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Introduction and Overview of the Yearbook: Facilitating Institutional Change for Racial Equity in the Educational Pipeline

by Anjalé D. Welton & Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher - 2018

Although problem identification and understanding the root causes of racism in its many forms is important, this yearbook identifies institutional structures, processes, and practices that are critical in working towards racial equity across the educational pipeline, with each chapter offering foundational perspectives for doing so. We need scholarship that identifies how and why racism in education is still a problem, as it is the first step towards developing solutions to address these inequities. Even so, more research is needed that goes beyond just identifying the problem of racism and moves forward with systemic action toward rectifying it. As such, the chapters in this yearbook give clear, well-defined recommendations for what institutional change is necessary to make solutions for racial equity a reality. Racial equity is a systemic outlook that ensures racially diverse perspectives are equally embedded in the institutional culture, structures, and policies. Finally, the authors in each chapter emphasize that doing racial equity work is not a one-time initiative, but systemic, ongoing, and a goal that is nonnegotiable.


Although problem identification and understanding the root causes of racism in its many forms is important, this yearbook, Facilitating Institutional Change for Racial Equity in the Educational Pipeline, identifies institutional structures, processes, and practices that are critical in working towards racial equity in education, with each chapter offering foundational perspectives for doing so. Also, racial inequities if not revealed and resolved can potentially derail a student’s educational trajectory and even the career opportunities of those who have dedicated their lives to educating and fighting to achieve racial justice for others. As such, the chapters also address a broad set of topics related to institutional change for racial equity in various contexts across the P–20 educational pipeline.

In light of the immediacy in which the Trump Administration instituted policies unjustly targeting specific racial, cultural, and religious groups and gender identities; as well as a U.S. Secretary of Education with limited background knowledge on education who supports the mass privatization of education, the direction of the national policy discourse on education is uncertain. With this swiftness of government sponsored racism, it is more important than ever for educational institutions to forecast, plan ahead, engage in coalition building, and ultimately be urgently strategic about their approaches to achieving racial equity. For these reasons, each chapter in this yearbook discusses how educational leaders can have racial equity in education as a goal on the horizon while still maintaining the wherewithal to fight against pending policies, structures, and practices that may try to unravel this goal.


The onslaught of policies presumed to be solutions to racial equity in education—such as national standards and accountability and legal remedies like desegregation and affirmative action—are relatively narrow approaches that often fall short in challenging the complex, structural nature of racism endemic to education (Garces, Ishimaru, & Takahashi, 2017). Moreover, policy solutions that are market driven, like school choice and high-stakes testing regimes, in the end cause more harm to children of color, or even ignore the problem of racism entirely (Scott & Holme, 2016). Whereas research on race in education that is problem identification focused unearths how and why racism and racial disparities manifest via policies, structures, and practices. For instance, a significant body of research operationalizes the racial inequities in education that students of color experience when compared to their white peers as the racial opportunity gap (Chambers, 2009; Milner, 2012; Span & Rivers, 2012). Other racial inequities along the P–20 pipeline examined in the research include teacher quality concerns for students of color living in poverty (Jerald, Haycock, & Wilkins, 2009), academic tracking and racial resegregation (Chambers, 2009; Tyson, 2011), harsh disciplinary sanctions on students of color that lead to the school-to-prison pipeline (Skiba, Arredondo, & Rausch, 2014), racial disparities in high school completion, college matriculation, and retention (Welton & Martinez, 2013; Zamani-Gallaher, Lester, Bragg & Hagedorn, 2014), and how the overall stress of racism, or racial microaggressions that students of color experience impacts their learning (Levy, Heissel, Richeson, & Adam, 2016). Also, a segment of the research critiques race-neutral, colorblind discourses that downplay the severity of racism by insinuating that the U.S. educational system is post-racial, arguing that this dismissal of racism only further intensifies the problem (Dixson, Donnor, & Reynolds, 2015; Leonardo & Porter, 2010; Welton, Diem, & Holme, 2015).

Indeed, we need scholarship like the above to identify how and why racism in education is still a problem, as it is the first step towards developing solutions to address these inequities. Even so, more research is needed that goes beyond just identifying the problem of racism and moves forward with systemic action toward rectifying it. As such, the chapters in this yearbook give clear, well-defined recommendations for what institutional change is necessary to make solutions for racial equity a reality.

It is important to distinguish racial equity from racial equality, as educators can stagnate the work needed to redress inequity when they confuse the former with the latter. Racial equality assumes we are all equal and when “given the same inputs, we should get the same outputs” (Gooden, 2015, p. 3). Whereas racial equity is a more systemic outlook that involves

racially equitable systems in which racially diverse perspectives are equally embedded in power structures, policy-making processes, and the cultural fabric of organizations (e.g., mission statements, strategic plans, curricula, etc.) at federal, state, organizational, divisional, departmental, and programmatic levels. (Museus, Ledesma, & Parker, 2015, p. 13)

The ultimate outcome for racial equity is “full participation” for those who historically have been excluded from education and society as a whole, but this can only be accomplished if and when educational policies, structures, and even educators’ practices are transformative and systemic in their approaches to racial equity (Garces & Gordon de Cruz, 2017, p. 323)

 Finally, what is clear in the research is that educational institutions should not simply consider racial equity to be a one-time event, another initiative or goal to move on from once accomplished. Racial equity is work that is “frequent, ongoing” and requires “great care and skill” (Ngounou & Gutierrez, 2017, p. 37). However, the only way racial equity can ever become institutionalized into P–20 educational contexts is if educational leaders make doing the work necessary to achieve the goal a nonnegotiable (Ngounou & Gutierrez, 2017).


This TCR Yearbook is an extension of the 2016–2017 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Education Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series, where internationally renowned scholars were invited to address important issues of equity and diversity, especially perceived inequities, biases, and microaggressions that impact our campus community. That year the lectures were specific to equity-focused institutional change in higher education. As coordinators of the lecture series, we thought it would be important to continue the discussion in this yearbook but shift the general equity conversation to that of racial equity, as well as invite additional scholars in PK–12 to have representative research across the educational pipeline. We highly recommend viewing and listening to related videos1 and podcasts2 of authors in this yearbook who participated in the lecture series.

This TCR Yearbook consist of two sections, with Section I exploring racial equity in PK–12 contexts and Section II postsecondary contexts. Here we provide a brief overview of each chapter, highlighting specific recommendations the authors make for educational institutions and leaders.

The first three chapters of Section I provide recommendations for developing a school and district culture that cultivates and supports students’ intersecting identities. In the first chapter by Mayo, Black LGBTQ college students reflect on the racial and intersecting LGBTQ-related obstacles they experienced in high school. In retrospect, the students found that their racialized sexual and gender identities could serve as tools to articulate their rights, build political agency and resistance, and develop educational aspirations. However, the students in this study were self-directed and built support networks and systems on their own time, but Mayo suggests that educational leaders need to do their share of the work to learn about and advocate for the intersecting identities of their students. In the second chapter Mansfield, Rainbolt, and Fowler provide strategies for implementing restorative justice as an alternative to problematic racially based school discipline practices. Racial inequities in school disciplinary practices are unfortunately a byproduct of whiteness; in response, the authors recommend school administrators use anti-racist school leadership as the foundation in which they implement restorative justice. The third chapter, by Wiemelt and Maldonado, highlights what school and community leaders are doing in one school district to support undocumented and unaccompanied students academically, linguistically, and socioemotionally. The authors use Latin@ critical race theory (LatCrit) to help educational leaders understand how the complex intersection of race and racism, xenophobia, and linguicism in schools affects immigrant students and families. A number of recommendations for equitable schooling for immigrant youth and families are provided, some of which include that educators be race conscious, culturally and linguistically responsive; provide academic programming based on principles of dynamic bilingualism and holistic linguistic development, be committed to family engagement and the broader community, and strengthen postsecondary matriculation and student leadership opportunities.

The final two chapters in Section I offer recommendations for preparing PK–12 school administrators to be both culturally competent and anti-racist in their leadership practices. Spikes, in Chapter 4, acknowledges that many educators are unaware of the individual biases they hold regarding race, and thus suggests district and school leaders provide professional development on cultural competency for their staff. The author identifies the following four essential components of transformative staff development on cultural competence: setting the stage; building trust; inside-out approach; and transformative leadership practices. In Chapter 5, Gooden, Davis, Spikes, Hall, and Lee describe how an educational leadership preparation program with an explicit focus on anti-racist leadership and social justice develops the race consciousness of a predominantly white student cohort. The program is based on a four-stage logic model: 1) gaining (and integrating) knowledge, 2) examining self, 3) (re)envisioning the world, and finally, 4) taking anti-racist action. Students reported that the program affected their values and beliefs and prepared them to advance an anti-racist agenda as educational leaders.

The first two chapters in Section II on postsecondary education suggest that the only way institutions can redress racism is if they are radically reconstructed. In Chapter 6, Squire, Williams, and Tuitt compare higher education institutions to slave plantations that exploit people of color in various ways for economic gain. The authors conclude with recommendations for how faculty, staff, and students can work together to dismantle neoliberal practices that are racist. Then, in Chapter 7, Stewart calls for postsecondary education to shift from a rhetoric of diversity and inclusion to a rhetoric of equity and justice, suggesting the following eight proposals for doing so: opening the room, valuing minoritized voices, reject the traditional norm, prioritize the safety of the minoritized, advance equity over equality, design educational programming that showcases critical thinking, award outcomes not window dressing, and reverse disparate policy effects. Stewart then concludes with ten additional recommendations for how educational leaders can sustain more equity and justice-oriented policy solutions.

The next two chapters challenge higher education leaders to critically consider how identity politics affect institutional transformation for racial equity. Patton and Hayes, in Chapter 8, caution that educational leaders will find it difficult to make long-lasting institutional change for racial equity if they do so without acknowledging how minoritized people are affected by multiple forms of oppression. Hence, the authors suggest leaders employ intersectional approaches to institutional transformation for racial equity, looking to the traditions, intellect, and contributions of Black women for examples of how to do so. Likewise, in Chapter 9, Espino posits that to transform policies, practices, and Latina/o/x student outcomes leaders must question their positionality within the racist institutional structures of higher education. An interview with a Latino student affairs practitioner is used to demonstrate how positionality (1) is practiced through connection; (2) offers strategic enrichment; (3) is contextual; (4) challenges essentialism, and (5) shifts based on time and context.

The final three chapters give recommendations for diversifying higher education students, faculty, and leadership. Community colleges have the most diverse leadership amongst postsecondary institutional types. Even so, as Eddy discusses in Chapter 10, the top leadership positions at community colleges are still predominantly held by white men. One recommendation is that mid-level leaders from underrepresented groups be mentored and developed to ascend to top leadership positions. Likewise, Tillman discloses the unfortunate challenges faculty of color face in recruitment, hiring, and promotion and tenure, and therefore provides recommendations for how mentoring faculty of color better secures their success in academia. Tillman outlines a mentoring framework for pretenure faculty of color that higher education institutions can implement at the campus, unit, and departmental level. Finally, in Chapter 12, Pak and Span (with Anderson and Trent) feature what has led to the success of the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the most diverse departments in both faculty and graduate students in the history of highly selective predominantly white universities in the U.S. In an interview Dr. James D. Anderson, longstanding department head, as well as time-honored faculty member Dr. William T. Trent, recount over the last 30 years the multipronged approach employed to recruit and retain diverse graduate students who have gone on to be formidable leaders in education.

Finally, in the concluding chapter of the yearbook we revisit two sets of literature, research on anti-racism and organizational change, to explore what actions and leadership attributes promote institutional change for racial equity. We then integrate key concepts from anti-racism (pedagogy, individual learning and resistance, and systemic level commitment) and organizational change (context and conditions, focus of change, scale and degrees, and leadership) to present a conceptual framework that leaders in both PK–12 and higher education institutions can use in their strategic planning efforts for anti-racist change.


1. https://education.illinois.edu/about/leadership/dean's-distinguished-lecture-series/past-lectures

2. https://occrl.illinois.edu/our-products/democracy


Chambers, T. T. (2009). The “receivement gap”: School tracking policies and the fallacy of the “achievement” gap. Journal of Negro Education, 78(4), 417–431.

Dixson, A. D., Donnor, J. K., & Reynolds, R. E. (2015). Why the post-racial is still racial: Understanding the relationship between race and education. Teachers College Record, 117(14), 1–4.

Garces, L. M., & Gordon de Cruz, C. (2017). A strategic racial equity framework. Peabody Journal of Education, 92, 322–342.

Garces, L. M., Ishimaru, A. M., & Takahashi, S. (2017). Introduction to Beyond interest convergence: Envisioning transformation for racial equity in education [Special issue]. Peabody Journal of Education, 92(3), 291–293.

Gooden, M. A. (2015). Evidencing the effort: (Re)defining UCEA’s role in using leadership to center and advance equity in schools. UCEA Review, 56(1), 1–15.

Jerald, C. D., Haycock, K., & Wilkins, A. (2009). Fighting for quality and equality, too: How state policymakers can ensure the drive to improve teacher quality doesn’t just trickle down to poor and minority children. Washington, DC: Education Trust.

Leonardo, Z., & Porter, R. K. (2010). Pedagogy of fear: Toward a Fanonian theory of “safety” in race dialogue. Race Ethnicity and Education, 13(2), 139–157.

Levy, D. J., Heissel, J. A., Richeson, J. A., & Adam, E. K. (2016). Psychological and biological responses to race-based social stress as pathways to disparities in educational outcomes. American Psychologist, 71(6), 455–473.

Milner, H. R. (2012). Beyond a test score: Explaining opportunity gaps in educational practice. Journal of Black Studies, 43, 693–718.

Museus, S. D., Ledesma, M. D., & Parker, T. L. (2015). Racism and racial equity in higher education [Special issue]. ASHE Higher Education Report, 42(1).

Ngounou, G., & Gutierrez, N. (2017). Learning to lead for racial equity. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(3), 37–41.

Scott, J., & Holme, J. J. (2016). The political economy of market-based educational policies: Race and reform in urban school districtcs, 1915 to 2016. Review of Research in Education, 40(1), 250–295.

Skiba, R. J., Arredondo, M. I., & Karega Rausch, M. (2014, March). New and developing research on disparities in discipline. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

Span, C., & Rivers, I. (2012). Reassessing the achievement gap: An intergenerational comparison of African American student achievement before and after compensatory education and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Teachers College Record, 114(6), 1–17.

Tyson, K. (2011). Integration interrupted: Tracking, black students, and acting white after Brown. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Welton, A., Diem, S. A., & Holme, J. J. (2015). Color conscious, cultural blindness: Suburban school districts and demographic change. Education and Urban Society, 47(6), 695–722.

Welton, A. D., & Martinez, M. A. (2014). Coloring the college pathway: A more culturally responsive approach to college readiness and access for students of color in secondary schools. Urban Review, 46(2), 197–223.

Zamani-Gallaher, E. M., Lester, J., Bragg, D. D., & Hagedorn, L. S. (Eds.). (2014). ASHE series reader on community colleges (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Publications.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 14, 2018, p. 1-8
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22381, Date Accessed: 5/22/2022 10:17:40 PM

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About the Author
  • Anjalé Welton
    University of Illinois
    E-mail Author
    ANJALÉ D. WELTON is an Associate Professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois. Her research examines how school leaders address race and inequity in their school improvement decisions. Other research areas include college and workforce readiness and access for underrepresented populations, and youth and community voice in school reform. She recently coedited a special issue in the journal Urban Education on the politics of anti-racist leadership.
  • Eboni Zamani-Gallaher
    University of Illinois
    E-mail Author
    EBONI M. ZAMANI-GALLAHER is Professor of Higher Education/Community College Leadership in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, and Director of the Office for Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois. Her research activities include psychosocial adjustment, transition of marginalized collegians, transfer, access policies, student development and services at community colleges. Her most recent book is titled Working with Students in Community Colleges: Contemporary Strategies for Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice.
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