By Alex Lippa
As he completes his first year as president of Northern Essex Community College, Lane Glenn says he believes the school has made strides but there are still improvements to be made.
The school awarded 1,141 associate degrees at its graduation in May, an increase of 9 percent over last year and the highest number in the school's history.
"We had a big jump this year that was unexpected," said Glenn. "We have a 10-year plan, which started in 2010, where we hope to hand out 1,500 degrees."
On the minus side, the school saw a drop in math and English composition scores, which Glenn emphasized as a point of focus when he took office.
Only 55 percent of students passed math courses with a C or better this school year. In 2010-11, that number was 64 percent. Glenn's goal for the school is 60 percent.
Glenn said there has been a major change in the way math classes are taught at NECC.
"We have made changes in the curriculum to help better prepare students," said Glenn. "We are focusing on common tests and common methods to teach math. "
Glenn said that 80 percent of students at NECC need remedial math classes. The school has also expanded math labs and have offered what Glenn classifies as "math refresher" courses. Composition scores also declined slightly — from 61 percent a year ago to 59 percent. Glenn's goal for the school is 64 percent.
Glenn said another number NECC focuses on is its student success rate, a number which improved this year. Student success rate indicates the percentage of students who have earned a degree or have transferred to a four-year college to earn a bachelor's degree, or who are on track to do either.
The school's student success rate was 78 percent this year, up from 75 percent a year earlier. Glenn's goal is to reach 84 percent.
Also in Lane's first year, the school agreed to partner with Whittier Tech and Greater Lawrence Tech to offer vocational programs at NECC. The school will offer machine tools technology classes in conjunction with Whittier and auto technician classes with Greater Lawrence.
"Employers in those trades are changing and looking for education beyond high school," said Glenn. "In Massachusetts, there aren't many places to go for vocationaltraining."
Preparing students to transfer to four-year schools is another focus of Glenn's.
NECC has teamed up with the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Salem State University, its two biggest transfer schools, to offer reverse transfer agreements.
The agreement allows students to use credits earned at the four-year colleges to earn a NECC associate's degree while in the process of obtaining a bachelor's degree.
"This helps students with their transfer plans," said Glenn. "The majority of students work while at school, and some students don't necessarily obtain their bachelor's degrees right away."
Glenn said NEC is not competing with these four-year schools but rather working with them toward a common goal.
"In the current economic environment there is no such a thing as competition," said Glenn. "We are all collaborating to do all we can to help increase the workforce."
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