Race Equity

IDRA EAC-South Technical Assistance

The IDRA EAC-South’s capacity-building technical assistance can help state and local education agencies in addressing inequities and desegregation issues impacting race equity. These issues may be self-identified or identified through an active school desegregation court order, an Office for Civil Rights resolution, or an investigation by a federal or state civil rights enforcement agency.

Among other benefits, promoting race equity for all students can help schools ensure equal opportunity for high academic achievement, improved school climate, and meaningful family and community engagement.

To ask about the availability of services for your school or school district, complete an intake form.

How racial equity might manifest itself in schools
  • Disproportionate school disciplinary practices for students of color.
  • Segregated student assignments between and within schools.
  • Inequitable access to advanced, college-preparatory coursework.
  • High teacher turnover and inequitable teacher quality assignments for high-minority enrollment schools.
  • Role of implicit bias and lack of cultural competency lead to lower expectations and differing treatment for students of color in the classroom.
  • Parents and families from underserved communities are disengaged with schools.
  • Inequitable opportunities-to-learn lead to lower student achievement, low graduation rates and high in-grade retention rates for students of color.
Examples of technical assistance and training available through the IDRA EAC-South
  • Assess discipline policies and practices and make recommendations to ensure loss of learning time is reduced, school climate improves and equity is achieved for all students.
  • Co-collaborate on equity plans to address current civil rights compliance issues.
  • Provide professional development to school leaders and educators on cultural competency and implicit bias and co-create train-the-trainer models.
  • Co-develop and assist with the implementation of school desegregation plans.
  • Develop tools for monitoring and ensuring fidelity of implementation of district and/or school improvement plans.

See our resource page for tools on educational equity and race. Highlights are below.

Article: Stop the Bad; Do the Good – Hurting and Excluding Students Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline

By Morgan Craven, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2021 •

I have worked on school discipline and policing issues for more than a decade as an attorney representing young people in schools and courts, as an advocate supporting local campaigns, and as a collaborator on state and national policies. In these roles, when I talk to people about strategies to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, I often frame the solution as “Stop the Bad, Do the Good.”

I admit that may seem overly-simplistic, particularly for an issue that so profoundly impacts the lives of and limits opportunities for so many young people. But I use this framing precisely because the lived experiences, data, and academic research on school discipline and policing are clear about what works and what doesn’t to create safe and welcoming schools for all students.

See article.

Podcast: Digital Inclusion is Vital for Students and Families – Podcast Episode 212

Classnotes Podcast (September 27, 2021). The digital divide affects millions of Texas households that cannot get broadband Internet access. When schools moved instruction online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this country’s simmering digital divide reached a boiling point. Millions of students were unable to access schoolwork or their teachers.

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Article: Schoolwide Restorative Justice Practices – A Guided Tour

By Paula N. Johnson, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • September 2021 •

Public schools are increasingly adopting a restorative approach for building community and relationships. Restorative justice practices involve developing welcoming learning environments that are inclusive of all students and foster relationships within the school community. Studies show that using restorative justice practices positively impacts student behavior (Johnson, 2019).

Successful implementation relies heavily on understanding that behavior is not the primary focus. IDRA encourages schools and districts to implement restorative justice as a means of addressing issues of equity schoolwide.

Here, I provide a guided tour of the implementation process and share expectations, challenges and benchmarks for the first two to three years.

See article.

Article: Culturally Sustaining Instruction Requires Culturally Sustaining LeadershipB

By Paula N. Johnson, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2021 •

The pandemic reminded us very quickly that relationships are important for effective student and family engagement. Millions of students found themselves disconnected from the school community when COVID-19 forced schools to go online. Teachers and school leaders have relied on these relationships to keep students engaged.

But disengagement did not start with the pandemic and it will not end when schools reopen this fall. There is growing concern about the continued disengagement that disproportionately affects high percentages of Black students and Latino students.

See article.

Article: Anti-Racist Schooling for All Students of Color

By Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D., & Altheria Caldera, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2021 •

Anti-racist schooling occurs as a result of an explicit stance against racism accompanied by purposeful, strategic actions that affirm students of color. It humanizes all students by respecting their cultural backgrounds and exemplifies cultural pluralism rather than cultural homogeneity.

All levels of racism historically have existed in education: interpersonal, internalized and institutional. Interpersonal racism is racial discrimination that occurs between individuals and groups. Internalized racism is racial bias held by people of color against their own racial group. Institutional racism is race-related oppression embedded in institutional policies and practices. Anti-racist educators reject all three.

Anti-racist education is liberatory only if it counters the specific manifestations of racism that inflict violence upon all racially-minoritized students. Said differently, inter-group analyses of racism help educators recognize and reject the distinct ways schools enact racialized violence (cultural, psychological, physical) against students of color.

See article.

Podcast: Teaching that is Culturally-Relevant -Responsive and -Sustaining – Podcast Episode 211

Classnotes Podcast (May 18, 2021). In exploring the role of teachers in bringing about academic success for students of color, three terms are often used interchangeably: culturally responsive, culturally relevant, and culturally sustaining. But understanding the differences in these terms can deepen how educators work with their students in their diverse classrooms.

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Article: Visions and Provisions – Planning for K-12 Ethnic Studies Implementation

By • Irene Gómez, Ed.M. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2021 •

As a Latina raised in Texas, I come from a state where 52% of students are Latino and 12% are Black. These figures won’t reflect the full intricacies of ethnic-racial identity – youth who are both Black and Latino, for instance – but they do represent a majority who aren’t primarily of European descent (TEA, 2020).

I think back to my senior year of high school, when our English class read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and I realize that in my 11 years of schooling, we had only covered U.S. racism through two books, both written by white women: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and To Kill a Mockingbird.It’s fitting that my first school-assigned book authored by and centering a Black American and his perspective on racial justice focused on invisibility.

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A Culture of Student Engagement Through Schoolwide Restorative Practices – Podcast Episode 210

Classnotes Podcast (April 26, 2021). Often, people talk about restorative practice as an approach to student discipline. It is true that restorative practices include a reactive component designed to restore relationships by repairing harm. But that is not the best place to start implementing restorative practices in a school.

In this episode, Dr. Paula Johnson, director, IDRA EAC-South, and Terrence Wilson, J.D., IDRA regional policy and community engagement director, describe how restorative practice is proactive in developing community by building relationships and positive school climates that value all students. They describe a range of ways educators can start using restorative practices to create an environment where students want to engage.

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Article: Students of Color Deserve Culturally Responsive Instruction and Ethnic Studies

byAltheria Caldera, Ph.D., and Nino Rodríguez, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • March 2021

The Problem: Cultural Incongruence

Traditional schooling, with norms and standards rooted in whiteness, often is not responsive to the cultures of today’s diverse student population (Huber, et al., 2006). This results in a cultural misalignment that forces many students of color into the margins of the school community.

Oftentimes, to succeed in school, marginalized students must embrace – or at least appear to embrace – “whiteness as property” (Donnor, 2013). In other words, they must accept and enact white culture as superior and Western European knowledge as factual. Those who resist are forced to endure an education that “murders” the spirits of marginalized youth or at least hinders their academic performance (Love, 2019).

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Article: How the IDRA EAC-South Helps School Districts Increase Access to Advanced Courses for Students of Color

by Paula Johnson, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2020

Many long-established testing procedures and selection practices limit equitable access to high level courses and programs for students of color. Enrollment of Black students and Latino students in specialized instructional programs, such as gifted and talented, advanced placement and dual credit, is disproportionately lower than other students.

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Socioeconomic-Based Strategies for Racial Integration

More than ever before, social science research identifies an array of academic and social benefits for students stemming from learning in integrated educational settings, which is even more beneficial for younger students. This set of materials provide research and strategies to pursue the integration of K-12 schools.

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Article: We Are Important, and So is Our History

By Quardasha Mitchell • IDRA Newsletter • June-July 2020

Editor’s note: When the Texas State Board of Education held hearings in November 2019 to consider adding a new high school African American Studies course to the state curriculum, students from Dallas ISD traveled to Austin to testify about their experience in a district-level African American Studies course. Subsequently, in April 2020, the board unanimously approved the course. The following is the text of one student’s testimony.

Why we should approve the standards for this class should not be a question that I should have to answer. This course is one of the most informational, yet intriguing courses to me. Why? Because it is about the history of my people that I once knew little of and the history that is overlooked in the books that we have in school today.

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See African American Studies Testimony Videos

Article: Maybe One Day, the Pain Won’t Feel the Same

By Earl Williams • IDRA Newsletter • June-July 2020

Editor’s note: When the Texas State Board of Education held hearings in November 2019 to consider adding a new high school African American Studies course to the state curriculum, students from Dallas ISD traveled to Austin to testify about their experience in a district-level African American Studies course. Subsequently, in April 2020, the board unanimously approved the course. The following is the text of one student’s testimony. 

I would like to start by thanking you all for welcoming us here today and zoning in on the echoes of a minority group that often goes unheard.

Simply put, African American Studies should be implemented because societal barriers can only be broken down through education of the seemingly uneducated. And with the current climate of our society, this education is needed more than ever.

See article.

See African American Studies Testimony Videos

Implications of Texas SB 1882 Patchwork of Partnerships

By Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2020

Three years ago, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 1882 to incentivize school districts to relinquish local control over campus operations, governance and budgets to an external partner presumably to lead to school improvements. Eligible external operating partners include charters, private schools, private childcare providers, non-profit organizations and institutions of higher education.

See article.

A Win for Equity – Texas Board to Adopt Curriculum Standards for African American Studies Course in Historic Vote

San Antonio, April 16, 2020 – IDRA applauds the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) for its preliminary approval today of the proposed curriculum standards for a state-approved African American Studies course. With the unanimous vote, the SBOE takes a step in the right direction to create excellent and equitable schools in which all students learn about the rich contributions to this country that African Americans have made in all disciplines.

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African American Studies Testimony Videos

Article: Using Equity Audits to Assess and Address Opportunity Gaps Across Education

By Paula N. Johnson, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • April 2020

Education leaders today are able to compile all kinds of student achievement data. However, many do not intentionally look for signs of systemic inequity. To recognize root causes of inequities, educators and communities can use equity audits to examine their school’s culture, trends, practices and policies. These audits are especially needed now as inequities are exacerbated by COVID-19 school closures. Uncovering opportunity gaps is the first step in developing a plan to address them.

This article discusses the purpose, measures and outcomes of an equity audit. It showcases examples of how the information from an audit can assist schools and districts in addressing inequity.

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School District Takeovers History and Today – Podcast Episode 200

Classnotes Podcast (March 6, 2020). For several decades, some states have used the threat of taking over a school district to force some kind of change. But this isn’t a new trend. Since 1989, over 22 state governments and agencies have taken over more than 100 local public school districts across the country.

In this episode, Ana Ramón talks with Terrence Wilson, J.D., and Chloe Latham Sikes, M.A., give a quick history of school takeover policies and describe the problems they create that hinder equitable education. Ana is IDRA’s deputy director of advocacy, Terrence is IDRA’s regional policy and community engagement director, and Chloe is IDRA’s deputy director of policy.

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Article: Racial and Gender Disparities in Dress Code Discipline Point to Need for New Approaches in Schools

By Chloe Latham Sikes, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2020

Recently, two Black high school students in Barbers Hill Independent School District in Texas were disciplined for violating the district dress code by wearing their hair in dreadlocks (per their families’ cultural custom). As in this case, while supposedly established to minimize disruption in the classroom, dress code policies and their disciplinary consequences can actually disrupt the learning opportunities and school environment for students, and can be discriminatory against students’ gender, religious and cultural expression (NWLC, 2018; Sherwin, 2017), with a disproportionately harmful impact on students of color and girls.

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Article: How Schools Can End Harmful Discipline Practices

By Morgan Craven, J.D., Nilka Avilés, Ed.D.,Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2020

Positive cultures of teaching and learning support students’ attendance, academic achievement, engagement and positive self-concept. These cultures depend on effective discipline, which addresses challenging and unsafe behaviors constructively.

Unfortunately, data show the prevalent overuse of ineffective exclusionary discipline measures, such as suspensions and alternative school placements, in schools across the country. Students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students are more likely to be punished, even though they are not more likely to misbehave (Rumberger & Losen, 2016).

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Article: At What Cost? A Review of School Police Funding and Accountability Across the U.S. South

By Terrence Wilson, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2020

An 11-year-old girl pushed against a brick wall and shoved to the ground in New Mexico, a 15-year-old girl grabbed by the neck and thrown to the ground in Florida, an 11-year-old boy slammed to the ground twice in North Carolina: These incidents from last year are just a few of the documented instances of school resource officers harming the students they are charged to protect. The experience of these students reflects that of many youth of color across the country.

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Article: IDRA EAC-South Focus – Diversifying the Teacher Workforce

IDRA Newsletter • January 2020

The national teacher shortage significantly impacts a district’s ability to increase diversity among its instructional staff. An increasing body of literature promotes the benefits of a racially-diverse teacher workforce. Concurrently, schools struggle with cultivating a robust pool of highly qualified educators. This is especially problematic for many districts across the South that are still under legal obligation to do so.

In most cases, the U.S. Department of Justice or Office for Civil Rights files a complaint against the districts. When a court finds a district to be non-compliant because of discriminatory faculty assignment, the district often enters into a voluntary agreement with the court or is under a consent decree. The court outlines a detailed plan for the district to increase recruitment, hiring, and retention of teachers of color. If the district meets its required actions within the time set by the court, the court may grant the district unitary status.

The IDRA EAC-South is currently providing technical assistance services in five states to seven school districts that are under federal desegregation orders related to faculty recruitment and assignment.

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Article: Texas Public School Attrition Study Highlights, 2018-19 – Attrition Rate Down to 21%, But Texas High Schools Lost Over 88,000 Students Last Year

By Roy L. Johnson, M.S. • IDRA Newsletter • November-December 2019

The latest attrition rate data for Texas public schools shows continued gradual improvement but also persistent disparities among racial and ethnic student groups. IDRA’s latest attrition study found that 21% of the freshman class of 2015-16 left school prior to graduating in the 2018-19 school year. IDRA’s analysis of rates by race and ethnicity shows continuing disparities.

IDRA conducted the first comprehensive study of school dropouts in Texas for the 1985-86 school year. IDRA continues to conduct these attrition analyses to assess schools’ abilities to hold on to their students until they graduate. This year’s study is the 34th in a series of annual reports on trends in dropout and attrition rates in Texas public schools. Attrition rates are an indicator of a school’s holding power, or ability to keep students enrolled in school and learning until they graduate.

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Article: Discipline Strategies to Combat Faulty Assumptions that Target Black Male Youth

by Daryl V. Williams, Ed.D. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2019

No student group is more or less likely to misbehave (NAACP LDF, 2017; Fabelo, et al., 2011). But Black male students are punished more often and more severely in our nation’s schools. While only representing 8% of public school students, Black males account for 25% of students receiving out-of-school suspensions and 23% of students expelled (U.S. Department of Education, 2018). From office referrals to suspensions and expulsions, the most substantive impact of school discipline is on Black males (Anyon, et al., 2014).

For instance, Black male students are more likely than their White peers to receive an office referral for mild behaviors, such as disrespect, excessive noise and insubordination (Gregory & Weinstein, 2008; Skiba, et al., 2002). Interpretation of these behaviors is subjective, meaning educators and administrators perceive them to be more or less serious depending on the identity of the student. In addition, many educators have the common misperception that exclusionary discipline deters inappropriate behavior.

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Maybe One Day, the Pain Won’t Feel the Same – Testimony for African American Studies Curriculum

by  Earl Williams, Trinidad Garza Early College High School in Dallas ISD

I would like to start by thanking you all for welcoming us here today and zoning in on the echoes of a minority group that often goes unheard.

Simply put, African American Studies should be implemented because societal barriers can only be broken down through education of the seemingly uneducated. And with the current climate of our society, this education is needed more than ever.

Maybe one day, the pain won’t feel the same. Me and my people won’t be lost in tears, dancing in this hurricane. Our blood won’t keep getting splattered on concrete as if it’s art for their eyes.

What a shame. It is 100-plus years later, and killing Black people is still a consensual crime.

Keep Reading

Article: New Discipline and Safety Policies for Texas

by Morgan Craven, J.D., June-July 2019

To ensure all students succeed, schools must end policies and practices that create harmful school climates and push students into the school-to-prison pipeline through exclusionary discipline and criminalization. During the recent Texas legislative session, many policymakers focused on “school safety” in response to school shootings.

While some proposals focused on building positive school climates, others prioritized approaches that would make schools less safe for students, including making extreme changes to “harden” facilities, expanding harmful and punitive school discipline, and increasing the number of weapons on campuses.

See article

eBook: Resources on Student Discipline Policy and Practice

According to the Office for Civil Rights, Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. Harsh punishments are disproportionately used on children of color, low-income children, children with disabilities, and LGBT youth. These practices discourage children from attending school and increase the risk of students dropping out.

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This eBook by IDRA provides links to tons of resources for schools, communities and policymakers, including data, toolkits, videos, best practices and strategies.

eBook: Resources on Student Discipline Policy and Practice (second edition)

5 Strategies for College Readiness in Diverse Schools – Podcast Episode 175

Classnotes Podcast (September 29, 2017) Some students face hurdles that end up steering them away from college. Some face barriers that block their access altogether. But today’s school leaders can change that by creating a college-going culture for a student population that is becoming increasingly diverse. In this episode, Dr. DeShawn Preston, higher education research fellow at the Southern Education Foundation, outlines five successful strategies for schools to create college readiness for students of color and students from immigrant families. DeShawn is interviewed by David Hinojosa, J.D.,director of the federally-funded IDRA EAC-South.

Show length: 13:35

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Classnotes Podcast Episode: Using Socioeconomic Status for School Integration – #172

There is no doubt that diverse classrooms have significant benefits for students both socially and academically, while segregated learning settings are not just benign but detrimental to students and their communities. School integration, then, is critical. Regrettably, many schools across the country have re-segregated along racial and ethnic lines.

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David Hinojosa, J.D., director of the federally-funded IDRA EAC-South, discusses how some school districts in the South have turned to using students’ socioeconomic backgrounds to help integrate schools. David is interviewed by Hector Bojorquez, associate director of the IDRA EAC-South.

Listen now: Using Socioeconomic Status for School Integration – #172


Article: Using Socioeconomic Indicators as a Tool for School Diversity and Integration

As many schools across America have re-segregated along racial and ethnic lines, several school leaders are looking for solutions that can help reverse course. Recognizing the several academic and social benefits stemming from diverse students learning together, some school districts in the South have turned to using students’ socioeconomic backgrounds (SES) to help integrate schools.

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The Century Foundation reports that, nationwide, 32 of the 91 schools and districts using SES strategies are located in the southern federal Region II (Potter, et al., 2016). The IDRA EAC-South has assisted several districts with school integration plans and is available to assist others in Region II* with technical assistance in this area.

Read article: Using Socioeconomic Indicators as a Tool for School Diversity and Integration, by David Hinojosa, J.D., and Erica Frankenberg, Ed.D., IDRA Newsletter, April 2017

Article: Three Approaches for Dismantling Discriminatory Discipline in Schools

by Paula N. Johnson, Ph.D., & José A. Velázquez, M.Ed., March 2019

In recent years, schools across the nation have moved toward resolving behavior issues that do not take the child out of the classroom – focusing on a “whole child” approach to student learning and success built on relationships and community.

The IDRA EAC- South has a three-pronged approach to addressing disparities in school discipline. First, technical assistance builds capacity to increase positive school climates through research-based services; second, revising discriminatory school discipline practices better aligns schools with the district’s tiers of support for behavior; and third, building capacity for effective family and parent engagement to improve relationships between all stakeholders.

As a result, districts we’ve worked with across the IDRA EAC- South region report lower rates of suspension and expulsion each year.

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Article: Office for Civil Rights Data Reveals Patterns of Inequity

by Bricio Vasquez, Ph.D., January 2019

Ensuring all children are valued and receive a quality education requires the use of extensive data. One tool for gathering relevant data is the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) dataset. The CRDC contains comprehensive information on the patterns of educational inequities within schools and their districts. Stakeholders may use these data to better document issues of inequity and use the knowledge to inform solutions. Too often, equity problems in education are woven tightly into the culture of institutional processes such that they cannot be easily identifiable by district leadership. Tools such as the CRDC can help districts understand patterns of inequities within their own schools by making comparisons with others.

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Article: In-grade Retention National Trends and Civil Rights Concerns

by Dr. Paula Johnson, April 2018

This offering from Paula Johnson focuses on the issue of in-grade retention and the problematic trends in our national data. She discusses research on retention, its traumatic effects, and how it must be addressed as a civil rights issue. Alleviating in-grade retention requires reform on the part of schools and must be achieved through improving course offerings and educational programs for all students, providing professional support to get to the heart of reducing bias, and countering resource gaps and inequities across public schools.

Article: Institutionalized Discrimination… Does it Exist in Your School

by David Hinojosa, J.D., April 2018

This article addresses how schools can identify institutionalized discrimination – discriminatory practices that manifest through behaviors, actions and policies of public institutions that target or exclude based on race, sex, gender, national origin, religion and disability, among others. This kind of discrimination can be difficult to stop because it often has a basis in patterns and practices from historical norms. David Hinojosa pinpoints three critical areas – expectations, school funding and curriculum – as starting points for schools to identify and correct their own discriminatory policies and practices.

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eBook: Resources on Student Discipline Policy and Practice

Data from the Office for Civil Rights reflect the reality that confronts other researchers and advocates who study school discipline: minority students, particularly Black students, remain a population that is disproportionately subject to discipline practices that remove them from the academic environment.

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