2014 Award Recipient

Eloy Ortiz Oakley

Long Beach City College, Long Beach

Eloy Ortiz Oakley - The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards Skip to content

Greatly increasing community college students’ completion of transfer-level courses through better placement and enrollment strategies.

In a time when California faces a shortage of qualified workers and stretched educational funding, one community college is demonstrating a way to reduce both the time and resources it takes to move a ready student toward a degree — by three semesters on average. This difference has major implications for young people, their families, and the California economy.

Nationwide, about two-thirds of students placed in remedial courses do not complete their associate degree or transfer to a four-year college. At Long Beach City College (LBCC), low scores on standardized tests were landing 90 percent of incoming freshmen in remedial courses that do not count toward a degree.

Attuned to new research findings that show that high school grades are better predictors of student performance than standardized tests, LBCC President Eloy Ortiz Oakley established Promise Pathways, a program that uses high school performance data — including grades and transcripts now readily accessible through digital records — to improve the accuracy of student placement. Promise Pathways also employs improved advising and enrollment practices to prescribe the courses students take to maximize their success.

One year into the program, 30 percent of local school district students participating in Promise Pathways are placing into college-level math and 60 percent are placing into college-level English, compared to the respective 7 percent and 11 percent placing rates of their peers. Transfer-level course completion rates are three times greater among Promise Pathways students than among previous first-year students, and even surpass completion rates among prior student cohorts in their second year or beyond.

Promise Pathways is increasing achievement for students across demographic groups, most notably African Americans, whose success grew by a factor of four, and Latinos, whose success grew by a factor of three.

“This economy is unforgiving for a person without a credential,” said President Oakley. “We are showing how more students can earn a college degree if given a chance.”

Ten community colleges have studied and confirmed the effectiveness of Long Beach City College’s predictive placement approach. Compelled by early results at LBCC, additional colleges across California are considering applying the “predictive placement, prescriptive enrollment” method. “We operate locally, but our aim is to influence the whole system,” said President Oakley.

This economy is unforgiving for a person without a credential. We are showing how more students can earn a college degree if given a chance.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley

Oakley advocates for innovation in the education sector and sees opportunity in forging stronger connections among K–12, community college, and the University of California and California State University systems, as well as in the growing availability of school practice and student performance data.

For pushing past barriers to a college credential for more California students, President Eloy Ortiz Oakley is a recipient of a 2014 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award.

Video by Talking Eyes Media

Eloy Ortiz Oakley

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Long Beach City College


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In 2016, Eloy become Chancellor of the California Community Colleges. As Chancellor, he has expanded Long Beach City College’s effort to eliminate standardized placement exams to the entire California Community College system. The work was featured in the recently released film, Unlikely.

The written profile and video reflect the work of the leader(s) the year they received a Leadership Award. Please contact the leader(s) for current information.