Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 7, Numbers 1 & 2
(July 2003)

Download our print issue (PDF)
Kellogg Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good: Contributing to the Practice of Democracy
Tribal Colleges and Universities: Guided by Tribal Values
Commitment to Diversity in Institutional Mission Statements
Valuing Equity: Recognizing the Rights of the LGBT Community
Creating Border Crossings: Dickinson College at Home and Abroad
Prejudice Across America: A Nationwide Trek
The Accountability Side of Diversity
Percent Plans: How Successful Are They?
Campus Life for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People
Multimedia, Books and Conferences
The E Pluribus Unum Project

The Accountability Side of Diversity

By Estela Mara Bensimon, Donald Polkinghorne, Georgia Bauman, University of Southern California

Even though individuals are likely to agree that equity is a desirable value, equity is not something that is spoken about in relation to educational outcomes for students. Institutions of higher education most often do not produce annual reports on measures of equity nor do they have equity-oriented benchmarks. An institution's success (or failure) in reducing educational inequities that severely restrict opportunity and upward mobility for students of color is not used as a measure of institutional effectiveness. Nor are institutions ranked or graded on the basis of equity in educational outcomes.

With the exception of historically black institutions and tribal colleges, intra-institutional stratification based on race and ethnicity is a reality within most higher education institutions, regardless of whether they are predominantly white, open-access, or classified as Hispanic Serving Institutions. However, the specificities of this intra-institutional stratification are largely invisible because equity in educational outcomes does not constitute a metric of institutional performance that is continuously tracked.

For example, institutions do not monitor whether minority students are earning GPA's that will enable them to go on to graduate school. The tracking of some measures of institutional performance is a taken-for-granted routine, e.g., the average SAT scores of each freshman class. If an institution's leadership were to be asked what percentage of African-American or Latino students graduate with a 3.5 GPA, most would need to run the numbers before being able to answer. Institutions are not in the habit of tracking whether the educational outcomes for African-American and Latino students, such as GPA, are improving or declining. As an institutional researcher pointed out to us, "When people ask me for data, they do not ask me about the high GPA minority students."

In this article we describe the Diversity Scorecard project, a process of developing awareness of inequities in educational outcomes that we developed in partnership with fourteen urban colleges in Southern California and with the support of The James Irvine Foundation.

Diversity Scorecard Project
The Diversity Scorecard was developed as a response to the fact that the "diversity agenda" has been primarily about access to predominantly white institutions. Yet in California, as in many other states, urban colleges, private and public, two- and four-year, have served as the main entry point into higher education for students of color. For institutions like California State University at Los Angeles, Whittier College, and Los Angeles City College--all institutions that are part of our project--the challenge is not how to become more diverse. The challenge for these colleges is how to translate diversity in the student body into equity in educational outcomes.

The core principle of the Diversity Scorecard is that evidence (i.e., factual data) about the state of equity in educational outcomes for African Americans and Latinos can have a powerful effect on increasing the recognition by faculty members, administrators, counselors, and others about the existence of inequities as well as their motivation to resolve them. That is, in order to bring about institutional change, individuals have to see, on their own, as clearly as possible, the magnitude of inequities, rather than having researchers, like us, tell them that they exist.

To start the project, we invited the presidents of the fourteen colleges1 to appoint a team of individuals to work with us on the development of their institution's scorecard. The task of each team was to examine data disaggregated by race and ethnicity that would reflect educational outcomes in four general areas: access, retention, excellence, and institutional receptivity.

The Diversity Scorecard Framework

Each team decided what types of data they would examine, and, based on their analyses, each team identified unequal outcomes for particular groups of students. The next step was to create the actual scorecard, which entailed selecting goals, measures, and benchmarks where unequal outcomes had been uncovered in each of the four general areas. The last step was presenting the completed scorecard in a report to the president.

Campus Reactions
Initially, some of the participants were skeptical about the project. However, after two years, the majority of participants feel that the process has been fruitful. One participant shared:

At first I was very skeptical about this project. However I have found the approaches to data very useful. This push to look at data is spilling over to other areas such as curricular issues. Doing this project I've found many ways of thinking about data.

Breaking data down by race and ethnicity has provided many "aha" moments. Upon seeing remediation rates disaggregated by race and ethnicity a member of one institution said:

This is the first time that I'm aware of that anyone is looking at this problem by ethnicity and to this level of detail. [Now that it has been disaggregated] we can look more deeply and systematically at remediation rather than just the split between English and math. This is central on everyone's mind. We can really raise conversation around this.

Scorecard Measures
Thus, through simply disaggregating existing data on basic indicators of student outcomes, our partner institutions have been able to locate very specifically the most critical gaps in the academic performance of African American and Latino students. The combined effort of the institutions resulted in the development of fifty-eight fine-grained measures
(available at www.usc.edu/dept/education/CUE/projects/ds/diversityscorecard
.html). The following provides one example from each of the four perspectives.

  • Access Perspective
    Example: The percentage of African Americans and Latino students who succeed in "gateway" courses. Gateway courses are those courses that serve as points of entry for particular majors (e.g., particular math courses serve as pre-requisites for engineering and business majors).
  • Retention Perspective
    Example: The percentage of target group students who complete courses in which they enroll within a term.
  • Excellence
    Example: The average grade point average of Latino and African-American students, by college/major at the point of graduation.
    Institutional Receptivity Perspective
    Example: The percentage of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American faculty in each college/department compared with the percentage of students from these ethnic/racial groups in each college/department (i.e., the percentage of African-American faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences compared to the percentage of African-American students in that college).

We believe that the disaggregation of data on educational outcomes by race and ethnicity and the determination of equity standards are evidence-based practices that will make individuals more conscious of the state of educational outcomes for historically underserved students and will enable them to act purposefully.

Our partners suspected that there were problems, but many relied heavily on anecdotal data, both to describe the problem and, in some cases, to justify why it is practically unsolvable. With very few exceptions, most institutions in the project lacked a disciplined and evidence--based approach to understanding educational outcomes and the dimensions and the extent of the equity gap.

We are continuing our work with the fourteen Diversity Scorecard institutions and have two overarching goals. First, we hope to raise awareness at each institution more broadly around the issues identified on each team's scorecard in order bring about change. Second, we will work to institutionalize the use of data disaggregated by race and ethnicity so it becomes a routine practice and disparities in outcomes by race and ethnicity become more readily recognized. Of course, we also hope that our partners will continue to analyze and discuss institutional data in a way that will continue to bring about new awareness.

1 The fourteen Diversity Scorecard project institutions include: California State University Los Angeles, California State University-Dominguez Hills, California State University- Fullerton, Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Valley College, Cerritos College, Santa Monica College, Riverside Community College, Whittier College, University of Redlands, University of La Verne, Occidental College, Loyola Marymount University, and Mount St. Mary's College.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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