Achievement Gap magnified at college
Academic success low for minority students
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 18:05
The Achievement Gap has been studied for more than a decade, but students continue to be unaware of the problem as it continues to grow each year.
It is defined as the lack of equality in terms of educational success based on socioeconomic status, gender and ethnicity. The gap can be examined through college enrollment, completion rates, transfer rates and other factors.
At Contra Costa College, there exists a large gap in success rates between African-American and Caucasian students, Hispanics and Caucasian students as well as Asians and all other students.
“This is the most important issue of our time,” Academic Senate President Wayne Organ said.
The Achievement Gap issue has been studied as far back as 2000.
But recently, results for the 2011-12 academic year have shown the disparities in each area of study on campus, said Tim Clow, senior dean of research and planning at the district.
In math, for example, Dr. Clow’s data shows there is a success rate of 74 percent for Asian students and 67 percent for Caucasian students. Hispanic students trail at 55 percent and African-Americans have the lowest rates of success at 47 percent.
Considering student gender, Asian females are at the top with 74 percent while Asian males follow close behind at 72 percent.
No gender gap exists between Hispanic students, with females and males equal at 55 percent. And while African-American males are at the bottom with 42 percent, the female group is at 50 percent.
For the success rates in English, Asian and Caucasian students are equal at 68 percent. Hispanics are at 58 percent, while African-American students rank last at 50 percent.
Asian and Caucasian females are at the top of the list, with 70 percent for Caucasian females and 68 percent for Asian females.
Both female and male Hispanics are between 50 and 60 percent. African-American males rank last with 46 percent, while their female counterparts fair slightly better at 53 percent.
“Because of our population compared to other (colleges), we serve more people who fall into the Achievement Gap by demographic,” ASU President Rodney Wilson said.
As these gaps increase students largely remain unaware of it. On May 1, the college Associated Student Union hosted a general assembly that focused entirely on the issue.
The idea had been discussed by members after the response it received from students during a previous student general assembly held in March.
ASU Rep. Albert Ambris said the main goal of holding the Achievement Gap assembly was not to figure out solutions, but to get the student population aware of what it is.
“The conference was meant to educate the students and show what the college is doing to address it,” said Ambris. “We want to get the students involved in this discussion.”
Interim President Daniel Henry agreed.
“Students have the biggest role in making this work,” he said.
Henry said the Achievement Gap has been affecting the students for years and the college recognizes that if some students aren’t having the same success as others, the problem must be handled.
He said it’s not only bad for those particular students, but also for the community and for the college that wants to support them.
“It’s not a simple matter,” Henry said. “A lot of people care and want to see it improve.”
Natural, Social and Applied Sciences Division Dean Terence Elliott said the budget cuts are a major reason for the Achievement Gap becoming a main focus.
“If you have to start reducing classes then it becomes an issue of who can take the classes,” Dr. Elliott said.
He said that because of the decreasing number of courses, it is difficult for students to take the classes they need. And with the cost per unit rising all across the state’s community college system, not every student will be willing to pay the fee.
Elliott said that everyone has a responsibility for solving this gap, from faculty and staff to the students themselves.
"Something must be done, Elliott said. “We need to put a focus on the students who are not successful.”
Student Efren Johnson said the gap exists because of the lack of interest students have in classes and the lack of motivation from professors.
“The classes aren’t challenging, they’re not stimulating,” he said. “Maybe it’s too easy. The professors either aren’t pushing us or don’t care.”
“You’ve got to have the right attitude for success,” Elliot said. “It is important for students to understand that you need help and others need help from you.”