Anti-racist educational training: a qualitative inquiry
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Anti-racist training has been put forward as a method to ameliorate the achievement gap that exists between Black students and their White peers. Such training requires clear goals and measurable outcomes. This study focused on an anti-racist program (EMI) run collaboratively by nine predominantly White school districts west of Boston which are members of the Boston desegregation program (METCO). This program is intended to change educators' racial attitudes, which founders and supporters of the program believe undermine the academic success of students of color. Qualitative methods were employed to collect data from eight instructors, six Board Members who are superintendents in the collaborating school districts, and eleven teachers who participated in the program in 2000 or 2001. The research effort was to understand the purposes and methods of the training and its self-reported effects in light of the program's purported mission. Findings revealed common themes and were analyzed in relation to the historical foundations of anti-racist education and theories of organizational, attitude, and cognitive change. Three findings are noteworthy. The central finding is that the intended aims, goals, and vision of the EMI instructors, former participants, and Board Members were mutually inconsistent. Specifically, tension existed between the desire for anti-racist activism by the instructors and a democratic multiculturalism that characterized most of its participants and Board Members. This created a deep ideological division, and made a successful transformational experience unlikely. Second, interview data revealed conflicting priorities with regard to anti-racist training within the EMI collaborative school districts. The attempt to balance continuing support for the program with a range of other priorities raised questions about the ability of the participating school districts to maintain their commitment to anti-racist training. Third, the data provided no evidence that this anti-racist training promoted a change in the participants' racial identity. On the contrary, a sustained Eurocentric approach toward students of color appeared to be the continuing the norm in these school districts. These findings suggest that professional training programs aimed at higher student achievement, a distal goal of this anti-racist program, require shared goals and clear assessment, effective educational strategies, and measurable, student-based outcomes.
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