A series of workshops for educators and researchers created by the Center for Urban Education at the USC Rossier School of Education has fostered new pilot programs seeking to boost racial equity in pathways to college across the country.
The new initiatives include a pilot project in Boston for underrepresented high school students, a new study of racial inequity in 10 community colleges in Illinois and the founding of a new academic journal focusing on research of college pathways for African American males.
The programs have spun out of a series of institutes created by USC. Held during the summer of 2009 and 2010, the institutes were designed to build a community of equity-minded scholars through a series of seminars on racial equity in postsecondary research.
The institutes also provide a training ground for up-and-coming researchers to network with one another and get advice from senior scholars about how to pursue academic careers while engaging in critical policy analysis.
The workshops, named the Association for the Study of Higher Education Institutes on Equity and Critical Policy Analysis, were created and held with funding from the Ford Foundation.
“What’s unique about the institutes is the way that scholars and policy analysts have the opportunity to tackle the tough problems of equity in higher education together and yield real change,” said Sandra Luca, institutes project coordinator and Center for Urban Education research associate. “This is essential because higher education researchers are bringing forward new ideas about how to make policies more inclusive and equitable for groups that have traditionally been underserved in postsecondary education.”
The next workshops, led by Anna Neumann and Aaron Pallas from Teachers College at Columbia University, will be held in Los Angeles Aug. 18-20.
Here are some of the outcomes from the institutes:
• Tia Brown McNair, assistant director of the National College Access Network, drew on what she learned about participatory critical action research at the 2009 institutes to design a pilot project for two Boston high schools. In partnership with the Center for Urban Education, the network will form teams of teachers, counselors and staff that will learn how to use data to assess their high schools’ effectiveness in providing underrepresented students with equitable access to academic, informational and financial resources that help students prepare for college admission.
• In Illinois, 10 community colleges are using elements of participatory critical action research and infusing data practices to uncover racial inequity in occupational programs as part of the state-funded Pathways to Results initiative. The seed for the idea was planted when a team of Illinois educators attended the session taught by Estela Bensimon and Alicia Dowd in July 2009. The project focuses on improving graduation and employment prospects for students in career pathway programs.
• Another example of how the Association for the Study of Higher Education participants have taken what they have learned to reshape the world of policy with an emphasis on equity is the creation of a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to advancing scholarship and practice on African American males in education. It requires that every article provide recommendations for policy and practice. Luke Wood, co-coordinator of the Arizona Program for Policy, Ethics & Education Leadership in Arizona, and Adriel Hilton, executive assistant to the president at Upper Iowa University, met during the institutes. They were inspired to launch the Journal of African American Males in Education earlier this year after many fruitful conversations held during the workshop, which included other institute participants now serving on the journal’s advisory board.