Academics can promote racial equity among their learners by advocating for top-down change throughout the nation’s educational system.
To date, a college degree is still the best route toward building a satisfying and rewarding life. However, many underserved groups fail to receive adequate education to prepare for the rigors of higher learning.
You can do your part to help students access a college degree and reduce poverty as well as the wealth gap by promoting racial equity in the classroom. All it takes is the desire to do so and a commitment to use your voice to advocate for underrepresented groups.
First, however, it helps to know a few facts about advocating for racial equality in America’s school system.
What Can Academics Do?
Primarily, underrepresentation affects mostly African-American and Hispanic students. Nevertheless, it’s a severe problem that requires attention.
Today, there is a marked underrepresentation of people of color among school personnel. This disparity often results in poor academic outcomes for children of minority groups.
Resultantly, K-12 education advocates have developed several strategies that promote equitable learning for students of all ethnicities and backgrounds. The most well-known strategy is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. The ESSA supplants 2002’s No Child Left behind (NCLB) Act with several provisions designed to promote academic success among young learners.
Collaboration is another tool that educators can use to promote racial equity in the nation’s classrooms. The Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) is one such collaborative group that works toward promoting learning conditions for all learners.
The group works toward studying various academic programs to improve educational outcomes for minority students. MSAN recommends collaborative research to identify opportunities to improve student learning. The group also supports the training of teachers and administrators to support the organization’s objectives.
Also, MSAN officials create opportunities for students to participate in work designed to promote racial equity in academia. The organization shares its successes with participating and nonparticipating school districts.
Steps in the Right Direction
Studies such as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study reveal that non-African-American educators are less likely to recognize African-American students who excel in the classroom. However, African Americans students are three times more likely to receive a referral to an advanced learning program if their teacher is African-American.
Researchers reveal that Caucasian educators are 12% less likely to forecast that a minority student will graduate from high school and 30% less likely to graduate from college. Other studies show that educators are more critical of the work of minority students.
Often, educators and administrators exhibit unintentional bias. That bias, unfortunately, influences their decisions when dealing with matters that pertain to students of color.
It’s human nature to draw on experience to make decisions. However, educators and administrators can avoid making predisposed decisions by examining their understanding of their own internal biases.
Some would argue that non-minority teachers who make decisions based on the latest bias studies may go easier on minority students if only to assuage the evidence of their own internal bias. However, this well-meaning attempt to promote equality could also cause minority students to miss out on constructive coaching that can improve their skills.
The solution is challenging. It lies in finding a balance between assertiveness, respectfulness and racial sensitivity.
Leveraging Sports to Promote Equality
Interscholastic sports in the United States has expanded 55% between 2010 in 2017 – skyrocketing to a $15.3 billion industry. One Texas study reveals that 179 of 255 surveyed interscholastic teams employed Caucasian coaches, and 77.5% of the coaches were male. Furthermore, male students participate in sports more than females.
As with many areas of American life, the nation’s athletics organizations are not representative of the population. The struggle to promote racial equality in locker rooms remains just as challenging as it is in classrooms, offices and boardrooms.
Whether on the field or in the office, diversity yields positive results. The road toward racial diversity begins with presenting decision-makers with quantifiable proof that equality yields improved outcomes for all stakeholders.
Decision-makers and stakeholders must work toward cultural competence to promote positive organizational outcomes. An understanding of people from other backgrounds promotes collaboration and inclusiveness in any setting – including academia. With cultural competence, people learn to value diversity, and stakeholders learn to appreciate the differences of others.
Change starts at the top. If you’re not a school administrator, you can work to compel decision-makers toward promoting successful outcomes for all students despite their background. It takes more than desire, however, to promote change.
Student advocates should encourage administrators to use data analysis to monitor and measure the performance of students from varying backgrounds. If there are opportunities for improvements, administrators should then commit to devising and implementing strategies to support underrepresented learners.
Furthermore, student advocates should encourage administrators to tout the success of learners from varying backgrounds. This kind of encouragement is beneficial for all students – no matter their ethnicity or background.
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Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.