Closing the Gap

Rebell’s recent article in Education Week (Rebell, Michael A. “Racial Equity 50 Years After King’s Speech.”) talks about progress with regard to the “achievement gap” in higher ed. He points out that students of color made some strong academic progress immediately after the Civil Rights Movement, but improvement has been flat for the last three and a half decades. This is frustrating. How are we not resolving this issue in higher ed? Here’s my questions for you, “What are the qualities of a higher ed experience that resonate with students of color in particular?”

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7 Responses to Closing the Gap

  1. bryanreece says:

    Designing study areas that are collaborative is something that has resonated with hispanic students in particular. For example, I helped design a Student Success Center. We did not build into the design lots of indivivual study cubicles. Instead, we incorporated tables that facilitated collaboration and discussion. The Center proved to narrow the achievement gap. I believe the design contributed to this.

    • Gary Williams says:

      I’ve seen this work in other campuses too … and the research supports this. I look forward to seeing us move more in this direction on our campus as well — particularly as we move forward on building new spaces in the near future!

  2. Gary Williams says:

    (Cross-posted from your Facebook page) I share your frustration … To address the first question you pose “How are we not resolving this issue in higher ed?” — I would point to the challenges that we face due to the complex web of politics, educational funding,and the politics of accountability (NCLB being the most recent and far-reaching), that has derailed past efforts. Prop. 209 also comes to mind. The immediate consequence was a sudden and overnight change in the composition of the student demographic at competitive UC campuses. It exacerbated the already lopsided advantages (think: social capital) that affluent communities and school districts have in successfully getting their students to college of all types, not just competitive colleges. To address your second question, I am reminded of several interviews with students of color that were part of my dissertation research. A common theme among these subjects — at both campuses (two private, highly competitive liberal arts colleges in Southern California) — was that their peers did not see them as equals. They continually had to face the assumption that they were admitted due to affirmative action, or they were asked what sport they played (the other assumption being that they were on an athletic scholarship). The dynamic of “stereotype threat” was a very real pressure that many of my subjects felt on a daily basis. These conversations resonate with me now, as I look at my classrooms and the patterns of success and struggle I witness, and how I can be a difference-maker in my own corner of campus …

    • bryanreece says:

      Gary–I really like you last comment. It makes me wonder how students of color at Crafton feel about attending. I wonder if they feel the cultural exclusion you reference.

  3. Ruth Greyraven says:

    Students of color have to live with the myth that racism has been overcome in our society. Racism is unfortunately alive and well — just more covert and less overt. What can we do? Schedule inservice work that heightens awareness of positive steps we can individually take to reduce problems such as stereotype threat (as mentioned by Gary Williams) and fixed-expectations. Hire for top quality teaching and recruit for diversity, so our campus will better reflect its students in diversity, Ask our students — of all backgrounds — what changes they think would contribute to their success. Watch for successful strategies arising at other institutions and look for opportunities to implement these programs at our institution. Don’t pretend that everything is just fine and that fairness and equality have been achieved.

  4. Nadia says:

    I agree with Ruth, I think the root of the issue stands that although mile stones have been made in racial boundaries, it still hasn’t quite completely subsided. I think if you ask a number of “color” students if they still feel over looked, they would answer yes. I feel that the way so many class room settings are set, where you get in do the work by the book and get out, are restricting students interactions in the sense that if no one speaks to one another, people are bound to feel out casted and out of place. I think the class room setting should have regular hands on classes, promoting interaction, no matter what the material is there are ways to get interaction amongst students, that way if someone is hesitant to ask a question for reason of feeling uncomfortable because they are different they will no longer feel out casted, but because they feel they are familiar with their surroundings and their peers, so to speak we are giving their voice encouragement instead of repression. I feel that in class room settings where students are required to interact amongst each other, from personal experience, encourage students, who are not just color but all, and gives them more security in seeking help in places they are struggling and coming short.

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