Practices that Promote Equity in Basic Skills in California Community Colleges

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Long Beach City College Promise Program

A similar community-wide effort began in Long Beach in 2008 when Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), Long Beach City College (LBCC) and California State University Long Beach (CSULB) developed and committed to the Long Beach College Promise. The promise to the Long Beach community, another community with rapidly changing and very diverse student populations, was a seamless and coordinated effort to help every student achieve a college education.

Beginning in fall 2008, the Promise provides a variety of educational benefits and services:

  • A Tuition Free Semester at LBCC: As part of their Gateway to Greatness program, LBCC commits to providing a tuition-free semester to every LBUSD student by 2011.

  • Guaranteed College Admission: CSULB commits to accepting all students who complete minimum college preparatory or minimum community college transfer requirements.

  • Early and Continued Outreach: All three institutions will begin student and family outreach services in sixth grade and continue them through college to ensure college entrance requirements are fulfilled and students are successful. 

  • Multiple Pathway Support:  All three institutions will support the various college pathways students may choose based on their personal situation and interests.

Key Components of the Long Beach College Promise

Each of the following core components of the promise3 were coordinated with local elementary schools, high schools, and colleges, as well as communicated to parents. Information is linked to a website, in English and Spanish, to enhance the community’s understanding and resources.

1. Completion of the “A-G” high school courses, with a C or better, to qualify students for university admission (see Appendix F for an explanation of the A-G courses).

2. Enhancement of college and career awareness beginning in elementary school and expanding in high school and ROP (Regional Occupational Programs).

3. Outreach to parents through a family involvement website and increased efforts concerning requirements for high school graduation and college eligibility that begins in grade 6 (

4. Enhanced counseling through increased access to counselors beginning in middle school.

5. Mentorship through partnerships with community organizations beginning in middle school.

6. Strategies to develop early algebra readiness and completion, which represents one of the greatest barriers to high school completion and college readiness.

7. Literacy development targeting reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English in addition to expanding academic vocabulary needed for success in math, science, history, and English.

8. Enhanced systemic and evaluated interventions to monitor and increase student retention, including more focused and intensive interventions based on need, summer school, and Saturday school programs.

9. Expansion of the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which is a systemic district-wide elective class for 6th – 12th graders targeting college.

AVID’s mission is to ensure that all students, and most especially the least served students who are in the middle school

  • will succeed in a rigorous curriculum,

  • will complete a rigorous college preparatory path,

  • will enter mainstream activities of the school,

  • will increase their enrollment in four-year colleges, and

  • will become educated responsible participants and leaders in a democratic society4.
    10. Expansion and access to Advance Placement (AP) courses
    5 which prepare students for college and save parents college tuition costs by providing early coursework and college credit for a variety of courses.

Long Beach College Promise Program Goals and Data

The Promise program began in 2008 and is very young concerning attainment of outcomes and data showing its effectiveness. The individual program, school, and college goals have been clearly defined, with monitoring and evaluation methodology mapped out. Currently the reported data includes historical improvements prior to the program initiation, opinion surveys that show community alignment with Promise goals, and successful outreach efforts with over 3,500 6th grade parents contacted, and over 600 parents attending workshops on the Initiative, GEAR UP, and high school choice. Preparations for fulfilling the promise include a visit by all LBUSD 4th graders to LBCC and all 5th graders to CSULB, which should affect over 12,000 students, and the creation of four success centers to provide supplemental education in math, reading, writing and career technical education, currently serving over 7,000 students each semester at LBCC.

Practices that Promote Institution-wide Equitable Outcomes

The Santa Ana College and Long Beach City College institutional equity-mindedness were incubated through dialogue and nourished with local data about diversity. The next section of this paper identifies strategies to develop college-wide commitment to equity through guided discussion and inquiry surrounding student success data disaggregated by ethnicity.

Potential Flex Day Group Questions

Define equity in your own words.

Nationally and institutionally what are the success rates for students of color?

Do you think that students of color have equitable access and ability to succeed at this institution – why or why not?

How can curricular content, syllabi, web pages, and assignments encourage inclusivity of diverse students?

What classroom practices may enable greater student success for diverse students and why?

What institutional practices may enable greater student success for diverse students and why?
Creating Institution-wide Equity Dialogue

One method to begin equity-minded institutional explorations is to use a FLEX day or opening day to have small group discussions, using the questions in the box to the left or modifying them to specific institutional missions and student populations. This is an effective strategy to identify and eliminate institutional barriers to equitable success. Estela Bensimon (2007) of the Center for Urban Education (CUE) advocates that disaggregating student outcome data by race and ethnicity is a first step in identifying problems in student achievement and making inequitable outcomes visible because problems that are invisible cannot be addressed or resolved. CUE has developed an extensive consulting program that directs this kind of data-driven dialogue, which was an initial starting point for the current Long Beach City College community-wide effort reported above. More information on the Equity For All and Equity Benchmarking projects at USC – CUE are available in the Appendix G.
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