the ecology and economy of both watersheds.
The Joyce Foundation chose to get involved because, although most observers in the region agreed that something needed to be done, folks weren’t sure how to proceed. We convened our grantees, spoke to decision makers and stakeholders across the region and to other foundations that care about the Great Lakes and soon a path forward emerged. Our conclusion: the best way to permanently and effectively stop the movement of invasive species through the Chicago Waterways is to build a barrier and permanently separate the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins.
Joyce and partners throughout the region funded a study, Restoring the Natural Divide: Separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins in the Chicago Area Waterway System, led by the Great Lakes Commission and Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, to develop options for permanent separation and to know more about the costs and benefits associated with these options. The findings were unveiled at the end of January and will be important to informing the work of the Army Corps of Engineers and government efforts.
But while the response and final outcome is not yet known, this research is already a success.
The Commission/Cities project has the potential to influence and accelerate an Army Corps study that is also examining ways to prevent aquatic invasive species from moving between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. Right now, the Corps says the Chicago portion of its study could be released in 2015 if it receives the necessary funds from Congress. The Corps is under increasing pressure to expedite its study and focus on separation of the watersheds.
Seventeen attorneys general across the nation are also calling on Congress to force the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite its study of the Chicago Waterways. These AGs specifically asked Congress to direct the Corps to build on the results of the Commission/Cities study. And great strides have been made to accelerate work and focus on separating the basins, including the introduction of the “Stop Asian Carp Act” by Senators Durbin and Stabenow.
The study is also helping citizens, stakeholders, and decision makers in and around Chicago think bigger about a vision for the future of the Chicago River.
To learn more
Keeping the Great Lakes Great: Chicago Tribune op-ed written by Ellen S. Alberding
Announcing the Joyce Awards 2012 Recipients
Artists change neighborhoods. Artists change cities. Artists change the world.
Joyce’s Culture Program promotes diversity among artists and art audiences by funding grants to support artists of color and institutions engaging communities through art.
Since 2003, the Joyce Awards have distributed $1.8 million to support the commissioning of new artwork from artists of color in Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In those ten years, Joyce Award recipients have flourished both nationally and within their communities.
NEW! After 10 successful years, the Joyce Awards are changing the way communities interact with art again. In recognition of the fact that art is happening everywhere, all the time, the Joyce Awards will now support the commissioning of new work from diverse artists no matter where they choose to work—in the gallery, on the stage, in the church, the schoolyard, the prison, the community center.
Starting this 2013 cycle, the applicant pool is open to any nonprofit organization, not just art institutions. Annually, a minimum of four awards of $50,000 each will be granted.
Rethinking Teacher Evaluation: University of Chicago Consortium Report
Teacher evaluation is arguably the hottest issue in education right now. In response to the federal Race to the Top competition, many states and districts around the country are designing and implementing new teacher evaluation systems that—for the first time ever—evaluate teachers based on how much their students learn. However, there is limite¬¬d research on how to build an evaluation system centered on classroom observations that can distinguish between effective and ineffective teaching.
That’s where a Joyce-funded report from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research comes in. While the report, unveiled in November, focuses on Chicago, the lessons learned are applicable to districts across the country.
The report is one of the first to provide research-based evidence that new teacher observation tools, when accompanied by thoughtful evaluation systems and professional development, can effectively measure teacher effectiveness and provide teachers with feedback on the factors that matter for improving student learning. This is especially relevant for those states and districts that are implementing the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, including Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Washington, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.
Read the full report
To learn more
The National Implications of Rethinking Teacher Evaluation
The Joyce Foundation Approach to Improving Teacher Quality