Accreditation Visiting Team at CCSF

The public dialog about the accreditation crisis at CCSF is all black and white. For some people, CCSF is and always has been a paragon of student learning and is being persecuted by a corrupt commission. For others, CCSF is a deeply flawed and needs to be cleaned out from top to bottom.

What’s lost in these narratives is the truth, which is of course somewhere between the extremes. We have successful courses and programs, with great students, hard-working teachers, smart administrators, and conscientious support staff. We are also behind the times in many areas and have a culture that too often resists innovation and protects the status quo at almost any cost.

From where I sit, the crisis has brought many positive changes and some that I wouldn’t have chosen. We are in the middle of recreating the institutional culture and the jury is still out about what kind of a college we will be on the other end.

All this is in the report we prepared for the visiting team. Now that they are here, they will hopefully see that we wrote an honest report, revealing the complex reality of our successes, our failures, and our potential.

We’ll find out the official results in January.


My goal and my work is to help City College of San Francisco be the best college it can be for its students, its community, and its workers (in that order). Anything else is beside the point.

So even though I haven’t written for several months it does not mean I’ve been inactive or that I’m past caring about the fate of City College. I’ve been silent because it’s been hard to know what to say. Between the ACCJC keeping the college’s feet to the fire while itself facing criticism on several fronts, a student protest gone very wrong, and a vocal group of my colleagues who see the accreditation crisis as a corporate takeover, it’s been difficult to find room to say something that would not harm the chances of keeping the college open.

And now Restoration. In an historic event, the accrediting commission created a new status — “restoration” — apparently specifically for City College of San Francisco. And in a very carefully worded letter that outlines several concerns they have with restoration status, the CCSF administration applied for it. The application was accepted and the college, which was slated to lose accreditation on July 31, 2014, is now officially “accredited, pending termination.”

As a result, the college has begun to evaluate itself, writing up with careful evidence how it meets each one of the accreditation standards or providing a detailed plan to meet those standards it does not yet meet. A team from the ACCJC will visit CCSF in mid-November to evaluate and verify our evaluation; if we’ve done our job and the commission believes us, the college will be “accredited, on restoration status” for two years. Somewhere near the end of those two years, the commission will again visit and decide if the college is in full compliance with all standards. If we do, we’ll remain accredited. If not, we won’t.

While this is a lot of work for the college and some feel we’re being held to an unfair standard, I agree with CCSF Chancellor Tyler when he wrote to the college community that restoration status “offers CCSF the best opportunity to meet the needs of its students and the San Francisco community at this time.” Tyler has not ruled out legal action to keep the college open in the future, but court cases are risky and even victories often pyrrhic. So, we make sure we’re meeting the standards and prove that we are.

And that’s a good thing. It’s about making sure the college’s house is in order. As I’ve said before, it’s our job and it’s what our students and our community deserve.

A grieving college

Last Thursday I watched my colleagues in grief.

It was a professional development day, so classes were cancelled. Instead, there was an excellent schedule of events, including a brilliant keynote speaker, a thoughtful collection of workshops, and division and department meetings. It had the potential to be a day of growth and community.

But somewhere around the middle of the workshop I attended, I realized that I was watching my colleagues express all the stages of grief. I heard denial. I saw anger. I observed bargaining and depression. Occasionally, I even glimpsed a little acceptance.  Different people were at different stages, but all the stages were present. And for the rest of the day, in formal meetings and in conversations in halls and offices, I spotted more and more examples of grief.

Compassion for my college and my colleagues came along with the recognition of the pain I was witnessing.  And then I realized that they were grieving the loss of business as usual.

Under the pressures of the threat of losing accreditation, a new administration, decreased enrollment, new state regulations governing course repeatability, and a somewhat improved job market (which typically reduces demand for classes in community college), City College is experiencing more significant change than it has seen since at least the 1980s. Any change is hard and big changes are harder, so the grief is understandable.

But consider that for decades the college has essentially operated the same, with small tweaks here and there – sometimes improvements, sometimes not. The college’s enrollment management systems and business practices were decades old. The governance system and power dynamics – both formal and informal – have evolved to protect the status quo, to protect under-filled classes, outdated courses, and stale practices.

Of course, many, perhaps most of my colleagues are dedicated, hard-working professionals who put their students first and who innovate and evolve their practices to meet the changing needs of our students. And not all change is good. But the fact remains that my colleagues and I have become comfortable with an institution that is in many ways great, but also has many ways to improve — not least of which is to close achievement gaps at the college that are, if anything, widening.

I have compassion for all people in pain. I also recognize that some pain is constructive. Some pain is part of a necessary process to heal a wounded college. Hopefully, last Thursday’s communal display of grief was a step toward working through pain toward acceptance and a stronger institution in the future.

Educational Master Plan — We need your input!

The mood at City College of San Francisco continues to evolve, but more and more I hear people around the college saying they believe we are going to recover from the threat of losing our accreditation and continue to serve our community for years to come.

It’s not surprising. We’ve worked hard as individuals and as a college community to meet the accreditation standards. The progress is substantial as you can see for yourself at CCSF Forward. We may have dragged our feet over some issues, but overall we’ve come to grips with the importance of meeting or exceeding the standards and gotten it done.

The big question now is what kind of college we will be at the other end of this crisis. When you add up the changes we’ve made for accreditation, a new administration, rule changes coming from the state legislature, enrollment declines that have effected most California community colleges, and the continuing pressures of demographic changes in and around San Francisco, you’ve got a recipe for a drastically different college in the next five years.

That’s part of why the college’s new Educational Master Plan (EMP) is so important. The EMP is a “long range plan that sets a unified direction for CCSF’s future over the next five years.” The process of creating the EMP has already begun, but you can still be a part of the conversation (see calendar). The voice of the community we serve is the most important part of this plan. It would be great to see you there.

It’s Time to Accelerate Acceleration: The Future Is Now


On Thursday, January 9, City College of San Francisco held its first official professional development day of 2014. Amid our trepidations over accreditation, the excitement about teaching another group of students permeated everything.  With the New Year ahead of us, it’s only fitting that we start to look at the many ways to innovate and remain relevant. There’s no question that the English Department’s Accelerated Learning Program, ALP, is a clear way to accomplish institutional, state and educational goals where everybody wins, students, teachers and the college, included.


In an informative Flex Day Workshop, the English department’s Michelle Simotas and Caroline Minkowski presented an overview of accelerated classes, revealing just why ALP course are so popular. From the driving question of the course, which is printed in the schedule, to project-based, research-driven and inquiry-based learning, these courses are enticing and attractive prospects for most students; accelerated classes are empowering from the starting block. Furthermore, from the perspective of a teacher, it’s clearly one of the best ways to teach, engage and promote critical thinking. Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are addressed in the backward design, making sure that the courses are providing students with required course content. Reading materials remain relevant throughout the semester since the entire curriculum is connected to the driving question. Students think about the real purpose of rhetoric, giving life to the concept of audience when they publish blogs and present to their classmates. Minkowski’s pride was evident when she showed off her students’ projects. She beamed with good reason. The numbers don’t lie. Student pass rates are 2.2 times higher than in the regular sequence. African American students are fairing even better. Acceleration is working.


With all this good news, why aren’t we implementing this model in all English classes? After seven semesters of experience with an extremely popular and successful program, it’s clearly time to hit the gas on the Accelerated Learning Program. We need to train more teachers and grow the pool of eligible and qualified teachers so that we can offer more of them each year. In a conversation with one of the ALP leads, she explained that the cohort is looking at creating a mentorship program. New teachers can shadow experienced teachers and current ALP instructors in the lower sequence can get the training they need to teach the transfer-level course. With success rates in accelerated classes doubled and tripled in some student populations, there is no question that we should grow the program now.


ALP is just what our college needs to meet the new state mandates for repeatability because it can eliminate that factor altogether. The rare student who doesn’t complete both levels can still take the subsequent course in a following semester. Students will move quickly through the sequence with the potential of finishing their English requirements in two semesters or less, depending on where they enter the sequence. The California Acceleration Project has trained a cohort of over 20 City College teachers. We should now take the next step in getting the entire department on board. We’re the only community college that has acceleration in a transfer-level course. If we can double the number of classes offered and train more teachers to teach in the ALP, we’ll be meeting the future with the progressive and innovative pedagogy that great institutions should aspire to.


Our future is in our hands

Despite the headlines and the cries of victory by some parties, City College’s situation is much the same as it was before the recent court decision.

When you read the language of the decision carefully (there’s a “plain English” version at the end), you’ll see that the judge found only that there were sufficient questions about the fairness of that process – and the consequences of closing the college severe enough – to warrant a full court hearing on the fairness of the process before invoking the consequences. At the same time, he expresses deep uncertainty about whether a fair process would have changed the outcome or not. In other words, the judge explicitly acknowledges that the college has major issues to address before we’ll be allowed to remain open.

It’s important to keep in mind that even if the process is found to be unfair, the court does not have the authority to grant accreditation. The best outcome I can see coming out of a “win” for the college would be for the City College to get another accreditation process. That is, the college would still have to fix the problems that the commission identified to meet the accreditation standards. All that would have been gained is time.

More time is a good thing considering the number and magnitude of the issues the college needs to address, but time is not enough. We also must make the changes. That requires vision, willingness, and the determination to do what must be done.

And while I don’t agree with everything the college’s administration has done, I do admire the fact that they are focused on meeting the standards. In fact, as CA Community College Chancellor Brice Harris put it in a letter to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, “Court intervention is not necessary to keep City College open.” Harris goes on to detail some of the positive steps the college has taken to make sure we are meeting the accreditation standards. He writes like a man who believes the college will remain open, not because the court keeps us open, but because we have fixed the problems and earned the right to serve our community.

So, get excited about the court’s decision if you like, but let’s stay focused on making City College the college it could be for our students and our community.

Day On 3 — November 27

WE ARE CCSF welcomes everyone who wants to REPAIR REBUILD RESTORE our college by focusing on positive solutions.

Wednesday, Nov. 27th, 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM

begins at 9 AM

Meet in front of the bookstore.

We are coming together to take concrete steps to address $1 billion in deferred maintenance at CCSF. Please join WE ARE CCSF, student athletes, and the Mayor’s Office as we roll up our sleeves and get to work:

  • Recycling & Composting
  • Litter Cleanup
  • Landscaping & Planting
  • Weed Pulling
  • Window Washing
  • Pruning & Raking

We are CCSF

Day On II at CCSF — Another Success

Saturday’s “Day On” at CCSF saw another 60 WeAreCCSF volunteers working to make sure City College stays open and in San Francisco for years to come. Together the alliance (Community, Classified, Students and Faculty) washed windows, pulled weeds, and picked up trash and recycling.

And it was great to be joined by CCSF administrators: new Chancellor Arthur Tyler; new Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Susan Lamb; and newly appointed Dean of Student Affairs Samuel Santos. All three put their gloves on and worked with the rest of us.

The event saw expanded news coverage, including ABC 7, KRON 4, KTVU 2, KTSF 26, KPFA, The Guardsman (CCSF’s student paper) and Sing Tao Daily. Here’s a video of the KPFA piece:

Click here for more coverage.

Join WeAreCCSF for the next event — November 27, 10 AM – 1 PM — as we repair, rebuild, and restore City College.

Help Repair, Rebuild, and Restore CCSF


NOV. 2 10AM – 1PM



Join WE ARE CCSF (Community.Classified.Students.Faculty) and follow up the success of the first Day On.
Help repair, rebuild, and restore your college.



Work. Have fun. Join the WeAreCCSF community.


Check out the WeAreCCSF page:

Follow them on Twitter: @WeAreCCSF



Day On at CCSF

On a day when classes were cancelled and the campus was mostly deserted, more than 60 people arrived at City College of San Francisco’s Ocean campus at 10 AM on Friday. The event, organized by WeAreCCSF (Community, Classified, Students, Faculty), was the first of several to begin rebuilding the college for our community. Together, we picked up trash, pulled weeds, and inventoried the college’s computer equipment. It was one of my proudest days in more than ten years at the college.

2013-10-11 11.43.01

Community members, students, and college employees (both classified staff and faculty) worked side by side. Our goal was to put a small dent in the more than $1 billion deferred maintenance bill at the college, filling in temporarily until more workers can be hired for these jobs.

By the end of the day, the head of the college’s buildings and grounds thanked us, saying we’d done “at least a month of work.” The trash blowing around a windy campus is a perpetual problem, but college workers felt supported and appreciated and could look at what had been eyesore areas with renewed pride.

The aging computers at the college have to be inventoried before they can be replaced, so the computer inventory — now 85% complete — will benefit everyone at the college. The inventory can be finished quickly now that the amount of work is more manageable.

The mood was celebratory and positive. We laughed and joked while we worked. Students led chants as we moved from one job site to another. And at the end, we gathered in the cafeteria to eat and talk a little about the next day of working together.

Friday’s “Day On” was a small step toward repairing the broken parts of the college, rebuilding a positive culture , and restoring the community’s trust. I look forward to more days like it and to seeing more folks at the next one.

2013-10-11 12.06.36

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