Improving student retention & transfer rates
February 15, 2011
A multi-disciplinary group of LMC faculty and staff is excited to be making progress on a national equity initiative designed to improve student retention and transfer rates. The team has been working hard to implement an intense, research-based approach called the Equity Scorecard™ developed by the Center for Urban Education (CUE), based at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.
CUE’s Equity Scorecard™ is a process that uses data, broken down by race and ethnicity, to identify campus-wide barriers to student success and pinpoint areas for improvement. The collaboration, which began in September 2009, is currently focusing on basic skills classes at LMC, and a second phase has been added to look at improving transfer rates among students.
The process essentially assists college instructors to become “action-researchers.” It was created almost 10 years ago by Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon, CUE co-director and a professor of higher education at USC.
Bensimon’s philosophy is that campuses must acknowledge and change institutional practices that interfere with student achievement. Her belief is shared by LMC’s “evidence team,” made up of 17 faculty and staff members tasked with conducting research and analyzing data that will eventually lead to recommendations and steps for campus and district leaders to follow.
Outcomes can range from a larger equity focus to institution-wide policy changes. The team’s work in the last year culminated in inquiries about English 90 and the Matriculation process. In the year to come, team members will be initiating inquiries in transfer-level courses as well as student services.
Joellen Hiltbrand, an English instructor and a member of the evidence team, said she’s been inspired by CUE’s skill in training fellow faculty members.
“It wasn’t just like they are coming in and telling us what they know and leaving,” she said. “Their skill involves building skill sets so we can go through this whole process, facilitate tricky conversations and build more teams around the campus
She acknowledges it’s a lot of work but believes it’s all worth it.
“When you see the systemic, decades-long, inequity of educational outcomes for groups of students, I don’t see any ethical argument for not doing this,” she said. “The situation needs to change.”
The experience has also been eye-opening for former LMC President Dr. Peter Garcia. Garcia, now serving as the interim president of Diablo Valley, became an integral part of the team early on. He made it his priority to attend all meetings and was instrumental in moving the entire process forward at LMC.
“As a community college president, I have an obligation to ensure all students are successful,” Garcia said. “If a large number of students are not progressing through basic skills courses and moving on to transfer level courses, we as an institution need to figure out what is happening and why. We need to find out what are those obstacles impeding progress and make change happen institution-wide.”