New Initiative to Examine Equity of College-Access Programs: USC Center for Urban Education Research Tools Provide Secondary Schools with Data That Can Help Increase the Number of Students Accessing College

Article excerpt

Following the release of a report that revealed just 35 percent of college-bound Boston public high schools graduates from the class of 2000 had earned a degree by spring 2007, Mayor Thomas Menino launched a citywide initiative challenging educators and community members to improve college completion rates for BPS graduates.

The initiative, Success Boston, is centered around three tenants: get ready, get in and get through.

A new research effort launching this summer will better equip teachers and administrators at two Boston high schools in getting their students prepared for college.

With a hefty grant from the Kresge Foundation, the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California will take to the high schools tools it has used at many colleges to close any identifiable educational outcome gaps between students of various demographics.

Since 1999, CUE has helped colleges and universities across the nation close the achievement gap in areas such as degree attainment, transfer success and science and technology participation. CUE researchers have equipped faculty and administrators from more than 40 institutions with techniques to improve academic outcomes for underserved students.

"We founded the center to address important problems not being addressed by diversity initiatives," says Dr. Estela Bensimon, a professor of higher education at USC and founder of CUE. "Most diversity initiatives (focused on) how different ethnic groups could better understand each other. None of them were really looking at outcomes for the students who made diversity possible."

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Bensimon challenged institutions to consider questions such as: What proportion of first-time African-American students graduate in six years? Is that proportion equivalent to the average? How many African-Americans or Latinos are pursuing degrees in science and technology? Are minority students participating in honors programs and thriving?

To answer these questions on an institutional basis, CUE assembles teams of faculty and administrators to examine their institutional data disaggregated by race and identify disparities in key areas. CUE uses a tool known as the Equity Scorecard to evaluate the results of the examination. The Equity Scorecard captures the improvement and equity goals agreed on by the team and provides criteria for evaluating institution effectiveness in closing educational gaps. …