Practices that Promote Equity in Basic Skills in California Community Colleges

Equity and Diversity
Basic Skills Committee
Noncredit, Pre-Transfer, & Continuing Education Committee

This paper discusses the importance of institutionalizing practices that promote equitable outcomes for all students within the vast California Community College (CCC) system. The CCC system, which annually provides educational opportunities for almost three million students, exists at the heart of the state economy and future labor pool. Because the CCC system is the most diverse higher education system in the world, providing open access and post-secondary opportunities for large numbers of students of color, it represents an immeasurable opportunity to identify effective practices that can enhance success and increase equitable educational outcomes. The disproportionate representation of students of color in credit and noncredit basic skills, combined with the unique Basic Skills Initiative focus that began in 2005, translates into a powerful epicenter for advancing equity among diverse Californians. While the colleges have done a remarkable job providing access to educational opportunity, access alone does not ensure success. This paper explores how student success is the result of a concentrated, integrated effort where classroom, program, and institution work together to articulate clear pathways to promote success for our varied and diverse student population.

This paper describes three important equity considerations: Equity-Mindedness, Cultural Competence, and Universal Design for Learning as a means to enhance success for all students. Equity-mindedness is an evidence-based practice that identifies and alleviates barriers to student success. Cultural Competence, as applied to education, is an effort to understand the role of culture in equitable outcomes. Finally, Universal Design for Learning looks at the everyday practices in the student services and the classrooms that not only create accessibility but provide access to the course content, student support services, and other integral components of student success. To that end, the paper provides examples of evidence-based practices and interventions from the institutional level to programmatic levels in instruction and student services, concluding with course level practices that have been substantiated through research as tools of equitable student outcomes. The paper explores examples specific to community, institutional, and programmatic efforts that have made progress toward fostering student success, increasing retention rates, strengthening employability, and goal attainment of students who take part in the CCC system. The paper concludes with concrete classroom practices that promote equitable outcomes for students within the CCC system.

The demographics of California community college credit and noncredit basic skills students already represent the diverse demographics predicted for the state’s future population in 2050. These millions of students represent California’s economic health and academic wealth. Never has there been a more critical time to focus on practices that will enable equitable outcomes for these Californians. Failure to address California’s well-documented future needs for an educated workforce have been described by many educational, economic, and social researchers. This paper presents some effective strategies to tackle some of the well-described problems; it represents a key to a new future and hope for our current students and coming generations. This paper and its related publication, the Academic Senate paper describing Student Equity Planning called Student Equity: From Dialog and Access to Action, describe viable, locally-driven practices to promote equity among diverse students in the community colleges.


In an effort to address these gaps, the Academic Senate recommends the following actions:

  • Local senates should create venues to discuss student success data, disaggregated by ethnicity and other student populations, in order to identify barriers related to equitable outcomes.
  • The Academic Senate statewide faculty development efforts should provide training on Equity-Mindedness, Cultural Competency, and Universal Design for Learning in an effort to promote equitable access, equitable support, and, most importantly, equitable outcomes.
  • Local senates should examine the key components of programs that have promoted student success in order to determine if their own institutional programs could adopt key principles from effective programs or initiate similar programs.
  • The Academic Senate should continue to support examination and expansion of noncredit alternatives to meet the needs of student populations that are normally served exclusively by credit options.
  • Student equity plans should be developed in conjunction with college-wide discussions that link the equity plan to curriculum development, program improvement, budgeting, and planning.
  • Local senates should adopt the practices and strategies described in the Academic Senate paper Student Equity: From Dialog and Access to Action (2010).