One year after Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) graduated a record number of students, the university is celebrating another milestone: progress in closing their achievement gap, according to a report by The Education Trust, a DC-based nonprofit organization that promotes academic achievement for students at all levels.
The report, titled Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase? examined 232 institutions with at least 30 full-time white students and 30 full-time black students that improved graduation rates between 2003 and 2013, according to the report summary. It found that CSULB narrowed the gap between black students and white students by 5.7 percentage points.
“Closing opportunity gaps is a university-wide priority, so the research by the Education Trust validates the hard work and dedication of our excellent faculty and staff to achieving this goal,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley in a statement. “I am proud of these measurable gains, but it is not time to rest on our laurels. CSULB is committed to eliminating all our students’ opportunity gaps.”
Long Beach was ranked 25th out of other public universities increasing graduation rates across the country at closing the achievement gap—just behind the University of Nevada-Reno (at 5.9 percent) and just above the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (5.6 percent).
The top five institutions closing the gap, according to the study, were:
- San Diego State University (by 15.1 percent)
- Armstrong Atlantic State University (by 14.1 percent)
- East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (13.6 percent)
- California State University-Chico (12.5 percent)
- SUNY College at Old Westbury (12.5 percent)
Andrew Nicholls, The Trust’s director for higher education, said the premise of the study was to see if schools that had seen an increase in the graduation rates of black students were actually closing the achievement gap. He said the study found that although schools have been graduating more students across the board, the achievement gap is actually widening.
“In one third of the schools we looked at, we actually saw a decline in the achievement gap,” he said. “Black students don’t always see an increase” in graduation rates, in comparison to white students.
He said schools like CSULB that are closing the achievement gap are likely more in touch with the unique needs of minority students, and have created programs aimed at addressing crucial elements of their education.
“There’s no ‘silver bullet’ intervention,” he said. “[…] Provosts have to see equity as a priority. They can’t just see it as a byproduct.”
One example Nicholls cited would be “pushing the best teachers in front of students when they need them the most.”
CSULB’s graduation will occur in a collection of 10 unique ceremonies on campus, scheduled for Tuesday through Friday, May 17 through 20.