CUE researchers publish article on impact of Equity Scorecard

Highlights ways the tool helped change structures at the Community College of Aurora

By Adrian Trinidad

James Gray presenting at a culminating event held by CUE at the Community College of Aurora, Aurora, Colo.

James Gray presenting at a culminating event held by CUE at the Community College of Aurora, Aurora, Colo.

In a new article, “Developing Agency for Equity-Minded Change,” researchers at the Center for Urban Education highlight how the Community College of Aurora (CCA) used the Equity Scorecard to advance significant change in the structures and practices that impact students of color. The scorecard, a theory-based strategy that helps community colleges embed equity into their institutional norms, practices and policies, engages key actors at an institution through a research process that stimulates data-driven action.

The authors—including Phd student Eric R. Felix, CUE Co-Director Estela Mara Bensimon and CUE Project Administrator Debbie Hanson—showcase how two practitioners were able to identify and change their practices to address inequities among racial minorities at CCA, an institution with a predominately white administrative and student population. They discuss the value of accessing institutional practices when evaluating student outcomes—not student deficiencies—a method that creates necessary dialogue about race.

So Why Does It Matter?

The article addresses a growing awareness and need to engage in discussions around race through a learning process of inquiry. Practitioners are given the tools to analyze their own data disaggregated by race, which enable them to reach interpretations of the data using an equity lens, or through the student experience.

James Gray, mathematics chair at CCA, shares “[Inquiry] gets you to come from a completely different point of view, and it gets you thinking about your students in a complete different way.”

By engaging in this type of inquiry, practitioners learn to become equity-minded in their frameworks of student success and set groundwork for how to access student performance in the future. This by no means is an easy task.

As James shares: “Looking back on our meetings, I’m really proud of what our college was able to accomplish and my own professional growth. Knowing that you must be a leader on a highly charged discussion of racial bias creates a lot of anxiety, but I’ve learned that doing it well is just like anything else; it takes practice.”

The key is practice. The goal of the scorecard is not to immediately transform a college’s success outcomes, but to equip practitioners with the tools to access and change their practices.

The collaboration with CUE and use of the Equity Scorecard has led to sustained efforts around racial equity at CCA. Since the partnership, the college has hired faculty of color, engaged senior administration on discussions of race and has reviewed essential learning tools that impact the student experience, such as course syllabi, developmental education, its online website or pedagogy in the classroom.

This approach has shifted remediation of students to that of remediation of practitioners, who have the power and ability to create a sense of agency in improving the success outcomes for underrepresented students.

“Developing Agency for Equity-Minded Change” is authored by Eric R. Felix, Estela Mara Bensimon, Debbie Hanson, James Gray and Libby Klingsmith. It appears in New Directions for Community Colleges, Special Issue: Understanding Equity in Community College Practice (volume 2015, Issue 172, pgs. 25–42,Winter 2015).

Adrian Trinidad is a research assistant in the Center for Urban Education.