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Mar 17, 2017 11:35 AM EDT

It was seven years ago when Pierce Community College have made efforts in determining the reason behind low graduation rates after three years. They have joined a college-reform network called Achieving the Dream.

According to Diverse, Achieving the Dream is a national network of more than 200 community colleges who are committed to success reform. It aims to promote 7 principles that will help students succeed. Leaders from these schools gather to share best practices on how to help students from community college complete college and earn a degree.

At Pierce, the change had to happen because less than 19 percent of their students finish college after three years, according to Seattle Times The district's chancellor Michele Johnson decided to make change happen, and it finally did as the school became one of the winners in Achieving the Dream. Pierce's graduation rate is now at 31 percent. Around 64 percent of their college students are the first in their families to go to college.

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Johnson was asked by Seattle Times' Education Lab to find out what the college gas been doing. She said that they have added research capacity and started breaking down data, and also a number of new different interventions.

Pierce also made new student orientation as a requirement and began their mandatory college-success courses. Johnson also said that they have increased, even doubled tutoring services and supplemental instruction and had more than 200 faculty members who have participated in reading apprenticeships. She said that this focus on their mission is what is going to help students to thrive and eventually become successful.

Pierce's winning in Achieving the Dream's Leah Meyer Austin Award was indeed a prize for the school's effort in making outstanding progress in changing the focus to student culture.

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