March 10, 2005
A Tale of Two Colleges
Lilly Nguyen;Lisa Petrides
Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education
This story of two community colleges tells how they have dealt with the demands for data that state-mandated accountability requires. The story is based on research conducted at a large community college district in California. On the surface, the story might seem straightforward: accountability mandates led to the expansion of the Institutional Research Department, causing the schools to try to replace an outdated Student Information System in order to improve the district's overall access to data. However, the underlying story is more complicated. If it had a headline, it might be one of these: Why can't we get the data we need? A new system? What system? Is access to data really that important? This story looks at the community college district on multiple levels, weaving together anecdotes and experiences along with the underlying themes and tensions. It is an attempt to look at one component of the educational environment -- the one that links state policy-makers to the schools they oversee -- tracing the drive toward accountability through to its consequences in practice.