Hewlett Leaders in Student Success Recognition


Review of award-winning colleges that demonstrated success with basic skills populations through strategies that support systematic improvement.

In 2008 and 2009, the Hewlett Leaders in Student Success program honored a total of seven community colleges that demonstrate promising and innovative approaches to success in basic skills. Their programs are outstanding models for other colleges determined to help every student succeed. To this end, the Hewlett Leaders received $15,000 to support dissemination of their best ideas through peer outreach including colloquia, workshops, and mentorships.

The Need

Basic skills courses help underprepared students master the skills required for success in transfer-level courses, those in which students can earn credit toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. The Basic Skills Initiative, funded by the California Community College Chancellor’s office is dedicated to this issue. The need is vast. Every year roughly half a million new students enroll in a community college, but at least 70 percent are not prepared for college work. "Open Access," the mandate of the state’s community college system, depends upon robust, multi-tiered strategies to increase the success of basic skills students.

Promising models

Colleges across the state use a wide range of worthwhile strategies to build foundation skills. Hewlett Leaders are colleges that have reached beyond efforts that serve discrete groups of students to adopt strategies for scaling up and sustaining basic skills success. Many of the successful strategies that captured the attention of the Hewlett Leaders program started small, then spread into sustainable, campus-wide programs. In particular, Hewlett Leaders looked for colleges that use outcome data to validate success and that can be replicated in other schools. Sharing information is a key goal of the program. Each college honored will receive a stipend to support dissemination of its successful strategies.

Key Findings

This program yielded a range of findings, from ways to evaluate basic skills improvement, to documenting successful practices at seven institutions, to identifying common themes among the Hewlett Leader colleges.

Linda Umbdenstock, Ph.D., Executive Director, Hewlett Leaders in Student Success, the RP Group