When the Student Success Task Force (SSTF) presented its final report to the Board of Governors in February of 2012, two of the seemingly less controversial recommendations were 6.1 and 6.2, which read as follows:
Community colleges will create a continuum of strategic professional development opportunities, for all faculty, staff, and administrators to be better prepared to respond to the evolving student needs and measures of student success.
Community colleges will direct professional development resources for both faculty and staff toward improving basic skills instruction and support services.
The members of the task force were able to reach general agreement on these items, and opposition to them statewide appeared to be minimal.
In Fall 2012, in order to address SSTF Recommendations 6.1 and 6.2, the Chancellor’s Office formed an ad hoc Professional Development Committee. This committee, which consisted of 30 representatives from more than 20 faculty, administrative, and classified staff organizations from within the California Community College System, held a two-day retreat in September and numerous conference call meetings throughout the next five months. On March 7 the committee held its final meeting and produced a set of eight recommendations that will be forwarded to the chancellor and ultimately on to the Board of Governors.
The committee members were able to reach overall agreement on the majority of the recommendations. Nevertheless, some aspects of the committee’s report engendered considerable debate and varying degrees of disagreement within the committee itself and will doubtless be a source of further discussion among faculty and others throughout the community college system.
The eight recommendations forwarded by the Professional Development Committee to the chancellor read as follows:
Recommendation #1 – Adopt a California Community College Professional Development Vision Statement.
The following is the recommended vision statement, which was developed primarily at the committee’s September 2012 retreat and vetted with the leadership of the various constituencies represented on the committee:
To support the mission of the CCC’s and to promote an inclusive statewide and local learning culture, all personnel will have ongoing opportunities to develop and expand the skills and practices that influence students' learning and support students in achieving their educational goals.
This statement received strong overall support from a large majority of the committee members.
Recommendation #2 - Change the name of the CCC Flexible Calendar Program to the CCC Professional Development Program.
As stated in the narrative explanation attached to the recommendations, the importance of this recommendation is that it “shifts the focus of the program from ‘flexibility’ to professional development.” The intent of the newly renamed program is to focus on “the ability of the college to establish a ‘flex’ schedule for its academic calendar to accommodate both instruction and faculty professional development.” While this recommendation received a fair amount of discussion within the committee, it received generally strong support and no significant opposition.
Recommendation #3 – Require all colleges in the CCC System to participate in the CCC Professional Development Program for a minimum of five days.
Recommendation number 3 was by far the most debated and most controversial aspect of the committee’s work. The intent of the recommendation is to establish a minimum level of participation in professional development by all colleges throughout the state and by all college employees, including staff, administrators, and faculty.
The original language of this recommendation would have required five mandatory all campus flex days per year for each college, essentially closing the campus on those five days while all employees attended professional development activities. After considerable discussion, the language was changed to indicate that each college could determine for itself how to meet the five day obligation, whether by holding flex day activities on campus, allowing employees to complete individual projects on their own time, through a combination of such approaches, or through some other locally-determined structure. Nevertheless, in order to allow colleges to compensate their employees for their professional development activities, all colleges would be required to cancel five days of instruction during the academic year even if they do not require employees to participate in on-campus activities on those days. The five days could take place whenever the college chose to schedule them, whether during a regular term or between terms.
Some members of the committee questioned whether another method of establishing participation in a professional development program might be found instead of cancelling instructional days. However, other committee members were adamant that only through designated professional development days could the purposes of the program be achieved and the employees properly compensated.
Several committee members were also in favor of reducing the number of required days from five to four. At present, five is the average number of flex days held by California community colleges, with 55% of colleges scheduling that number or more. In contrast, 74% of colleges currently hold four or more flex days, while 83% currently schedule three or more. At the final meeting of the committee, representatives from the Chief Executive Officers and the Chief Human Resources Officers, as well as some of the faculty representatives, lobbied emphatically to change the number to four days. In the end, the number of days remained at five, although the committee did agree that the chancellor would be informed of the very divided opinion of the committee members.
Recommendation #4 – Include all employees in the CCC Professional Development Program
This recommendation is intended to emphasize that not only faculty but all constituencies need appropriate professional development and should therefore be included in the program. Representatives from classified staff organizations were especially emphatic regarding this recommendation. Because the current Flexible Calendar Program was designed specifically for faculty, Recommendation 4 was seen as necessary to ensure that all administrators and classified employees as well as faculty are both required and allowed to participate in the program. The recommendation received strong overall support from the committee members.
Recommendation #5 – Establish a CCC Professional Development Fund to support local colleges in the planning, coordination and implementation of professional development activities.
This recommendation acknowledges that effective professional development requires resources that are not currently provided at many colleges. For this reason, the intent of the recommendation is that ½ of 1% of the CCC system budget be reserved for professional development activities. Based on a budget of roughly $5 billion, this fund would allocate approximately $25 million for professional development. Colleges would receive 90% of that money to plan, coordinate, and conduct professional development for faculty, classified, and administrative staff. The remaining 10% would be used to fund statewide projects that would be used to leverage the system’s size in the planning and implementation of local professional development activities.
Like Recommendation 3, Recommendation 5 engendered considerable debate and ultimately was not supported by all constituencies. The primary opposition came from the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), who argued that if funds for professional development are taken from a college’s base funding, the college may be forced to educate fewer students or to reduce services. Instead, the CEOs argued that funding for professional development should be added to the budget rather than taken from the base. However, the majority of constituencies supported the recommendation.
Recommendation #6 – Establish a system-wide Professional Development Advisory Committee to work in conjunction with the Chancellor’s Office in providing leadership for professional development in the CCC System.
According to the narrative explanation attached to the recommendations, this advisory committee would have the following charge:
- develop guidelines detailing research-based standards for professional development,
- develop practices and procedures for evaluating and assessing professional development activities, and
- advocate for effective professional development programs that advance student success.
Academic Senate representatives on the Professional Development Committee were concerned that this advisory committee’s charge might conflict with the purview of the Academic Senate regarding faculty professional development. The following statement was therefore included in the narrative explanation: “The professional development advisory committee will acknowledge that professional development for faculty falls under the purview of the academic senate per Title 5 Section 53200 (b). Any policies, guidelines, or priorities considered by the professional development advisory committee that impact faculty professional development will therefore be subject to direct consultation with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.” With this addition, Recommendation 6 received no significant opposition from the committee members.
Recommendation #7 – Establish a strong leadership role for professional development in the Chancellor’s Office
As noted in the narrative explanation, the intent of this recommendation is for “the Chancellor’s Office staff to work with the Foundation for California Community Colleges to create system-wide partnerships with private and public sectors to secure resources and grants to support professional development activities in the CCC System.” As with Recommendation 6, Academic Senate representatives expressed concern regarding a conflict with the Academic Senate’s purview, and thus the following statement was added to the narrative explanation: “The Chancellor’s Office staff will also acknowledge that professional development for faculty falls under the purview of the academic senate per Title 5 Section 53200 (b) and will therefore consult directly with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges prior to making to any decision that relates to or impacts faculty professional development.” The recommendation received no significant opposition after this addition.
Recommendation #8 – Establish a virtual professional development resource center through the Chancellor’s Office that will enable colleges to access high quality resources easily and cost efficiently.
The intent of Recommendation 8, as stated in the narrative explanation, is that the Chancellor’s Office “can serve as the virtual portal for professional development resources. Colleges looking for high quality and cost efficient resources could have a one-stop shopping environment coordinated and sustained by the Chancellor’s Office.” Possible aspects of the resource center might include best practices, consortium purchases, media sharing, news and updates, and others. The recommendation was generally supported by all constituencies, with faculty noting that the assurances regarding respect for the faculty voice and role in decision-making under Recommendations 6 and 7 would also apply to the materials included in the resource center.
The Professional Development Committee recommendations are expected to move forward from the chancellor to the Board of Governors within a period of two to four months. Local academic senates should discuss the recommendations and provide input through all available channels, especially by contacting the leadership of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, in order to ensure that the final recommendations sent to the Board of Governors are informed by the viewpoints of faculty statewide.