Minimum Qualifications Equivalency Standards and Criteria – A New Journey

Wheeler North, Chair, Standards and Practices Committee

In Fall 2009, a resolution was passed to look into addressing the need for “standards and suitable criteria” whereby local college faculty can more objectively and easily establish equivalencies.

10.02 F09 Equivalency Standards Guidelines

Whereas, There are significant problems with equivalency across the state; and

Whereas, Single course equivalency, eminence, equivalence to coursework, and other issues continue to be serious issues;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges produce a process of consultation with local senate and discipline organizations leading to guidelines for establishing standards and suitable criteria for equivalencies; and

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges present proposed guidelines for establishing standards and suitable criteria for equivalencies, including model practices, at a breakout at the Fall 2010 Plenary Session.

Interestingly, past efforts have never actually sought to examine and develop resources with this degree of detail or specificity. From 1989 to 2009 the Academic Senate has produced, updated, and added to at least seven papers that touch on the subject of equivalencies to varying degrees. Additionally the Academic Senate has established an additional eight to ten resolutions seeking positions or urging other actions related to equivalencies. However, in each of these the focus has been to inform the reader of the requirements pertaining to equivalencies, and how to develop policies, processes and procedures, all with a broad smattering of ensuring faculty primacy in determining both the results of the above and in determining the candidate equivalencies themselves.

Equivalence to the Minimum Qualifications (updated in 2006) is the only paper to attempt defining at least some areas and means whereby equivalencies must be established. These were pretty broad in nature and included equivalence to general education (GE) patterns, subject matter mastery and emphasized the need for equivalence to be based upon defendable evidence. However, to go much deeper into the details of comparative criteria, a large volume of detail that resides along several axes is needed. For example, where there are parallels among the categories of disciplines, such as in the arts or computer sciences, what are the skills and levels of attainment that exist for each degree/qualification?

As well, the levels become problematic the higher we go. The Associate degree is the lesser problem because our colleges each have detailed information on the skills and skill levels that occur for Associate degrees. But what about the huge variety of requirements that exist from one post-graduate program to another? Thesis or no thesis, 24 units or 30 units, defense or review, the list goes on and on, yet each college must assure equivalence in each case of hiring where a required degree is not possessed.

Is this “suitable criteria” even possible to produce, and produce in a form that meaningfully informs but does not mandate? Certainly, one option is to list all the content items, or objectives in a course or program, and define the skill levels required in a crosswalk type rubric. Then it would be up to the candidate to provide narrative and evidence detailing their capabilities in each of these areas. One immediate question is how specific and detailed must this scrutiny be?

Then the larger question is how do we, as a statewide group, collect this data in a way that is sharable as a resource? Another, possibly even greater question is what to do with the similar dataset for courses we all know and love (e.g., English 1A, intermediate algebra, or courses meeting any of the other required degree standards)? Since using this resource wouldn’t be mandatory, would we all have to agree to it? Would a development model similar to our existing disciplines process be viable, maybe where each year we tackle another area?

And, moving on up into an even higher level, the next logical question is just what do we do to derive the data needed for graduate and post-graduate degree equivalencies? Can this even be modeled in a form that would either improve results or make them less problematic for local equivalency committees?

Finally, who keeps this dataset in their pocket, ready to hand out to any of the now 112 colleges at a moment’s notice? If it’s linked to the Minimum Qualifications for Faculty and Administrators in the California Community Colleges document, does that imply mandates? As a paper, would this grow into a universe-filling dataset (depending on the degree of specificity desired)? E-publishing would solve some of this. But then who bears the burden of maintaining this dataset? Should the Academic Senate instead just develop the tools needed for local colleges to go collect all this data on their own, thereby allowing greater specificity to their needs?

I’m asking these questions in preparation for a discussion we are going to attempt at the Spring 2010 Plenary Session in conjunction with the first discipline hearing on Thursday, April 15th. Depending on the workload created by discipline submissions we may have more or less time for this discussion, and the only two outcomes really sought are to get a rough idea of what kinds and detail of data would inform your local processes, and a general idea of how this might best unfold in a way that lets you collectively drive it.

The following link is to Equivalence to the Minimum Qualifications. If you are planning to attend this breakout I encourage you to review it.

In summary, Title 5 §53430 provides that all faculty hired to teach for-apportionment community college courses must possess skills and capabilities equivalent to a variety of degrees. Having the required degree simplifies things greatly, but conversely, not allowing for equivalent options can greatly limit a program’s ability to serve students. As you can see by the complexity introduced above, the challenge of evaluating each candidate is one faculty are ever obligated to assure is conducted with the highest degree of rigor. Hopefully this new journey we are embarking on together further ensures this obligation remains met.

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