Basic Skills: Opportunities for Transformation

Basic Skills Committee, Chair
Basic Skills Initiative, Project Director

At our recent Fall Plenary, basic skills issues seemed to infuse themselves in a variety of breakouts, activities, and presentations-a reminder of the enormity of our professional and academic responsibilities to ensure the success of our students. But this focus, whether deliberate or not, was clearly reflected in the Plenary title, "Change by Design: Opportunities for Transformation."

In large measure, this attention is due to the Basic Skills Initiative. Currently, local colleges should be in the process of completing their self-assessment and developing their action plans. Instructions, advice and a Word version of the Self-Assessment Tool can be found at The Basic Skills Committee sought to assist colleges in this undertaking by asking a simple yet critical question: Where do we go from here?

It's not enough to assess and make plans, but we all must ensure a campus cultural shift that supports, values, and enhances basic skills. Moreover, professional development will become a critical component as the Initiative moves forward into Phase III in 2008. Some districts and colleges have begun taking these steps. Other colleges are in the process of developing their self-assessment and action plan. A variety of valuable resources submitted by the colleges are posted at

Across the state, colleges have undertaken a variety of strategies to meet students' needs. Oxnard College has developed a basic skills lab called the Success Academy ( At Ventura College, faculty members from across disciplines meet under the umbrella of Academic Alliance to improve student success by focusing on basic skills. At El Camino College, one history instructor has used technology to embed basic skills within his courses (

The dialogue between mathematics, English, and career technical education faculty to develop guidelines that can be used to integrate higher mathematics and English skills to meet the forthcoming new graduation requirements has begun. This discussion will continue at the Vocational Education Leadership Institute in March 2008, with the guidelines being presented at the 2008 Spring Plenary.

The Basic Skills Initiative and basic skills issues found their way into student service learning outcomes, along with student equity and accreditation. Using data on our colleges and our students underscores how we begin to assess our needs. But the issues of student equity, student service SLOs, and basic skills as they tie into accreditation standards help to make the assessment stronger-and provide the necessary data in any college's forthcoming accreditation self-study. Basic skills also wended its way into noncredit issues, as colleges begin to establish programs to support student success. It also is reflected in discussions on full-time faculty hiring and the need for full-time instructors in both credit and noncredit basic skills programs.

Ultimately, the Basic Skills Initiative provides opportunities for transformation, be it personal or institutional.

By having discussions and moving toward professional development opportunities for all faculty, full-time and part-time, and by examining the larger picture, the BSI just might do what it intended in the first place: a cultural transformation of our colleges.