White Educators in a Successful, Diverse, Large Texas School District:Developing an Authentic Equity Consciousness
This study was designed to explore how and why white teachers and administrators employed in a successful, diverse, large school district had developed an authentic equity consciousness. Skrla, McKenzie, and Scheurich (2009) defined equity consciousness as teachers being aware of, accepting, and acting on the following four central beliefs:
- That all children (except only a small percentage; e.g., those with profound disabilities) are capable of high levels of academic success.
- That all children means all, regardless of a child’s race, social class, gender, sexual orientation, learning differences, culture, language, religion, and so on.
- That the adults in schools are primarily responsible for student learning.
- That traditional school practices may work for some students but are not working for all children. Therefore, if we are going to eleminate the achievement gap, it requires a change in our practices. (Skrla et al., 2009, p. 82)
Moreover, educators with an authentic equity consciousness “have it, understand it, and live it out on a daily basis” (Skrla et al., 2009, p. 84). These educators have accepted and embraced the four central beliefs of equity consciousness noted above, and they demonstrate this consciousness in their daily practice.
The district and participants in this study were purposefully selected. Only large (30,000 or more students), diverse (50% students of color), and successful (smaller achievement gap than the state) districts were considered for this study. After reviewing state educational data on students’ performance on state mandated tests and other documents, the researcher identified an appropriate school district and invited the administrators of that district to participate in the study. The goal of the researcher was to purposefully select from the district seven white educators who had been identified as exhibiting the traits of those described in the literature as possessing an authentic equity consciousness. One central office administrator, three principals, and three teachers who had been identified as white were purposefully selected and asked to participate in the study. This instrumental case study utilized three different qualitative data collection methods: questionnaires, interviews, and document gathering. The findings of the study revealed that the participants’ development of an authentic equity consciousness was a complex phenomenon influenced by several factors. Personal factors included a mentor or teacher, a critical incident, their faith or spirituality, and their exposure to diversity while growing up. However, the most important factor was a strong district culture that fostered a set of beliefs that in turn effected the development of an equity consciousness among the educators in the district. The district studied had achieved success because of its focus on both the beliefs and instructional skills of the educators. The district culture itself promoted an equity consciousness among the educators. While the participants embraced all four of the central beliefs of equity consciousness, their responses indicated that the most prevalent belief was that the adults were primarily responsible for student learning. These beliefs resulted in a culture where students of color are expected to achieve at high levels, no excuses are accepted for poor performance, and educators are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure student success. More importantly, the district culture caused those that did not have, or were not willing to develop, an equity consciousness to leave or not become employed by the district in the first place. The result was a district culture where an equity consciousness was not only expected but required, thus allowing for a subsequent intense focus on the instructional skills of the educators.