Conversations about Race and Achievement is one of four MSAN research and development focus areas.

Articles of Interest

Discovering Unconscious Bias
Cheryl Robinson, Supervisor of Minority Achievement in Arlington Public Schools writes about how acknowledging and addressing behaviors that result from unconscious biases has the potential to improve teacher-family relationships.

Columbia Public Schools Promotes Diversity Training
Columbia Public Schools are holding equity and diversity trainings for staff. The cultural competency work being implemented in Columbia, MO was informed by our colleagues in Arlington, VA. This is an example of how MSAN districts share resources to build capacity!

School Culture Makes the Difference on the Road to College
by Tracy Crow - The Learning Principal, Summer 2011

I Don’t Want To Live Without Them: Twenty-Five Web Sites for Educational Equity
by Paul Gorski
Dr. Gorski writes, “...There are some sites, often buried in the muck of the Web, full of excellent content that can inform everything from curriculum reform within an individual classroom to policy reform on a national scale. I have identified 25 of them that, although I could live without them, I am happy I do not need to do so.” (p. 24)

Creating Schools Where Race Does Not Matter: The role and significance of Race in the Racial Achievement Gapby Pedro Noguera - Motion Magazine, September 2008
Pedro Noguera reviews historical and theoretical factors influencing the role of race in educational performance. Because race is social and not biological in nature, educators can change beliefs and practices in schools in ways that fundamentally alter the relationship between race and achievement. The author examines two school districts that have worked to address achievement disparities, concluding that when leaders and adults in the system blame students and parents for low minority student achievement, little progress is made. “In contrast, schools and communities where students of color are embraced and challenged, and where educational leaders willingly accept responsibility for making sure that all students receive a good education, possibilities for change in student outcomes benefit from broader openness to change.”

Book SuggestionsBook Suggestions

Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School Edited by Mica Pollock
Which acts by educators are "racist" and which are "antiracist"? How can an educator constructively discuss complex issues of race with students and colleagues? In Everyday Antiracism leading educators deal with the most challenging questions about race in school, offering invaluable and effective advice. Contributors including Beverly Daniel Tatum, Sonia Nieto, and Pedro Noguera describe concrete ways to analyze classroom interactions that may or may not be "racial," deal with racial inequality and "diversity," and teach to high standards across racial lines. Topics range from using racial incidents as teachable moments and responding to the "n-word" to valuing students' home worlds, dealing daily with achievement gaps, and helping parents fight ethnic and racial misconceptions about their children. Questions following each essay prompt readers to examine and discuss everyday issues of race and opportunity in their own classrooms and schools.

A Q&A with Mica Pollock
To continue this conversation, visit Mica Pollock’s blog at

Gaining on the Gap: Changing Hearts, Minds, and Practice
By Robert Smith, Alvin Crawley, Cheryl Robinson, Timothy Cotman Jr., Marty Swaim, and Palma Strand
This book describes the journey of one school system as it strives to create an environment where race is no longer a predictor of academic success.  Chapters are written by six individuals who work to create systemic change.  Each identifies challenges, victories and lessons learned.

What If All the Kids Are White? Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families
by Louise Derman Sparks and Patricia Ramsey
Sparks and Ramsey state the case for the importance of multicultural education and social justice for all children especially those who are White. The authors share their journey, strategies, organizations and website, children's books and curriculum resources for anti-racist teaching with your children.

Taking it Personally: Racism in the Classroom from Kindergarten to College
By Ann Berlak and Sekani MoyendaI (2001) ISBN 1-56639-875-4
This book is a must read for anyone doing diversity work in schools and/or who is serious about providing equitable learning environments for students.  The authors begin by sharing parts of their personal stories related to race, privilege, and oppression.  The authors also share an experience they designed for a teacher training program. Through the narration, the authors artfully uncover thoughts and behaviors that contribute to racial disparities in classrooms through an effective and comprehensive strategy for creating a safe environment where difficult conversations can be unpacked.  Each of these can serve as the basis for beginning the work of dismantling racism in schools.   

Research StudiesResearch Studies

Challenge the Status Quo: Academic Success among School-Age African-American Males
by Ivory Toldson Ph.D. and Chance Lewis Ph.D.
This report analyzes the responses of more than 4,000 students. The young men provide their lived experiences and perspectives on strategies teachers, schools and districts must use to elevate their success and to reduce disparities in educational access and achievement. After self-awareness, the most important step in creating a culturally responsive environment is to know the students. This document provides a beginning for doing just that. The young men who were included in the research have a lot to share.

Reducing the Racial Achievement Gap: A Social-Psychological Intervention
by G. Cohen, J. Garcia, N. Apfel and A. Master
Two randomized field experiments tested a social-psychological intervention designed to reduce stereotype threats and improve minority student performance and increase our understanding of how psychological threat mediates performance in chronically evaluative real-world environments. The authors expected that the risk of confirming a negative stereotype aimed at one’s group could undermine academic performance in minority students by elevating their level of psychological threat. They tested whether such psychological threat could be lessened by having students reaffirm their sense of personal adequacy or ‘‘self-integrity.’’ The intervention, a brief in-class writing assignment, significantly improved the grades of middle school African American students and reduced the racial achievement gap by 40%. These results suggest that the racial achievement gap, a major social concern in the United States, could be ameliorated by the use of timely and targeted social-psychological interventions.

Identity, Belonging, and Achievement: A Model, Interventions, Implications
by G. Cohen and J. Garcia
The article discusses how social group identities affect achievement.  It also presents a model of identity engagement that describes how a salient social identity can trigger psychological threat and belonging concerns and how these can produce persistent performance decrements, which through feedback loops can increase over time. The character of such processes may be revealed only over time because they are recursive in nature and interact with other factors in chronically evaluative social environments. Finally, the authors address how this model helped in the development of successful interventions.

Recursive processes in Self-Affirmation: Intervening to Close the Minority Achievement Gap
by G. Cohen, J. Garcia, V. Purdie-Vaughns, N. Apfel and P. Brzustoski
A 2-year follow-up of an earlier randomized field experiment previously reported in Science is presented. A subtle intervention to lessen minority students’ psychological threat related to being negatively stereotyped in school was tested in an experiment conducted three times with three independent cohorts (N = 133, 149, and 134). The intervention, a series of brief but structured writing assignments focusing middle school students on a self-affirming value, reduced the racial achievement gap. Over 2 years, the grade point average (GPA) of African Americans was, on average, raised by 0.24 grade points. Low-achieving African Americans were particularly benefited. Their GPA improved, on average, 0.41 points, and their rate of remediation or grade repetition was less (5% versus 18%). Additionally, treated students’ self-perceptions showed long-term benefits. Findings suggest that because initial psychological states and performance determine later outcomes by providing a baseline and initial trajectory for a recursive process, apparently small but early interventions /alterations in achievement trajectory of students can have positive long-term effects. Implications for psychological theory and educational practice are discussed.

Organizational Culture and It's Impact on African American Teachers
by Jean A. Madsen and Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela
This article provides a descriptive analysis of how the organizational culture of schools and the cultural values that African American teachers bring into the school affect the professional experience of these teachers, in schools where they are in the minority. The culture within an organization strongly influences how minorities will be treated by their European American counterparts. Because the majority establishes the work norms, there becomes a uniformity of rules and regulations with which people of color are expected to comply. Strong organizational cultures provide cues on how to behave and establish reinforcing expectations to influence organizational members. This research based article provides the rationale for the importance of MSAN’s mission of eliminating racial disparities in achievement. It illustrates what African-American teachers experience in schools and what is needed to support their success. Their treatment is a predictor of how students of color will achieve in a school organization.

Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life
by Derald Wing Sue, Christina M. Capodilupo, Gina C. Torino, Jennifer M. Bucceri, Aisha M. B. Holder, Kevin L. Nadal, and Marta Esquilin
This researched based article defines the types of microaggressions and explains their impact on clients of color. Microaggressions are explored through the context of white therapist and client of color interactions. It is a most helpful illustration for the white teacher/student or parent of color relationships. The article explains racism and unpacks how every day, little acts of racism affects people of color and impairs white/people of color relations. It is easily translatable for educators.

African American Leaders’ Perceptions of Intergroup Conflict
by Jean A. Madsen and Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela
This article, published in 2002 in the Peabody Journal of Education, explores how four African American administrators working in desegregated suburban schools understand and engage conflicts with European American school stakeholders. The article concludes that multiple sources of intergroup conflict exist and influence leadership decisions and require effective navigation by the school leader. The authors use qualitative case studies to identify and provide insight on areas of conflict and concern, including addressing the development of incompatible goals, negotiating group boundaries between cultural groups, monitoring and dealing with power differences, and successfully fostering color conscious leadership behaviors. The article recommends more study on how to navigate these kinds of racialized educational settings.

mediaOther Resources

This section includes links to websites, podcasts, etc. that provide additional information related to Courageous Conversations About Race & Achievement.

Resources on Power-Privilege
This is a diverse list of articles, books, blog posts, video, and websites that address issues of power and privilege relative to issues of institutionalized racism. Readings/Resources emanate from scholars, activists, and essayists from different areas of inquiry including sociology, multicultural education, gender studies, anti-racist education practice, advocacy, and community organizing.

The Equity Alliance
This website, sponsored by the Equity Alliance, offers fully prepared workshops for teachers and administrators on a variety of topics that can improve instruction and learning for children. Some of the topics include Data Mining, Culturally Responsive RtI (Response to Intervention), Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Teaching, Culturally Responsive Literacy, and much more. Modules come with scripts, power point slides, and instructor's manuals all free of charge.

Pacific Education Group

TED: Embracing Otherness-Embracing Myself
TED does it again. This video is great to use when facilitation conversations about otherness. Actress, Thandie Newton provides deep insight as she shares a portion of her journey as she navigates the world in which we live.

The Danger of a Single Story
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Being Black Is Not a Risk Factor: A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child
This report is designed to challenge the prevailing discourse about Black children - one which overemphasizes limitations and deficits and does not draw upon the considerable strengths, assets and resilience demonstrated by our children, families and communities. It addresses the needs of policymakers, advocates, principals, teachers, parents and others, weaves together three critical elements:

  1. Essays from experts that focus on using our children’s, families’ and communities’ strengths to improve outcomes for Black children.
  2. “Points of Proof” from organizations that serve not as exceptions, but as examples of places where Black children and families are succeeding.
  3. Data points that indicate how our children and families are doing across a range of measures.

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