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2008 03 10_ncid-dem_merit
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  • 1. “ Diversity Merit, and Higher Education: Implications for Comprehensive Admission, Pipeline and Retention Strategies” john a. powell Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity & Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law Presentation at the National Center for Institutional Diversity March 10, 2008
  • 2. Presentation Overview
    • Individualistic merit  Democratic merit
    • Non-traditional measures of merit
    • Existing plans and programs of interest
    • Aligning missions and admissions
  • 3. Transitioning from Individualistic Merit
    • The way merit is currently used is individualistic .
    • This is problematic because cumulative disadvantage is based upon group identity - race.
    • Limitations of individualistic merit:
      • Reinforces myth of the ‘American dream’ (hard work  success); stigmatizes those who do not succeed
      • Marginalized groups do not benefit from a few members being given preference - need interventions that lift up group collectively
  • 4. Individualistic merit v. Democratic merit
    • Focuses on past achievements
    • Relies on “objective” measures (GPA, ACT/SAT scores, etc.)
    • Fails to account for external constraints, such as structural racism
    • Invests in democratic potential
    • Considers how students may contribute to society
    • Group-level focus
  • 5. Democratic Merit Aligns with the Goals of Education
    • The U.S. Supreme Court has identified the objectives of public education as “the inculcation of fundamental values necessary for the maintenance of a democratic political system”.
    • Preparing students for citizenship has been a stated goal of American education throughout history.
      • Instill fundamental values and transmit knowledge necessary to partake in our democracy
      • In 2002, the Supreme Court in Grutter acknowledged the importance of preparing students for citizenship
  • 6. Non-traditional Measures of Merit
    • Identify “strivers”
      • These students exceed expectations given the quality of their high school and their socioeconomic status.
      • Strivers should be considered in light of their peers at the same or similar schools.
      • They may perform better in college than their academic record indicates.
  • 7. Non-traditional Measures of Merit
    • Diversity capital
      • This refers to the unique interests, life experiences, and/or family backgrounds that students possess that enrich the academic atmosphere.
      • Students who possess diversity capital create the opportunity to engage a variety of perspectives, thus creating a dynamic learning atmosphere.
  • 8. Non-traditional Measures of Merit
    • Create an assessment tool that measures:
      • Academic preparation and potential
      • Cultural competence
      • Other competencies related to success in college and democratic participation
    • The assessment tool should be institution-specific, non-standardized, and free of bias.
  • 9. Democratic Merit in Action
    • While these three specific non-traditional measures of merit are still being developed, some current plans and programs highlight the concept of democratic merit more generally.
  • 10. Current Programs
    • Indiana’s 21 st Century Scholars Program
      • Low and moderate income students who take and successfully fulfill a good citizenship pledge are guaranteed the cost of 4 years of undergraduate education at a public university (or the equivalent amount for a private university) in Indiana.
  • 11. Current Programs
    • Texas Ten Percent Plan
      • Admits the top 10% of students from every graduating high school class in the state to a public college or university in Texas
      • Introduces diversity of race, class, and geography
      • Prevents certain schools (typically in white, suburban districts) from monopolizing the admissions
  • 12. Current Programs
    • Clark University (Worcester, MA)
      • Worked to revitalize and uplift the local community rather than relocate the university
      • Opened its own high school; admitted students by a lottery
      • Students, many of whom were not meeting grade-level standards prior to entering Clark’s high school, flourished with the support of the university behind them
  • 13. Current Programs
    • University of Texas-Austin: President’s Achievement Scholarship
      • Embraces “strivers” by offering scholarships to students who have overcome significant adversity while maintaining a strong academic record (compared to their peers)
      • Utilizes an Adversity Index that includes various indicators for family socioeconomic status, school quality, peer performance, and academic merit
  • 14. Current Programs
    • The Posse Foundation
      • Gathers students from public high schools to form multicultural “posses” and attend top-level colleges and universities nationwide
      • Uses a Dynamic Assessment Model for recruitment
        • “ An innovative approach to identifying exceptional students who might be missed by traditional college admissions processes”
          • Leadership talent, ability to work in teams with students from different backgrounds, desire for success, etc.
    www.possefoundation.org
  • 15. Current Programs
    • The Posse Foundation
      • “ The concept of a Posse works for both students and college campuses, and is rooted in the belief that a small, diverse group of talented students—a Posse—carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for increased individual and community development .”
      • “… the key to a promising future for our nation rests on the ability of strong leaders from diverse backgrounds to develop consensus solutions to complex social problems.”
    www.possefoundation.org
  • 16. Aligning Missions and Admissions
    • Institutions should consider what they hope to accomplish in society and admit students who will help make those goals a reality.
    • Institutions need to discern what they truly value:
      • Strong test scores, or a strong democracy?
      • Extensive extracurricular activities, or investments in the wellbeing of a community?
  • 17. Alluding to Democratic Merit
    • The “core purpose” of the University of Texas –Austin is “to transform lives for the benefit of society.”
    • UC-Berkeley : Among the admissions criteria, evaluators look for students who will “make a special contribution to our society and culture.”
  • 18. Summary
    • We need to transition from individual merit and consider democratic merit.
    • Admissions policies should reward students who are likely to create a more just and democratic society.
  • 19. Questions or Comments? For More Information, Visit Us On-Line: www.KirwanInstitute.org
  • 20. Appendix Clarifying Our Educational Goals: K-12
  • 21. Clarifying Our Educational Goals
    • Which of the following headlines appeared in a daily newspaper?
    • 1) Capital City Students Show No Gain in Reading, Math — Governor Threatens Takeover
    • 2) Middletown Schools to Be Taken Over by State for Failure to Develop Good Citizens
    Kahne, Joseph and Joel Westheimer. “Teaching Democracy: What Schools Need to Do.” Phi Delta Kappan 85.1 (2003): 34-66.
  • 22. Clarifying Our Educational Goals
    • What do we prioritize?
      • A 1987 survey found that only 38% of respondents could name all three branches of government.
    • BUT
      • A separate 1985 poll found that 59% of Americans could name the Three Stooges.
    Dudley, Robert L. and Alan R. Gitelson. “Political Literacy, Civic Education, and Civic Engagement: A Return to Political Socialization.” Applied Developmental Science 6.4 (2002): 175-182.
  • 23. Clarifying Our Educational Goals
    • What do we prioritize?
      • 25% fewer citizens voted in 2003 compared to 1960.
    • BUT
      • It is not unusual for “American Idol” voting to garner more than 20 million votes, many from young adults.
    Kahne, Joseph and Joel Westheimer. “Teaching Democracy: What Schools Need to Do.” Phi Delta Kappan 85.1 (2003): 34-66.
  • 24. Clarifying Our Educational Goals
    • No Child Left Behind – Yearly testing in math, science, and reading, but not social studies or civic education.
    • Insufficient civic education leads to a lack of understanding of what may be achieved through political participation.
    • Schools instill values in students. Without an emphasis on civic education, it may be implied that democratic participation is unimportant.