Metro Academies Star on Capitol Hill

Metro Academies Star on Capitol Hill

Article published in City Currents

March 21, 2012.

By Vicki Legion
Health Education Dept. of City College
Co-principal investigator of the Metro Academies Initiative

Full article available here.


The City College Metro Academy program was presented as a national role model for student success at a congressional education briefing on Capitol Hill on March 1. The briefing included testimony from CCSF Metro student Camille Jackson, who spoke about the program from the student’s point of view.

On March 1, City College of San Francisco, along with CSU-SF, received national recognition in Congress for its leadership on the issue of college completion with equity. Its Metro Academies were the subject of a 90-minute Capitol Hill briefing for Congressional staffers and education officials.

Over 70 legislative staff and education officials attended the briefing, including California Senator Barbara Boxer’s office and the director of FIPSE, the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, US Department of Education.


Closing the Completion Gap

The Metro program is becoming a national model for closing the college completion gap between low-income, first-generation, and under-represented students, compared to more affluent students. The briefing highlighted City College Metro student Camille Jackson and SF State student Alexander Leyva-Estrada, both describing the program from the student point of view. Mary Beth Love and Savita Malik of SF State and City College presented the program design and results.

During a panel discussion at the briefing, Dr. Eduardo M. Ochoa, Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, stated that Metro Academies is exactly the type of program that the US Department of Education wants to see scaled up nationally. In fact, he featured Metro Academies both on the Department of Education home page and on his blog Homeroom, leading with the story of City College student Camille Jackson.


The Metro Model

The Metro Academy is an innovative program that is increasing college retention rates, particularly for students who are low-income, first generation and/or from underrepresented communities.  Metro reconfigures of the first two years of college, and aims at increasing the number of students who stay in college and graduate with associates and bachelor’s degrees. The distinguishing feature of the program is a long-duration learning community, in which students work together as a cohort that takes two classes together each semester over four semesters.


An ‘educational’ home

Student services are embedded in the classroom itself and students construct individual education plans with an academic counselor. This design gives students a personalized educational “home,” with instructors, counselors, and peers who support the students over time (and if a student must stop out for a semester, they can step back in). Metro also provides tutoring, and is now putting in place electronic portfolios to exhibit students’ new skills. With a highly structured pathway and close academic counseling, Metro sharply reduces the large-scale problem of ‘excess units’– students taking the wrong courses—which often are not accepted for transfer, or the frustration of having to take ‘killer courses’ over and over again.

Transfer students say that this inefficiency slows their academic progress for up to three semesters of full-time study, with students acquiring an average of 42 units that do not to count toward graduation. These excess units are estimated by the State Chancellor’s Office to cost California up to 160 million dollars a year. An essential feature of the program is that all Metro core courses satisfy graduation requirements for the associate’s degree, for transfer, and for graduation for all 241 majors in the Cal State University system. In other words, Metro is a universal general education transfer pathway.

Metro was developed by a long-standing partnership between City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University, and fosters collaborations among many departments and programs across the two institutions.


College Staff Contributing to Program

There are currently five Metro Academies programs at SF State and City College of San Francisco. At City College, Beth Freedman and Rama Kased coordinate the Metro Academy of Health, working with Health Education co-chair Tim Berthold, Dean Terry Hall, and several faculties. Gabriel Martinez-Beildeck coordinates the Metro Academy of Child Development, working with chair Kathleen White and several faculty. Chair Nadine Rosenthal of the Learning Assistance Center provides tutors. And plans are on the drawing board for a Metro Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The James Irvine Foundation, FIPSE (US Department of Education), and the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund supported Metro’s start-up and evaluation. Now leaders across City College are stepping forward to make sure the program is institutionalized and expanded: Chancellor Don Griffin, Vice Chancellors JoAnn Low and Lindy McKnight, Dean Laurie Scolari, Psych Chair Ray Gamba, Math Chair Dennis Pientowski, English Chair Jessica Brown, IDST Chair Lauren Mueller and Liberal Arts Dean Bob Davis, along with Science Dean David Yee. Cynthia Dewar is developing the electronic portfolios for student assessment, working with her counterparts at SF State. Stats Support Success Story

In the postsecondary research literature, a five percent improvement in outcomes is considered a robust result. At the most mature program–Metro Academy of Health at SF State—Metro students are 21 percent more likely than a matched comparison group to continue into their fifth semester of college. Metro students also post higher grade point averages and make more rapid progress toward graduation. At City College’s more recently established Metro Academy of Health, CCSF Institutional Researcher Steve Spurling has demonstrated that Metro students now have a nine percent greater predicted likelihood of completing 60 units.


To learn more about Metro Academies, visit or e-mail a request for a more detailed brochure to Read more about the Washington briefing in the Community College Times, the news outlet of the American Association of Community Colleges.