As an institutional researcher working in a California community college, Dr. Abrica was trained to calculate transfer, degree, and certificate completion rates using two specific frameworks: The Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Scorecard Framework for Student Success and California’s Student Equity Plan Disproportionate Impact Methodology. Although she knew how to calculate these success rates, Dr. Abrica wanted to know why success was measured differently according to these metrics and how her reporting efforts could facilitate a more robust understanding of success for men of color. Guided by her positionality as an institutional researcher (Milner, 2007), she explored the following research questions: 1) How do rates of transfer, degree and certificate completion differ specifically for men of color using two metrics identified within California Community College accountability frameworks: Scorecard and Student Equity? 2) What are some alternative ways of measuring the trajectories of men of color that can provide a more nuanced portrait of success among men of color? Thus, the purpose of this quantitative study, exploratory and descriptive in nature, was twofold: to understand how student outcomes—specifically for men of color—are measured and to explore ways in which my routine accountability reporting could underscore success among males of color who might otherwise not be included in standard success metrics.
To compare measures of success for men of color (as calculated using the two different methodologies), Dr. Abrica ran sim- ple descriptive statistics for the outcomes of transfer, certificate, and degree completion. In order to explore potential alter- native measures of success among men of color, she isolated cases in which students had not received a degree, certificate, or transferred after six years (between fall 2009-fall 2015), those who were not “successful” by standards outlined in the two accountability frameworks. Data were accessed through her position as an institutional researcher, wherein she routinely reported success using the two frameworks. Permission was granted to explore enrollment for men of color who would oth- erwise not be included among six-year completers and transfers.
Findings from this study show that rates of success for men of color were similar between the two frameworks. The most significant difference in measures of success using the two frameworks lies in the ways the initial cohorts, from which rates of degree, certificate, and transfer are drawn six years later, are calculated. The Equity cohort included 676 Black, Latino/Hispanic, Native, and Asian males while the SPAR cohort included only 387. This is explained by the parameters for the initial cohort required by SPAR. Enrollment patterns of those men of color who did not complete or transfer in a six-year period (N=517) revealed that 26.7% of students did not stay enrolled in fall 2009 and that 13% did not enroll past fall 2009. Yet, 13 of the total 517 men of color (who, again, did not transfer or complete within six-year per both the Scorecard and Equity frameworks), were consistently en- rolled each semester between Fall 2009 and Fall 2015. Similarly, 14 of the 517 men were consistently enrolled for two years.
In exploring enrollments among non- completer and non-transfer students, she uncovered consistent enrollment patterns, what Dr. Abrica refers to as an indicator of student resilience. Resilience is defined as the ability to persist toward educational goals in light of racial marginalization experienced in post-secondary contexts. The introduction of the metric of student resilience complicates routine accountabil- ity that, too often, reinforces a narrative of student failure rather than holding institutions accountable for providing equitable opportunities to all students. The metric of resilience, perhaps, moves us toward measures that are reflective both of institu- tional effectiveness and individual agency employed to navigate those contexts.In terms of the two main accountability frameworks, the Equity Plan framework allowed for the inclusion of students without a valid social security number. Such cohort parameters have obvious implications for undocumented students who would not be included among those with a valid social security number. Researchers might consider including in routine reporting an estimate of undocumented students and track both student resilience and institutional effectiveness in support- ing success. Finally, findings from this study extend beyond the context of California. Institutional researchers across the country should continue to reflect on ways in which data tell a story about both institutions and students. Narratives of suc- cess of men of color and other historically marginalized populations must be balanced and reflective of their resilience, ef- fort, achievement, and investment in the community college.
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