Key Focus Area 2:
Embed diversity, equity and inclusion into the academic curriculum/programs
Embed DEI in Academics
Where we are
One of LCC's biggest strengths is – and always has been – a faculty body that is unanimously dedicated to students as learners and individuals. Unfortunately, although the college has at times engaged in different student success initiatives, faculty have generally had to work in separate course-level or program-level siloes to impact equity in the classroom. To provide support, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion recently began offering training for faculty and staff through the yearlong Reframing Inclusion through Scholarship and Equity (RISE) Institute. Participants:
- Learn how to lead best practices in DEI for student thriving and academic success.
- Create inclusive learning environments and workplaces.
- Generate at least one strategy for inclusive teaching or leading that addresses an exclusionary practice.
Five areas of focus
LCC is an open admission school, which means we accept all students and then need to determine their existing skill level in order to place them into the appropriate entry courses. In the past, the college used only a standardized testing approach for placement. Students could provide ACT or SAT results, or could sit for an Accuplacer test. Results from these tests were the rule by which they were placed into their first English and math classes at LCC. If they were deemed not yet ready for college-level work, they were placed into developmental education courses.
These developmental courses were designed to prepare students for success in the college-level courses, a worthy ambition. However, the reality was the pathway from the lowest-level developmental course through to college-level work was long. Students could spend upward of four semesters and thousands of dollars on developmental coursework before they ever received college credit that moved them toward their degree or certificate. This was a daunting gauntlet for even the most dedicated student, and completion rates for students who spent multiple semesters in developmental education dipped into the single digits.
What Have We Done
To address over-placement into developmental education, the college added multiple measures for establishing starting skill levels. Rather than relying on a single standardized test, students can use their high school GPA or GED test scores to demonstrate their knowledge. This change has caused a 33% decline in the number of first-time students in the fall cohort placed into developmental education since fall 2016. It did not cause a corresponding dip in success rates in college-level work. Seventy-nine percent of first-time students who enrolled in a college-level English course and 80% who enrolled in a college-level math course during their first year at LCC completed the course. Howbeit, only 39% will attempt college math and 72% will attempt college English in that first year.
In addition, the college shortened the pathway for those who still need the support of developmental education by eliminating unnecessary courses. Instead of multiple semesters of developmental English, students may only need one. In addition, students in developmental courses co-enroll in a college-level course that gets them moving toward their degree or certificate in their first semester. These changes have helped students build credit momentum. Of LCC's 2011 new student cohort, only 38% earned six or more college credits. Of LCC's 2013 new student cohort, only 43.4% earned six or more college-level credits in their first semester. Of LCC's 2019 new student cohort, 60.1% earned six or more college-level credits in their first semester, putting them on firm footing to complete their award.
To support this migration to more college-level work, LCC buttressed its wraparound services for the entire student body:
Food cards, interpreter services, and Financial Aid advising services are also more readily available. In addition, some services, while open to all, are specifically designed to support students of color. These include:
Further, all college facilities comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and document and video accessibility practices have been institutionalized into the regular work of all employees.
Although overall placement of students into developmental education courses has significantly decreased during the past 10 years, we have lots of equity work to do. Black students still account for roughly 18% of all developmental education students, but just 9% of LCC's total student body.
Additionally, on average during the past 10 years, 67% of LCC's Black students return for the spring semester, compared to 74% of all students in the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) cohorts. This equity gap grows even more when looking at fall-to-fall retention. Since 2011, on average, only 39% of Black students return for the following fall semester compared to 53% of all students in the AACC cohorts.
In other areas of the college, the equity gap has closed by 7% since 2011 when looking at the percentage of students who complete college-level English in the first year. In fall 2011, 13% of Black students and 32% of all students in the new student cohort successfully completed a college-level English course in their first year, a difference of 19%. Fast forward 10 years to fall 2019 and 45% of Black students and 57% of all students in the new student cohort completed a college-level English course in their first year, a difference of 12%.
The equity gap for college-level math has also narrowed, but only by 3% since 2011. Of the fall 2011 new student cohort, 6% of all Black students and 24% of all cohort students completed a college-level math course during their first year, a difference of 18%. In fall 2019, 16% of all Black students and 31% of all students in the new student cohort completed a college-level math course during their first year, a difference of 15%.
Similar, albeit slightly smaller gaps, persist for Hispanic students and students whose race/ethnicity is coded as "other."
LCC will continue to track these measures of success and equity, as well as any others developed by our experts in the Center for Data Science, to quantify our progress and guide future work. In addition, our forthcoming partnership with Achieving the Dream will provide additional data and success measures and data requirements.
Where we are going
LCC intends to recommit to Achieving the Dream, a national student success network. The nonprofit network is a known leader in evidence-based, college wide strategies to close achievement gaps. It is built with the expectation that equity is a core value, and affirms that it "expects colleges to dismantle the barriers facing underserved students." Although the college previously engaged in some Achieving the Dream services, it ended its participation before the work could be spread college wide and be institutionalized into the fabric of all teaching and learning.
We know the classroom is absolutely central to students' equity experience at LCC. To this end, LCC's Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), our hub for faculty support and training, is developing new DEI-focused faculty training modules. This two-part course, titled "Pedagogy of Equity," will examine how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can address racism and offer strategies for creating critical communities within the classroom.
Outside the classroom, the support provided by programs within LCC's Student Affairs Division are critical to helping students persist and complete their education. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is beginning a partnership with the Academic Success Coaches in the Student Affairs Division to develop a new pilot program focused on supporting Black male students. It will provide specific wraparound services that are almost intrusive in their intensity, with a goal of increasing retention, completion and graduation rates.
It will include required meetings, networking opportunities and peer connections. This pilot is one example of the assistance programs customized to specialized populations that LCC intends to build via a partnership between Student Affairs and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Promoting student success and closing the achievement gap requires work inside and outside the classroom. Between initiatives designed to train and support our faculty and specialized wraparound programs, we intend to create conditions of success for traditionally underserved students.