Equity Metrics - Developing Inclusive Strategies in a Diverse World

May
2006
Phillip Maynard,

When it comes to examining equity and other inclusive initiatives introduced in higher education, the conversation of assessment arises early, as well as it should. Whenever such an initiative is implemented there should be a system of evaluation in place to measure the effectiveness of the institution's efforts.

Mt. San Antonio College is excited to be working with the University of Southern California's Equity for All Project. The Equity for All Project is a partnership between the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California, the System Office for the California Community Colleges, the Lumina Foundation, and participating community colleges: College of Alameda, De Anza College, Hartnell College, Long Beach City College, Merritt College, Rio Hondo College, San Joaquin Delta College, and LA Southwest College.

The key principle of "Equity for All" is that individuals at all levels of leadership, responsibility, and power are the ones who can make change happen and bring about equitable educational outcomes.

The capacity of individuals to become agents of change can be facilitated by engagement in a collaborative productive activity.

This principle is implemented by the formation of teams of practitioner-researchers who convene to examine data on student outcomes and develop a scorecard on the "state of equity." These teams are called "evidence teams" and are comprised of faculty, administrators, and staff critically examining and discussing collected data in order to reach a measure of understanding as to why inequities persist on their campuses. each member of the evidence team assumes the role of researcher, whose job it is to "hold a mirror to their respective institutions and reflect the status of underrepresented students on basic educational outcomes." Organizational learning occurs when new knowledge is constructed by evidence team members and is used to induce institutional change for the improvement of educational outcomes for minority student groups.

Overall, the Equity for All Project seeks to reframe the discussion from student responsibility to institutional accountability and place the processes of higher education center-stage to bring about change at the institutional level.

The logistics of the framework for Equity for All is identified by four perspectives that make up the structure of the Scorecard: Academic Pathways, Transfer Readiness, Retention and Persistence, and Excellence.

The Academic Pathways perspective includes indicators that represent access to majors, programs, and tracks (e.g., transfer vs. vocational track). The Retention and Persistence perspective refers to continued attendance from one year to the next year and/or to completion of degrees. The Transfer Readiness perspective consists of measures that indicate students' completion of required academic requirements for transfer, and measures that indicate institutional structures and practices that are conducive to a transferoriented culture. While measures of retention may represent the fulfillment of minimal requirements for "academic survival", the Excellence perspective represents higher level academic accomplishments that can lead to majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, or transfer to selective institutions, winning academic scholarships, etc.

With each of these perspectives, the Evidence Team investigated measures called "vital signs" disaggregated by ethnicity. This was accomplished for the purpose of establishing relevant indicators of equity/inequity educational outcomes based on an analysis of the data revealed.

One might ask the question: "Why would a community college want information of this nature?" Institutional Research already provides and monitors success and graduation rates as evidence of the institution's effectiveness; however there may be little or no evidence for equity/inequities in these rates between races/ethnicities. This leads to the question: "Are all historically underrepresented groups achieving equitable outcomes in education?"

Mt. San Antonio college was invited to participate in the Equity for All project based on the racial/ethnic composition of its student body. All invited institutions met at least one of the following criteria for inclusion in the project:

The percentage of enrolled latino/a students was 25% or higher

The enrollment of African American students exceeded the California Community College system wide average percentage

The enrollment of native american students exceeded the system average of 1%

The total enrollment of non-caucasian students was 50% or greater.

Our campus was also a good match for the project because Equity for All is commensurate with the goals of Mt. San Antonio College, specifically: "the College will provide an environment for consciousness of diversity while also providing opportunities for increased diversity and equity for all across campus." Additional equity goals are in the college's Student Equity Plan, available online at http://www.mtsac.edu/about/facts/student_equity_plan.pdf.

Mt. Aan Antonio College, like the other eight colleges, is extremely excited to participate in the Equity for All project. As is well known, the State of California requires that all community colleges submit a student equity plan that demonstrates an avenue to identify student success for all students. The results of Equity for All can be the beginning of a new prototype for a new student equity plan that will enable community colleges to further engage in evidence-based practices to identify problems and set benchmarks.

The next step is to identify the source of these problems and move towards finding a way to overcome possible identified barriers that must be overcome to achieve the benchmarks.

Prior to the completion of the project, the Evidence Team discussed a variety of strategies to be engaged in the dissemination of the data, with hopes of bringing the entire campus community into a dialogue about equitable educational outcomes. For each perspective, an Equity Brief has been created, the first one having already been completed and sent out to faculty and administrators. This will provide the campus community with information of the team's work and will encourage stakeholders to get actively involved in the process of cultivating equity.

The Equity for All Evidence Team has given status reports to the academic senate and other campus committees about the team's progress and findings.

We believe that gathering data about outcomes and disaggregating by race and ethnicity is a powerful means of raising awareness of institutional problems and then motivating faculty and staff to seek solutions.

We have had one meeting with the college president, who has given us a 100% endorsement.

The final report will include recommendations for next steps that result from the final analysis. While we are proud of what we at Mt. San Antonio College Equity for All team have accomplished thus far, we must continually infuse the state of equity into the larger discussion about institutional performance.

At the Fall 2004 Plenary Session, a breakout was presented by representatives of the center of urban education and during Spring, 2005 Session, Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon, Director of the Denter for Urban Education, was a keynote speaker on Equity for All.

A student equity Initiative was submitted as a resolution and passed at the Spring 2006 Plenary Session. The resolution asks that colleges participating in the Equity for All and the Campus Change Network present some of their evidence-based findings at a future breakout.

This can be an exciting challenge for all of us.

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