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Constance Lindsay joins two projects aimed at improving racial equity in schools

Projects win $3.5 million in funding from IES

Helping educators be more responsive to the needs of racially diverse students is the objective of two Institute of Education Science-funded projects in which School of Education faculty member Constance Lindsay is serving as a co-principal investigator.

The projects offer two approaches to addressing inequities pervasive in U.S. schools that result in Black and other underrepresented students having lower rates of academic achievement, greater rates of suspension and expulsion, and lower likelihood of graduating from high school and college.

“Persistently stubborn racial inequities run deep in schools across America, with harms that can inhibit life goals of so many people,” Lindsay said. “We need to identify methods through which education leaders and educators can reduce these inequities and expand educational opportunity to all students. These studies will help us do that.”

The larger of the projects, supported with $3 million in funding from IES, will create and test a set of measures that schools and school districts can use to identify and address systemic inequities.

The project seeks to encourage practices that expand educational equity through “culturally responsive” schooling. While ideas about inclusion and equity have been integrated into school leadership standards, the researchers say, education leaders continue to struggle with how to identify and promote actual in-school practices that make all students feel welcome and support their academic growth.

As part of the project, a team of researchers led by Jonathan Supovitz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, will create a tool kit that can be used by school districts and by schools to measure culturally responsive leadership practices. Lindsay, an assistant professor who conducts research on policies and practices that affect achievement gaps in education, is serving as the head of the project’s validation team, ensuring that the project’s processes and products accurately measure what they are intended to.

The project team will work with three school districts that feature a range of educational, cultural, and political contexts, and in which educators already have been working to cultivate culturally responsive leadership and schools. The team will work The Leadership Academy, a national leadership development nonprofit that has worked with schools and school districts.

The study will include interviews with educators and administrators in the three school districts to inform development of the measurement tools.

In addition to scholarly articles and other academic products describing the study’s findings, the project team will create a tool kit that includes rubrics that can guide assessments of schools’ cultural responsiveness, along with a training guide and a collection of resources for school- and district-level educators and administrators.

Measuring teachers’ racial competencies

The second project, with $530,000 in funding from IES, seeks to examine how teachers can improve their racial competency — specifically how White teachers can increase their racial competency to become more effective teachers to students of color.

The project — which is led by Seth Gershenson of American University, with Nicholas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins University serving as another co-PI — will examine whether the racial makeup of teachers’ colleagues affect their teaching effectiveness or persistence in the classroom. It will also seek to measure the impact of the racial demographics of the students in teachers’ classrooms on the effectiveness of those teachers.

The project will use data from third-through-fifth grade classrooms throughout North Carolina, seeking to determine White teachers’ effects on Black and Latino students’ achievement, attendance, and suspensions. It will also examine the overall effectiveness of Black and Latino teachers, and test for differences in effects considering teachers’ length of classroom experience and their exposure to co-workers of different races within schools.

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By Michael Hobbs