CCCCO Progress on the Calls To Action for Equity

Pam Sornson, JD

February 21, 2023 

Working towards an economic recovery that builds equity principles into society’s foundational fabric requires a reinterpretation of how we value labor. If, as a society, we intend to enhance the value of our most important natural asset – our human workforce – then we must reevaluate:

– how we ‘classify’ workers,

– the relative merit and utility they offer and provide,

– the risks they face,

– the benefits they bring to the community, and

– the social and economic outcomes they achieve on behalf of everyone.

There are multiple systems still in place that negatively influence how we value ‘labor.’ In too many cases, they act as entrenched barriers to the economic growth we are all now looking to achieve. However, agencies across the state, region, and County are actively dismantling these obstacles, including the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) and its constituents. The country’s largest community college system may be moving slowly toward progress, but progress is definitely being made.

 

Guided by the Vision for Success

California’s community colleges aren’t new to the idea of equity as an economic driver. In 2017, the CCCCO introduced its “Vision for Success” (V4S), a series of goals and commitments intended to improve the likelihood of success for all of the State’s (then) 2+ million community college students. At the heart of the V4S lies its foundational principle: combat racism and embedded inequities by ensuring that all learners receive the supports they need to achieve their educational, occupational, and life-long goals.

The CCCCO enhanced its commitment to the V4S in 2020 by issuing a “Call to Action” (CTA), a plan to mobilize the strategies and efforts toward student and community  equity into six focus areas:

1 Evolving and modernizing the education, training, and curricula for law enforcement officers and first responders.

2 Facilitating open dialogues to reveal and address campus ‘climate’ realities.

3 Auditing classroom climates to be more inclusive and create action plans to develop an anti-racism curriculum.

4 Reviewing and updating the Equity plans mandated of District leadership boards.

5 Shortening the time frame for the full implementation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Integration Plan (DEAI).

6 Joining and engaging with the Vision Resource Center strategy: “Community Colleges for Change.”

All of these approaches – those of the CCCCO and those occurring on the State’s 116 community college campuses – are geared toward establishing a system that treats no one learner differently from all others, provides the support needed for every student to achieve personal and occupational success, and engages the skills, talents and economic capacities of California’s entire eligible workforce in the State’s recovery from the pandemic and its aftermath.

 

Progressive Improvements

In June 2021, the CCCCO published an update on the system’s CTA progress, which demonstrates its overarching commitment to fulfilling the goals of both those directives and those of the V4S. And while that forward momentum is slow, it is absolutely happening across the vast complex of the California Community College network. Incremental advances at individual schools and within districts and regions improve its capacity to provide its students with the best possible chance for economic success, regardless of their race, age, ethnicity, or ability.

 

Call to Action Updates:

Review law enforcement and first responder training and curricula.

Injuries suffered during the civil unrest caused by racially driven incidents shone a bright light on the overuse of physical and sometimes deadly force by California police agencies. In response, the CCCs hosted many policing practice and accountability initiatives to raise awareness of both the issues at hand and discuss new ‘best practices’ for policing approaches. In 2022, the State passed the Peace Officers Education and Age Conditions for Employment Act of California, which mandates raising the eligibility age of officers from 18 to 21 years and requires that all incoming officers have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. The CCCCO has launched an interagency task force to design the new degree program. Recommendations are expected by June 1, 2023.

Improving the DEI Campus Climate

To improve anything, one must establish a beginning baseline. Over the past two years, the CCCs have hosted events, community circles, and listening sessions, inviting their marginalized and underrepresented constituents to share concerns and fears. At the administrative level, colleges have used the DEI theme as the centerpiece of conferences and collaborations and as the central focus of the Trustee Fellowship conference, which gathered CCC Trustees from around the state. Within the CCCCO, ‘equity’ as a distinct focus has become a more explicit component of the Guided Pathways program.

Auditing classroom climates to be more inclusive and to create action plans to develop an anti-racism curriculum.

Entrenched biases are more difficult to eliminate because, often, they are simply invisible within a culture. However, across the CCC network, leaders are openly discussing equity and bias challenges and holding workshops for chief instructional officers and other school leaders to reveal and explore these conditions. Additionally, college districts are looking to embed DEI criteria into their staff tenure and evaluation processes. The goal of the CCCCO is to establish a statewide model that replaces obsolete and damaging hiring and retention practices with strategies to enhance the inclusion of all participants at all levels of the Community College sector.

Reviewing and updating the Equity plans by District leadership boards.

In 2018, the CCCCO partnered with the USC Center for Urban Education to create a Student Equity Plan Review report. The report clearly shows how ‘equity’ plans at each school fail to “produce and sustain racial equity between groups.” More recent analysis indicates that existing programs don’t comport with the CCCCO’s CTAs, either. However, its clarifications have helped each school and district see where they missed the mark, and provide guideposts for developing policies and practices that genuinely focus on reducing and eliminating hidden biases from fundamental school activities.

Shortening the time frame for the full implementation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Integration Plan (DEAI).

In 2020, the CCCCO embraced a ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Integration Plan (DEI Plan) that encompasses three of the six CTAs. The task force that was convened to develop the DEI Plan was subsequently tasked to assess how well the network and its schools were working towards its goals. That group determined that the CCCCO and its agencies had made significant progress. Among many other successes:

They codified the DEI statement into Title 5 of State Regulations.

They provided equivalency guidance across the CCC network to assure accessibility and equity in hiring practices.

They introduced the student voice by adopting strategies from the CCC Student Senate into the Anti-Racism Student Plan of Action.

Through to the end of 2022, the task force continued its work developing campuswide bias and cultural competency training, creating additional professional development opportunities, and enhancing DEI training for classified staff and part-time faculty.

Joining and engaging with the Vision Resource Center strategy: “Community Colleges for Change.”

The community college-focused webinars available through the Vision Resource Center straddle the multitude of complex and intertwined themes that overlay all CCC activities. Its digital status facilitates access for all CCC personnel, and it shares the knowledge and experience of industry experts with attendees. Diverse topics inform stakeholders of critical and emerging trends in their sectors; bias and racism cross into all aspects of the CCC system. The portal’s success was revealed early: its two 2020 webinars (June 3rd and August 19th) attracted over 35,000 participants.

 

Looking forward, the CCCCO is contemplating new tools to track post-completion outcomes using an equity evaluation. It is also working at aligning its investments and resource allocations to more broadly and thoroughly encompass equity principles. As indispensable stakeholders in the economic and workforce development sector, the CCCCO and its 116 community colleges are doing all they can to move toward producing a highly skilled, well-trained workforce that represents the full scope, depth, and breadth of California’s diverse community.

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