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Testifying on racism: African-American educators, racial identity and anti-racism staff development in schools

Paula Rivera Elliott, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Limited attention has been given to Black teachers' attitudes toward school-based diversity initiatives. This study focuses on African American educators' responses to strategies to promote academic achievement and anti-racist education in predominantly White schools. Their perceptions are offered about racism's educational ramifications for African American students and families. This inquiry has significance for in-service staff development and pre-service teacher trainers because it illustrates a setting where educators of different races explicitly address racism and factors of student achievement. This study examines African American educators' experiences in an extended professional development course funded by a multi-district consortium created to support Black student achievement. The study focused on Black perceptions of curriculum investigating racial identity development theory, White privilege and the influence of racism in classroom practices. The methodology included ethnographic data, in-depth interviews and analysis of documents from a 52 hour, year long course. The analysis examines Black educators' attitudes on what facilitates or obstructs schools' capacity to provide equitable and anti-racist education. This study finds that Black educators want staff development that provides comprehensive and reflective approaches to address racism. This type of experience is supported by a curriculum that explicitly addresses White privilege, racial identity theory, and social dynamics that perpetuate racism. To carry out this experience instructors need to be experienced in facilitating anti-racist training and indicators of individual and institutional commitment to anti-racist staff development goals must be recognized. This research recommends staff development planners and facilitators working in predominantly White settings recognize distinctive professional conflicts African American educators experience and the significance of having a critical mass of Black participants present in the training experience. It further recommends support for on-going communication for Black and other racial minority members via affinity groups. Finally, this study supports organizational analysis that informs strategic interventions promoting student achievement and active anti-racist programming. From inception to conclusion this study asserts the need to solicit the perceptions of African American and other educators of color regarding institutional commitment to inclusion and educational equity.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Bilingual education|Ethnic studies|Black studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Elliott, Paula Rivera, "Testifying on racism: African-American educators, racial identity and anti-racism staff development in schools" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9709592.