The California State University Graduation Initiative
In adopting its new Access to Excellence Strategic Plan, the California State University (CSU) leadership committed to the priority of increasing student access and success. The CSU has pledged to raise the six-year graduation rates of its students to the top quartile of national averages and to cut in half the existing achievement gap between its underrepresented students (URM) and non-underrepresented (non-URMs) students. This systemwide priority echoes the values and priorities of the CSU, Chico Strategic Plan for the Future as well as its Academic Plan, both of which set out to “recruit, enroll, support, and graduate a diverse, high quality student population.” Global performance indicators include retention rates, progress-to-degree and graduation rates—all disaggregated.
Chico Targets and Trajectory
Based on the 2006 reported CSU, Chico performance on full-time, first-time freshmen graduation rates, Chico’s target is set to increase by 6 percentage points by 2015 as it was already within the top quartile of its peer institutions. Similarly, the target for transfer graduation rates is to increase by an additional 6 percentage points.
Chico is also to work on reducing existing achievement gaps in graduation rates for Under-Represented Minorities (URM) and Non-Under-Represented Minorities (Non-URM). The specific target for Chico is to halve the gap between URMs and Non-URMs for the same time frame, i.e. a 12 percent improvement rate.
Chico Delivery Chain
In his book, Instruction to Deliver, Sir Michael Barber, notes “… there must be some kind of delivery chain if there is to be delivery. If it cannot be specified, nothing will happen, which was precisely the case in part of Whitehall before 2001.” (p. 86) Further, “Once the chain has been identified, those responsible for delivery can then think through how best to exert influence at each link and, when the plan is being put into practice, it is possible to check whether each link in the chain is effective.” (p. 86)
Accordingly, the Chico Delivery Team is devoting its initial efforts to modeling Chico’s apparent delivery chain for its graduation rate targets. Chico has a rich history of high quality programs, extraordinary faculty and staff support for students and high rates of student success. Articulating the many elements of its delivery chain and analyzing the links within the chain, it was felt, would help contributing units / programs improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their respective work and better assess their value-added to the desired outcomes.
Our initial experience confirms Barber’s statement that an explicit model of the graduation delivery chain will serve as a foundation for program planning, implementation and evaluation. Upon building the chain model, delivery team members reflected on the role of individual chain links in delivering desired outcomes, on the challenge of integrating the links into a true delivery system, and on the need for intentional management of the system dynamics. The first version of the Chico Delivery Chain is included in its full report along with a ‘drill-down’ on each of the chain elements, listing current programs / activities and their associated indicators of success.