Merritt College receives 2021 John W. Rice Equity Award

Merritt College, which was a leader in moving away from assessment tests that wrongly placed students of color in remedial classes, and Barstow College, which has enhanced its student success rates through numerous support services, are the winners of the 2021 John W. Rice Equity and Student Success awards.

merritt college drum circle sankofa umoja 2020

Representatives of the colleges were presented with the awards at the September 21, 2021 meeting of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.  The Merritt College representatives included Merritt College student Melvin Vierra and the college president, Dr. David M. Johnson.  

“For decades we used flawed standardized tests to determine whether a student would start in remedial or transfer-level English or math classes,” said Board of Governors President Pamela Haynes. “The colleges recognized today are at the forefront of new approaches that unlock students’ potential and yield success.”

Equity Award winner Merritt College has not offered below transfer-level English since 2019 or below transfer-level math classes since 2018. It was praised for getting students to where they need to be by redesigning its curriculum and investing heavily in student support, embedded tutors, retention specialists and its campus Learning Center. Merritt College also recommitted itself to the Puente, First Year Experience, and Sankofa-Umoja programs, assigning a full-time manager to oversee the learning communities and build a pervasive spirit and culture of family.

“Merritt College is honored to accept the 2021 Dr. John W. Rice Award for Diversity & Equity. Given our institutional commitment to fostering a culture of equity and inclusion through our rich educational programs, receiving this award is particularly edifying” said Merritt College President Dr. David M. Johnson. He continued, “We know all too well that many of our students face barriers and encounter challenges along the road to educational success, and the experience of our African American and Latinx students underscores that reality in dramatic terms. As such, we are committed to continuing the progress to which this award attests, and applaud the efforts of our students, faculty, and staff to stay the course and move the needle.”

Merritt College President Dr. David M. Johnson

Student Success Award winner Barstow College was lauded for myriad efforts, including a vibrant Teaching and Learning Support Center, faculty-led workshops, enhanced tutoring and improved early-alert tracking. All have contributed to overall increase of 29% of students completing transfer-level English and math courses within one year of their first attempt.

Established in 2001, the Dr. John W. Rice Awards annually recognize colleges for setting the standard in advancing diversity, equity and student outcomes. In 2019, the nomination process was redesigned to bring the awards into alignment with the goals and commitments of the Vision for Success. Finalists for the Equity Award were chosen based on the reduction of equity gaps for students of color completing gateway, transfer-level courses in English and mathematics over the course of the Vision for Success. Student Success Award criteria focuses on colleges seeing the greatest improvements in all students completing gateway transfer-level English and math over the course of the Vision for Success.

Honorable mentions went to the following colleges:

  • Equity Award runner-up Palo Verde College has reduced equity gaps through a holistic approach that includes Disabled Student Programs and Services, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, embedded tutoring, counseling, food distribution and more.
  • Student Success Award runner-up East Los Angeles College reduced equity gaps with a range of programs to help with the transition to college, including peer mentors and navigators, along with embedded tutoring and supplemental instruction for those enrolled in transfer-level math and English.

Student Success Award runner-up Woodland Community College saw improvements in students completing transfer-level math and improvements in students completing transfer-level English thanks in part to a comprehensive approach that includes a full-time behavioral health therapist, increased mental health services, the Woodland Community College Promise program and more.

The California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation, composed of 73 districts and 116 colleges serving 2.1 million students per year. California community colleges provide career education and workforce training; guaranteed transfer to four-year universities; degree and certificate pathways; and basic skills education in English and math. As the state’s engine for social and economic mobility, the California Community Colleges supports the Vision for Success, a strategic plan designed to improve student success outcomes, increase transfer rates and eliminate achievement gaps. For more information, please visit the California Community Colleges website.

Tags: David M. Johnson, Merritt College, Award

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