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Achieving the Dream: 8 Equity Principles for Community Colleges

The nonprofit organization Achieving the Dream (ATD) has made available its 87-page 2023 "Equity Toolkit" guide for community colleges that wish to pursue equity by examining their policies and practices that create barriers to degree and certificate completion for underserved and minority students.

Based on research and experience, the guide outlines eight "equity principles" that can help colleges make changes to overturn inequities and help more students graduate and find financially sustainable careers. Each principle has its own chapter that contains guiding questions, strategies, practices, activities, and resources for bringing the principle into fruition.

The eight equity principles are:

  1. Develop an equity mindset.
  2. Interrogate institutional practices, structures, and policies and replace those that are inequitable.
  3. Integrate holistic supports throughout the student experience.
  4. Embrace cultural competence and culturally responsive pedagogy.
  5. Leverage existing and new data to support a culture of inquiry and evidence.
  6. Drive positive change through perseverance and power sharing.
  7. Engage with the local community to develop partnerships that lead to economic vitality.
  8. Acknowledge the pervasiveness of racism and discrimination in the United States of America.

The appendices give nine examples of community colleges around the U.S. that have taken on this process, focusing on one or more of the principles in action.

Noting that "there is no quick fix" for inequities in student outcomes, ATD President and CEO Karen Stout said, "Our work always begins with — and is continually renewed by — data-informed institutional self-assessments that put unexamined perspectives, practices, and processes to the test."

For those colleges that wish to begin the process, the guide provides suggestions, among them coming to "community agreements" by first understanding what they are and why they matter. Examples, such as speaking truth, seeking knowledge and understanding, showing others respect, and disagreeing without arguing, are included.

"We recognize that institutions are all at different points on their student success and equity journeys and are operating in various contexts with differing capacities," said Francesca I. Carpenter, ATD's director of equity initiatives. "We took this into consideration by noting that the toolkit is not meant as a linear process: Institutions can use the guide to focus on the equity areas and student success opportunities that are their biggest priorities given their local situation."

Visit this page to learn more and download the Equity Toolkit.

ATD will hold an informational webinar on the Equity Toolkit on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, from 3 to 4 p.m. ET. It will also convene in Orlando from Feb. 19-22, 2024. Visit the events page to find out more and register.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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