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Equity, by Definition, Is Nuanced

Just a few years ago it was agreeable that equity meant everyone gets what they need as opposed to equality, where everyone gets the exact same thing. Yet today, equity is the buzz word sprinkled in our rhetoric to make anything more palatable, just as we might sprinkle cinnamon in black coffee and then claim it’s been sweetened. The problem is, adding cinnamon to coffee doesn’t actually sweeten it– it’s still bitter. And adding the word equity to something doesn’t make it equitable if it doesn’t actually do the nuanced work of addressing individual need. 

AB 1705 follows a pattern that we’re familiar with in education. Educators, who have never stopped saying we need smaller class sizes in addition to a multitude of requests to better support students, are finally relieved when legislators pay attention. Except they’re only half paying attention and instead of supporting the solutions educators have been requesting for over three decades, they have their own ideas about who’s to blame and what the solution is. This leads to the next phase: Sweeping reform without substance that calls on the buzz words of its era– equality, meritocracy, and promises that no child will be left behind, or every student will succeed. Not only do these not achieve the desired outcomes, they actually cause harm in the long run and educators are left holding the metaphorical bill and are scapegoated for the failure of the reform.

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The California Community Colleges Need Your Support

Have you or your family ever taken a course at your community college? Earned a certificate or degree at a community college? Has a community college faculty member inspired you, supported you, and championed your success? I am a proud community college faculty member teaching at Gavilan College for the past 17 years. As a classroom instructor who has interacted with students daily throughout the pandemic, it is very clear students need and want community college education now more than ever.

According to the California Education Code, the mission of the California Community Colleges is defined in four parts: remedial education, career education (technical skills programs), transfer to four-year colleges or universities, and lifelong learning. 

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Equity, Choice, and the Community College Mission are Worth Our Advocacy

I consider myself a community college success story.  I began my journey at a small, rural, community college as a returning student and 37-year-old mother of two children (not unlike many of the students I have had in my classes).  I had decided to attend college to seek a degree in mathematics after having positive experiences volunteering in my children’s classrooms, where I was usually assigned to the math table.  Seeing the children’s faces light up when they understood a math concept in a new way got me hooked.

I was nervous when I took the first steps to enroll at my local community college.  I signed up for the placement testing and did better than I thought I might after years of primarily using math in a bookkeeping capacity.  I was actually excited that I could take Intermediate algebra, a class I had previously had in high school more than 20 years before.  Because I wanted to teach math, I did not want to miss the opportunity to understand the concepts (not just he algorithms I remembered) and I chose to enroll in Elementary algebra.  From there, I worked my way to transfer level math and, eventually, a degree in mathematics.

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Zoom Dreams


A poem by Amy Leonard, De Anza College


Blackness overtakes your box 
A countdown plays in front 
Heart quickens... your future.. 
Breathe, just breathe and check your background 
 
You appear 
Smiles exchanged  
Time to take your shot  
Banter ensues  

67 minutes later 
Life stories told 
Laughs, smiles, momentary connections  
End with a wave  

Screen down, background gone 
Just me left to wonder 

  
FACCC blog posts are written independently by FACCC members and encompass their experiences
and recommendations. FACCC neither condemns nor endorses the recommendations herein.

Promises, Promises…Why Do I Believe?

For the last decade, open education resources (OER), or zero-cost textbooks, have been the solution to bringing down costs for students and creating an equitable education. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office asserts, “Open educational resources give students more flexibility in learning, and research shows most students perform as well or better using open educational resource course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks.”

The California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI) launched the Canvas Commons as an easy way to share OER and Canvas content for faculty across the state. When a pandemic took the entire California Community Colleges system online, advocates saw it as a chance for OER to take flight and bring equity to the student population: “A Majority of faculty now report some awareness of OER” (Seaman & Seaman , 2021)  Yet, that was not the case according to “Awareness of Open Educational Resources Grows, but Adoption Doesn't.”

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City College of San Francisco: The Egalitarian College?

In 1856, San Francisco’s leaders had the foresight to offer trade skills, clerical training, night high school, and teach "English for Immigrants". They brought together a diverse group, formed a community, and gave everyone a chance. 

Over 100 years later, Clark Kerr wrote the Master Plan for Higher Education. He abolished “junior” colleges and created “community colleges.” He recognized the educational needs for adults go way beyond the first two years of a university education.

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What Does DEI Mean for Part-time Faculty?

DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) appears to be trending in professional development agendas these days. In fact, just today I saw an announcement at my college for a DEI item as the flex day professional development theme in January. I should be thrilled with the announcement, but I am not. The intended content of the ‘E’ is ambiguous. I am pretty sure it skirts faculty equity. Same for the ‘I’ in a two-tier faculty structure which several of my part-time colleagues describe as a caste system -- embedded and normalized by administrators and many tenured instructors in our colleges, beginning in the 1980s.

But the way I see it, sociologically speaking, the caste-like two-tier faculty structure was constructed and, in true DEI spirit, should be deconstructed and replaced with an equitable single-tier faculty structure. I am one of many in higher education who see equity and inclusion for faculty as key to the restoration of professionalism, fairness, and integrity in our colleges. The administrative de-professionalizing of faculty into the caste-like two-tier structure has produced the crisis of inequality in faculty that endangers the faculty shared-governance role while enhancing administrative rule and shortchanging our students.

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Masquerade, Part Two of Two

A Blog Addendum to “En Mask” (FACCCTS: Fall 2020)

This blog addendum to “En Mask,” an article that appeared in the fall 2020 edition of FACCCTS, contributes to, and reconfigures, previous studies on the H1N1 influenza crisis in California by focusing on the role that gauze masks played in student print as well as material cultures, campus governance, and educational ideas. This is the second installment in the two-part blog addendum.

            Despite an ebbing of H1N1 influenza in Palo Alto, masks and ailments proliferated at the University of California in fall 1918. On October 24, the Daily Cal editorial staff advertised “GAUZE PROTECTORS ON SALE” for five cents apiece. By the next issue, the public university’s advertised sale of masks had progressed with temporal precision: “soiled masks may be exchanged for sterile ones at California Hall between 8 o’clock and 9:15 in the morning and 4 and 5:15 o’clock in the afternoon.” In female boarding houses, the daily rate of influenza cases purportedly declined by almost half. Reporters and advertisers alike were confident that “this shows that influenza is on the decline, and by wearing masks a further decrease in new cases is expected.” Daily Cal editors adhered to John Dewey’s warnings of, on the one hand, “paternal policy,” and on the other, “unbridled personal liberty.” In a political economy of progressive “liberalism,” editors situated columns on the public University mask exchange side-by-side with advertisements for masks sold by Brasch’s on Shattuck, for ten cents apiece. Masks, as material culture of university governance, facilitated epidemiological “prevention, not punishment.”

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Masquerade, Part One of Two

A Blog Addendum to “En Mask” (FACCCTS: Fall 2020)

            In the fall of 1918, Columbia University Professor John Dewey delivered the Mills Foundation Lectures in Philosophy at the University of California. Dewey had delivered the West Memorial Lectures at the Leland Stanford University prior to traveling to the more tuition-friendly Berkeley campus. Less than a year before both lecture series, the California State Assembly passed the Ballard Junior College Act, which authorized trade studies—but not separate community colleges—at the University of California. Dewey subsequently scheduled dual lectures for new University Extension students in San Francisco and Oakland, as well as a lecture on “Philosophy and Democracy” for the University Philosophical Union. He had recently become entangled in an extramarital relationship with Polish-Jewish novelist Anzia Yezierska, which coincided with his requests for federal intervention in Polish-American politics—all in order to advance the social democratic platform of the Polish Committee of National Defense.

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Student Civic Engagement in the Land of COVID-19

I miss my classroom. You know, the physical space where we used to teach and learn? But, given what we do have, how we can encourage our students when they are feeling stuck about the political moment we are in. This post is for those who teach, those interested in teaching, and those seeking further education.

I spent the last year engaged in a study of student civic and political engagement programs throughout the state of California and am now back in the classroom applying some of the insights I gained. Although I did not exactly plan it this way, it turns out that right now is a pretty perfect time to apply these lessons.

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Phone a Friend: Breaking Down the Online Teacher’s Lifelines

Are you deep in the throes of prepping for an online fall term and a possible full year of online instruction? If the mere thought of distance learning provokes a panic attack or has you looking into early retirement, never fear, there are a number of lifelines you can call on as you immerse yourself into the world of E-Learning. 

Online teaching newbies and seasoned pros alike should first check with your college’s online learning team to see if your college has a Local Peer Online Course Review program, also known as a POCR Team. Local POCR is a network with the California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI) and other California community colleges designed to help campus courses align with the CVC-OEI rubric. It gives you the opportunity to get your online courses peer reviewed in a safe space. The best thing about this lifeline is you will receive fast and real time feedback on a course you are currently teaching, so you can make changes as you go. 

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Synchronous or Asynchronous: That is the Question

You survived spring 2020 and are now turning a watchful eye to prepping for fall 2020 online instruction. A question popping up for many instructors is whether to go synchronous or asynchronous with your classes. While some districts have made the choice for you, many others have left it at the discretion of the faculty. For those given a choice, here is some information to help you find the best fit for your class.  

First, let’s start off with a quick definition of what synchronous vs. asynchronous learning is. Pre-COVID-19, this was covered in Title V under 55204 Instructor Contact: 

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AB 705 and Its Unintended Consequences

The rapid and extreme pendulum swing from the Basic Skills Initiative (BSI) that began in 2006 and culminated with the full implementation of Assembly Bill 705 in the fall of 2019 swept away advantages for a vast number of students, even as it has helped others. The unintended negative consequences of AB 705 could have been eliminated by blending the best of AB 705 and BSI together with common sense.

BSI created foundational classes that prepared students for higher math or qualifying tests like the ASVAB military test or TEAS nursing test, as well as satisfying other goals such as self-improvement and job advancement. Yet AB 705 focuses almost exclusively on increasing the number of transfer students.

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Summer Blog Series: Visions of Throughput Part 2: Why Mass-Producing Equity Doesn’t Work

In May 2018, the California legislature, under pressure from Governor Brown and Chancellor Oakley, rushed a performance-based funding scheme into law that dedicates a portion of CCC funding to rewarding or punishing community colleges for their success, or failure, respectively, in meeting throughput targets. As one defender of such funding schemes put it, “The theory of action behind performance funding is simple: financial incentives shape behaviors.” Here the incentivized behavior is the one Chandler describes: raising throughput rates while at the same time lowering cost per unit completion. But if one declines to assume that factories and colleges are interchangeable, one immediately worries that faculty and staff are being incentivized to inflate grades and corrode educational standards. As Nicholas Hillman argues in “Why Performance-Based College Funding Doesn’t Work,” other perverse and unintended incentives may follow.

The extrinsic incentives of performance-based funding, for example, may erode the intrinsic motivations of teachers and students both. It’s difficult to see how there would not be all sorts of bad ethical and educational consequences to shaping the behavior of students so that they approach their education as something best got over with as quickly and cheaply as possible.

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Summer Blog Series: Visions of Throughput, or, the Equity Factory

Equity and Efficiency

Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley’s “Vision for Success” for California Community Colleges represents the most dramatic reform to the CCC system since the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education. To the Master Plan’s emphasis on open access, the Vision adds an ambitious focus on two new goals: achieving equity in completion rates for students from historically underrepresented groups and increasing the efficiency of the CCC system’s production of completions—degrees, certificates, etransfers, and specific, high-demand job skills. This conceptual coupling of equity and efficiency is the Vision’s core premise. It frames inequity in terms of inefficiency and it offers efficiency as the means to achieve equity.

But the Vision never defends or even inquires into this premise. The authors simply assume that the economic means of efficiency will achieve the political end of equity, and everything in the Vision follows from this. And so this assumption deserves critical scrutiny. In making it, the authors of the Vision, without acknowledging it, draw on core tenets of neoliberal ideology: that the public sector should model itself on the private sector, and so that political and social goods are best pursued by applying the economic laws, so-called, of the competitive marketplace. If we want equity, we should seek to produce it as if it were a good being produced for the market: with maximal efficiency, and the highest possible return on investment.

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Introducing the Pedagogy of Social Justice

This past spring, California community college faculty convened at Contra Costa College to discuss the “Pedagogy of Social Justice.” The conference featured workshops for advancing social justice in California community college instruction.  Diablo Valley College (DVC) professors of sociology and political science spearheaded one such workshop, urging faculty to consider “transformative possibilities” for themselves and their students. Sociologist Sanga Niyogi and political scientist Albert Ponce explained that “the goal of Social Justice pedagogy is to develop consciousness of injustices while empowering students with the tools to work towards justice.”

The conferences came on the heels of a concerted effort to integrate social justice into the educational aims of Contra Costa community colleges. For example, DVC approved a three-tier curriculum for a social justice program in conjunction with Rainbow Youth wherein community leaders attend as guest speakers and students report on observations of campus learning communities as well as perform fifteen to twenty hours of service for a community agency. During the 2019-20 academic year, DVC will also offer “Introduction to Social Justice,” engaging with a spectrum of “intersections” between gender and sexuality, racial injustice, art, music, history, and equity. For Janice Townsend, who helped craft the Los Medanos College social justice proposal, “Social Justice is about making the world a better place, it’s about empowerment, not just about the history of yourself. It connects you to others, affinity of the things we all differ, and share in common, as humans.”

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