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Stereotypes, Images, and Inclination to Discriminatory Action: The White Racial Frame in the Practice of School Leadership

by Judith Toure & Dana N. Thompson Dorsey - 2018

Background/Context: Most educators have had little if any preparation in racial literacy, the understanding of social identity related to race and the ability to recognize and negotiate racism. In fact, they may view race as irrelevant. Yet teachers and school leaders hold deep-seated racial ideologies that shape their day-to-day practice and have implications for their students’ learning and success This study presents an analysis of school leadership in three, predominantly African-American schools, and the constructions of race, learning, and leadership.

Purpose: The authors draw from Feagin’s (2010) conceptual framework, the White racial frame (WRF), to analyze school leadership practice and ways in which racial ideologies emerge and shape leaders’ work with teachers. The WRF consists of five dimensions including racial stereotypes, racial narratives and interpretations, racial images and language accents, racialized emotions, and inclinations to discriminatory action.

Context and Participants: This study took place in three schools in two urban districts in western Pennsylvania. Participants included three White school principals, instructional leaders, and several focal teachers.

Research Design, Data Collection, and Analysis: This ethnographic case study is part of a larger study that took place in three predominantly African-American elementary schools. More than 80 hours of school-based observations took place, by shadowing each principal weekly and observing her in various capacities as she supervised teachers, led walkthroughs and faculty meetings, and attended or provided professional development. Additionally, multiple interviews of the school leaders and focal teachers were conducted to surface beliefs about race, knowledge of culture and learning, and knowledge of teachers’ cultural competence. We developed a coding scheme based upon Feagin’s (2010) paradigm of the WRF to surface leadership beliefs and practice and used a qualitative data analysis software package to analyze our data.

Findings: The school leaders in this study were deeply rooted within the WRF in their daily leadership routines, perpetuating stereotypes and justifying discriminatory actions in the school, ultimately limiting learning opportunities for children of color and for teachers.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The findings underscore the need for critical knowledge of race and racism to be included in teacher and leadership preparation and professional development. The WRF serves as a fine-grained analytic tool for understanding how racial ideologies surface in leadership. The authors recommend that future research explore the role of school leaders in deframing and reframing the White racial frame and develop the concept of racial literacy in educational contexts.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 2, 2018, p. 1-38
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22019, Date Accessed: 9/22/2021 9:50:35 AM

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About the Author
  • Judith Toure
    Carlow University
    E-mail Author
    JUDITH TOURE is Professor of Education at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has been a teacher her entire career, beginning as a Peace Corps volunteer in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, and then, as a public-school teacher in Ithaca, NY, and in Pittsburgh. Judith’s research draws from theories of culturally relevant pedagogy and sociological understandings of race and racism to examine the role of school leadership in assisting teacher learning. Her most recent publication appears in Pennsylvania Educational Leadership.
  • Dana Thompson Dorsey
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    DANA N. THOMPSON DORSEY, JD, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Urban Education and the Associate Director of Research and Development at the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Education. Her research and teaching focus on education law, policy, and race and culture. She concentrates on critically examining school laws, policies, and practices and their influence on educational equity, access and opportunities for students of color and marginalized groups in urban and rural educational contexts. Dr. Thompson Dorsey is published in numerous scholarly journals and most recently in Peabody Journal of Education and Educational Policy.
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