Equity-Driven Systems: Student Equity and Achievement in the California Community Colleges

Diversity and Equity
Executive Committee


The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) plays a central role in partnering with and challenging system stakeholders to create excellence through diversity and equity in California’s community colleges. The role of academic senates is to provide advice and recommendations regarding academic and professional matters that best serve the needs of students and communities through the expertise of the educational professionals of the colleges. Every system of bureaucracy, including the California Community Colleges, reflects the biases present upon that system’s creation. The role of the local academic senate, in partnership with other constituent groups of a college, is to identify and deeply examine those biases and correct them through structural change, professional development, and re-imagining how colleges serve the students and communities of today most effectively. While this paper is intended for local academic senates, it also provides a framework and suggested action to begin or continue the task of shifting the cultures and mindsets of community college institutions.

During the last three decades, a tremendous increase has occurred across several dimensions of diversity among student populations. While diversity and equity goals have remained systemic priorities, efforts such as large-scale initiatives, increased professional development, enhancements in technology, changes in legislation, augmented funding, and progressive social norms, have only led to relatively small gains in student success outcomes and proportional faculty representation in California’s community colleges. As a result, opportunity gaps for many student populations still exist.

Students, and the landscape that they must navigate in order to achieve their goals, are changing rapidly. Who they are, how they identify, and what colleges need to do to help them succeed is evolving at a hastened pace. Academic institutions need to ensure that programs, departments, teaching, counseling, and other services meet the needs of all of students, particularly those who are disproportionately impacted and whose needs are currently not being met through current structures.

Today’s students may endure the distress of hunger and homelessness, immigration status-related issues, mental health needs, discrimination, hate and bias, gender related concerns, sexual harassment, and more in society and within institutions. Students are intersectional; they face oppression on a variety of fronts including ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, income status, physical ability, and mental health issues, among many others.

The community college system in California owes all students an excellent educational opportunity and outcome. To this end, an intentional, systematic approach to address the contemporary and historical context of institutions and current student needs requires a paradigm shift as colleges are constantly responding to various inner and outer accountability measures such as legislation, the funding formula, large-scale initiatives, and accreditation. This paper elaborates on the definition of equity, developing equity-mindedness, and what being an equity-driven system means. In addition, the paper endeavors to focus on institutions and integrating equity planning holistically to emphasize that equity is not a separate program but rather should be embedded in the missions of institutions. The recommendations set forth in this paper will help faculty and other stakeholders lead critical conversations, engage in action-oriented decision-making processes, and open the possibility for infusing equity throughout institutions and decision-making processes.


Student equity requires transformation in re-envisioning the student experience through an equity lens and an institutional commitment to enhance the success of all students. The following recommendations are intended to facilitate the development of an equity-driven system by integrating equity, and they provide a framework for accountability, sustainability, partnerships, and professional development. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recommends the following to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, colleges and districts, and local academic senates:

Board of Governors

  1. Center an equity-driven system framework by integrating the board’s goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the Vision for Success. (Integration)
  2. Regularly review and revise the board’s diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. (Sustainability)
  3. Develop an ongoing assessment and evaluation strategy based on the diversity, equity, and inclusion statement that can be used to evaluate board decisions on funding and policy making. (Accountability)
  4. Using an equity-driven system framework, regularly review and revise as necessary Title 5 language, the mission of California Community Colleges system, equal employment opportunity plan templates, and any required documentation and forms in conjunction with statewide stakeholders through existing statewide advisories and Consultation Council. (Sustainability and Partnership)
  5. Appropriately support the development of an equity-driven system through policy making and fund allocation to sustain systemwide program development and professional development and leadership opportunities for all system constituents. (Professional Development)

Colleges and Districts

  1. Develop an action plan that will transform the college into an equity-driven institution to drive transformation throughout the college and district. Within this process, define and integrate principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion into the college’s vision, mission, and values statements and strategic planning documents. (Integration and Partnership)
  2. Develop an ongoing assessment and evaluation that utilizes data to prioritize, assess, evaluate, and revise decision-making processes, policies, procedures, programs, budget development, and professional development and leadership opportunities at every level of the college and district aligned with the college’s theory of action or action plan. (Accountability)
  3. Appropriately fund and develop the institution’s research capacity, data literacy, and links to an equity-driven system framework. (Accountability)
  4. Create and sustain an equity-minded culture by reviewing and revising local hiring policies, procedures, and practices to seek, hire, and retain equity-minded practitioners, eliminate bias and other barriers to hiring diverse faculty and staff, and close opportunity gaps, especially for minoritized students. (Sustainability and Accountability)
  5. Appropriately fund and support leadership and professional development opportunities to enhance equity-mindedness and cultural competency, including but not limited to, engaging in implicit bias training for hiring committee members, learning and practicing culturally relevant teaching and contextualized teaching and learning, developing data literacy for equity-minded practitioners, and centering equity in guided pathways frameworks. (Professional Development)

Local Academic Senates

  1. Lead the development of an action plan to transform the college into an equity-driven institution. In addition, the local academic senate should develop its own action plan to integrate an equity framework into the decision-making and recommending practices embedded in the areas of academic and professional matters delineated in Title 5 §53200. (Integration)
  2. Ensure faculty leadership as the institution evaluates data used to prioritize, assess, evaluate, and revise decision-making processes, policies, procedures, program and curriculum development, budget development processes, professional development and leadership opportunities, and other areas of academic and professional matters as aligned with the action plan. (Accountability)
  3. Engage all college and district stakeholders—including full- and part- time faculty, students, staff, administrators, board members, and community—in critical conversations to shift ideologies to foster an equity-driven institution in order to improve student outcomes, including student learning outcomes, especially through the development of a guided pathways framework, emphasizing culturally relevant teaching and contextualized teaching and learning and integrating academic and support services. (Partnerships)
  4. Review and revise policies and procedures through an equity-driven framework, especially as they apply to program review and institutional planning and budget development. (Integration and Sustainability)
  5. Evaluate recruitment, hiring, and retention policies and procedures for faculty positions and the internal appointment processes of the academic senate through the lens of equity and any adopted action plan. (Integration and Sustainability)
Publication file