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The purpose of this paper is to present a qualitative secondary analysis of two empirical studies that focused on the leadership practices of female practitioners at the secondary level engaging in discourse and practices to disrupt educational inequities. The guiding research question is, “How do school leaders engage in courageous conversations to: (1) transform beliefs and practices concerning educational inequities, and; (2) engender equity to enhance learning for all students?” Building on Singleton and Linton’s (2006) framework on courageous conversations, this study examines how some school leaders break the silence and interrogate educational inequities to improve schools. Findings explicate how conversations amongst practitioners can be the impetus for transformative actions, which in turn, lead to the educational achievement of all students. The voices of participants are magnified and lessons from the field are forwarded.
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Courageous conversations about race,
class, and gender: voices and lessons
from the field
Katherine Cumings Mansfielda & Gaëtane Jean-Marieb
a Department of Educational Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth
University, Richmond, VA, USA
b Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education,
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA
Published online: 02 Sep 2015.
To cite this article: Katherine Cumings Mansfield & Gaëtane Jean-Marie (2015) Courageous
conversations about race, class, and gender: voices and lessons from the field, International
Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28:7, 819-841, DOI: 10.1080/09518398.2015.1036950
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Courageous conversations about race, class, and gender: voices
and lessons from the eld
Katherine Cumings Manseld
*and Gaëtane Jean-Marie
Department of Educational Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA,
Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education, University of Louisville,
Louisville, KY, USA
(Received 3 December 2013; accepted 3 December 2013)
The purpose of this paper is to present a qualitative secondary analysis of two
empirical studies that focused on the leadership practices of female practitioners
at the secondary level engaging in discourse and practices to disrupt educational
inequities. The guiding research question is, How do school leaders engage in
courageous conversations to: (1) transform beliefs and practices concerning
educational inequities, and; (2) engender equity to enhance learning for all stu-
dents?Building on Singleton and Lintons (2006) framework on courageous
conversations, this study examines how some school leaders break the silence
and interrogate educational inequities to improve schools. Findings explicate
how conversations amongst practitioners can be the impetus for transformative
actions, which in turn, lead to the educational achievement of all students. The
voices of participants are magnied and lessons from the eld are forwarded.
Keywords: race; gender; class; social justice; qualitative secondary analysis
Race/ethnicity, class, gender, and other identity markers and their relationships with
educational access and achievement are the elephant in the roomtopics in many
US schools. While scholars have studied inequities in schools (Jean-Marie, 2008;
Manseld, 2011; Mickelson, 2003a, 2003b; Skrla, Scheurich, Garcia, & Nolly,
2004), few practitioners interrogate how race and other identity markers shape the
educational milieu of students. Rather, these issues often take a backseat to account-
ability measures regarding student achievement. Yet, ironically, discrimination based
on studentsperceived identities is often at the forefront of educational policies and
practices that are related to educational access and achievement.
The purpose of this paper is to present a qualitative secondary analysis (QSA)
(Gladstone, Volpe & Boydell, 2007; Hinds, Vogel, & Clarke-Steffen, 1997;
McCaston, 2005) of two empirical studies that focused on the leadership practices
of female practitioners at the secondary level engaging in discourse and practices to
disrupt educational inequities. The guiding research question is, How do school
leaders engage in courageous conversations to: (1) transform beliefs and practices
concerning educational inequities; and (2) engender equity to enhance learning for
all students?Building on Singleton and Lintons(
2006) framework on courageous
conversations, this study examines how some school leaders break the silence and
*Corresponding author. Email:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2015
Vol. 28, No. 7, 819841,
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interrogate educational inequities to improve schools. Findings explicate how
conversations amongst practitioners can be the impetus for transformative actions,
which in turn, lead to the educational achievement of all students. The voices of par-
ticipants are magnied and lessons from the eld are forwarded.
Literature review
It is beyond the scope of this study to give a detailed examination of all the pertinent
literature concerning the nexus of student identities, issues of educational access and
achievement, and the importance of courageous conversations that address these
issues. However, we give a brief overview to scaffold the current discussion. Before
doing so, similar to Skrla et al. (2004), to situate our work on educational inequity,
we draw upon Scotts(
2001)denition of systemic equity:
Systemic equity is dened as the transformed ways in which systems and individuals
habitually operate to ensure that every learner in whatever learning environment that
learner is found has the greatest opportunity to learn enhanced by the resources and
supports necessary to achieve competence, excellence, independence, responsibility,
and self-sufciency for school and for life. (p. 6)
Our view of educational inequity is closely tied to Scottsdenition and we also
more broadly frame educational inequity within a social justice perspective to
account for a larger system of schooling practices characterized by inequities that
are expressed in multiple dimensions of schooling (Skrla et al., 2004).
Student identities and the schooling experience
Historically, the prevailing presumption has been that US public schools are, as pur-
veyors of a democratic culture where the American Dreamis within reach of all
who desire it, blindto the race, gender, class, and religion of students who attend
them (Adams, 1997; Jean-Marie & Manseld, 2013; Tyack, 1974; Tyack & Hansot,
2002). However, relatively recently, numerous researchers have argued that identity
markers such as socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and gender are related to
educational access and achievement (Garza, Reyes, & Trueba, 2004; Lareau, 2003;
Lee & Burkam, 2002; Manseld, 2011; Margolis & Fisher, 2002; Rodriguez &
Fabionar, 2009; Southworth & Mickelson, 2007; Valencia & Suzuki, 2001). Individ-
ual and institutionalized forms of inequities along race/ethnicity, gender, and class
(see Figure 1) dramatically continue to have an effect on educational attainment and
the achievement gap (Nieto, 2004; Weis & Fine, 1993). Within schools, the repro-
duction of class, race, and gender relations and privilege often place students of
color, whom are most often living at the intersection of multiple identity markers, at
a disadvantage for learning (Jean-Marie, 2008; Nieto, 2004).
In any examination of educational access, it is critical to include a discussion of
studentssocioeconomic status or social class. Regardless of their gender or race/eth-
nicity, if students live in economically divested areas (both urban and rural), they
will also attend under-resourced schools, resulting in a default educational caste
system (Eaton, 2006; Kozol, 1991,2005; Lareau, 2003; Lee & Burkam, 2002).
Moreover, poor children in high-poverty schools perform worse than similarly poor
children who attend schools without a high poverty rate. Similarly, the achievement
level of non-poor children is reduced if they attend schools with higher, overall
820 K.C. Manseld and G. Jean-Marie
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poverty. However, race and ethnicity are closely tied with socioeconomic status
(Eaton, 2006). Oreld (2002) notes that, Poverty and its consequences underlie
social separation, but it is difcult to separate poverty from race and ethnicity par-
ticularly for African-Americans and Latinos, who are strongly discriminated against
in the housing market(p. 10). Additionally, schools have historically segregated
students according to race/ethnicity mostly in the form of tracking (Garza et al.,
2004; Margolin, 1994; Oakes, 2005; Scribner, 1999; Southworth & Mickelson,
2007; Valencia & Suzuki, 2001). In fact, the greater the representation of minority
group students, the greater the utilization of separate educational tracks(Margolin,
1994, p. 19). For example, Black and Hispanic students are disproportionately over-
represented in special education programs while in contrast, disproportionately
underrepresented in gifted and advanced placement programs (Clotfelter, 2004;
Oakes, 2005; Valencia & Suzuki, 2001).
Disproportionate representation in gifted programs is also a concern in terms of
gender. For example, during the elementary school years, the numbers of boys and
girls identied for gifted programs are fairly balanced. However, during the sec-
ondary school years, boys are more heavily represented (Pipher, 1994; Sadker,
1999), with the gender gap especially prominent when it comes to math and science
(Sadker, 1999). While Newkirk (2002) agreed with Sadkersndings, and cautions
educators from participating in a disadvantage competitionwhen it comes to gen-
der, he also reported that the gap between eighth-grade boysand girlswriting was
over six times greater than the differences in mathematical reasoning(p. 315).
Mickelson (2003a) conjoins prior research by pointing out that the achievement and
attainment patterns of male students are bimodalin that they are more likely, when
compared to females, to be both academic stars and school failures(p. 373).
Others agree, noting the larger proportion of boys in the highest level math and
science course work as well as special education classes, accompanied by males
Figure 1. Identity intersectionality markers of inequalities in schools.
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 821
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disproportionate decline in college attendance and graduation (Glazer, 2005; Tyack
& Hansot, 2002).
In addition to academic segregation, students can also be constrained by the way
they are disciplined by school authorities. Males are disciplined in greater numbers
than females (Ferguson, 2002; Kindlon & Thompson, 2002) and overall, males
remember their school experiences much less positively than do females, recalling
painfulmemories of severe alienation(Kindlon & Thompson, 2002). Ferguson
(2002) contends that pain and alienation is exacerbated if the male student is
African-American for whom school was a place to be marginalized to the point of
oblivion(p. 585). Indeed, Blacks and Hispanics are disciplined more often and
more harshly and drop out of school at disproportionately higher rates than White or
Asian students (Garza et al., 2004; Oakes, 2005; Rumberger & Rodríguez, 2002;
Valencia, 2002; Valenzuela, 1999).
Within the expansive body of research on schooling in the United States, stu-
dents of color are consistently stigmatized as underachievers and pathologically infe-
rior (see e.g. August & Hakuta, 1997; Baxley & Boston, 2010; Ladson-Billings,
1990; Nieto, 2004; Thomas & Collier, 1997; Troyna, 1984). A growing number of
scholars argue that to address inequities for diverse student populations, educational
leaders must have a heightened awareness of educational inequities in a eld strug-
gling to meet the needs of all children (e.g. Bogotch, 2005; Furman & Shields 2005;
Jean-Marie, 2008; Marshall & Gerstl-Pepin 2005; Merchant & Shoho, 2006;
Smulyan, 2000; Winant, 2004).
School leaderscontextual awareness of systemic inequities
Many researchers argue (Brooks & Jean-Marie, 2008; Brooks & Miles, 2008;
Brown, 2006; Dantley & Tillman, 2009; Jean-Marie, 2008; Manseld, 2011,2014;
Marshall, Young, & Moll, 2009; Oliva, Anderson, & Byng, 2009; Theoharis, 2007)
that the ability of the school leader to cultivate educational equity, access, and
achievement in diverse contexts depended heavily on taking an explicitly activist
stance while developing the school culture. Likewise, Dantley and Tillman (2009)
contend that it was imperative that school leaders recognized the multiple contexts
within which education and educational leadership exist[ed](p. 22). Similarly,
Shields (2004) purports that if school principals acknowledged studentsvarious
identities while they were developing their leadership practices, the result would be
a more caring pedagogy. When children feel they belong and nd their realities
reected in the curriculum and conversations of schooling, research has demon-
strated repeatedly that they are more engaged in learning and that they experience
greater school success(p. 122). As such, leaders must fully deconstruct the realities
of studentslives and the ways their leadership practices may or may not reproduce
marginalizing conditions.
Several scholars assert that effective school leaders who have an awareness of
broad social and cultural realties of students and their schooling experiences will
actively critique marginalizing behaviors and attitudes in their own leadership style
and practices as well as those in their school community (Dantley & Tillman, 2009;
Jean-Marie, 2008,2009; Lyman, Ashby, & Tripses, 2005). Furthermore, democratic
principles such as listening to the voices of others were practiced as well as pro-
fessed. Leadership followed the path of recognition and knowledge, followed by
engaging in dialog with others, in turn followed by action that promoted change
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(Furman, 2004; Lyman et al., 2005). School leaders with social justice awareness
are cognizant of the nested contexts of their schools and the ways in which societal
norms are translated into educational, economic, and political biases. These school
leaders are viewed as social justice leaders whose practices involve acknowledging
that schools do not exist in a vacuum and recognizing that schools can be sites of
reproduction of, or resistance to, injustice found in the greater context (Dantley,
2003; Lott & Webster, 2006).
Conceptual framework
As a framework for understanding how school leaders move beyond the rhetoric of
talking about issues of inequity to challenge the status quo (Jean-Marie, 2005), we
draw upon the work of Singleton and Lintons(
2006) conceptualization of coura-
geous conversations. Singleton and Lintons(
2006) extensive work with schools in
the US is focused on race to help educators improve the achievement of all stu-
dents while narrowing the gaps between the lowest- and highest- performing groups
and eliminating the predictability and disproportionality of which racial groups
occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories(p. 27). While they focused
on race, we believe this framework can be utilized to more broadly consider discus-
sions on educational inequities as they relate to identity intersectionalities discussed
above. The concept, courageous conversations, is premised on three factors for
school systems to close the achievement gap and address educational inequities: pas-
sion, practice, and persistence (see Figure 2). It is not be construed that a combina-
tion of passion, practice, and persistence automatically results in the facilitation of
courageous conversations. Rather, one is hard-pressed to practice courageous con-
versations unless they possess and practice these three essential qualities.
Passion is dened as the level of connectedness and energy educators bring to social
justice work in their commitment to district, school, and/or classroom equity trans-
formation (Singleton & Linton, 2006). Through passion, school leaders confront
Figure 2. A tripod approach to courageous conversations about educational inequities.
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 823
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resistance against change and school systems resilience to maintain the status quo
(i.e. tracking minority students, limited placement of minority students in gifted and
advanced program, etc.). These school leaders are unrelenting in transforming
beliefs and practices to promote learning for all and create access for students who
historically have been marginalized. Singleton and Lintons(
2006) emphasis of pas-
sion is premised on the heartof leadership:
With passion, we engage our soul and our being in this work, along with our mind and
our body will have the strength not only to stand up for what is right but to do what
it is right for them as well. (p. 12)
Passion in this regard is equated with the re in the belly, a term coined by a par-
ticipant in Merchant and Shohos(
2006) study. As quoted in their study, re in the
bellycomes from the capacity to recognize the injustice but also having cultivated
a foundational self-condence and self-assurance (p. 98). This is cultivated through
a strong philosophical base and a sense of competence and security in self that
involves self-scrutiny.
School leaders who are steeped in this level of passion support the quest for critical
approaches to change school culture and conditions that traditionally have addressed
inequities on a peripheral level. In further support of this, Walker (2006) contends that
the rst and last task of a school leader is fostering hope that will transform what [s/he]
seeks to generate, at individual, organizational, and societal levels. But this cannot hap-
pen in a vacuum or supercially. School leaderscritical assessment of their experience,
practices, assumptions and beliefs about race, gender, and other biases are important.
As Manseld notes in Lyman, Strachan, Lasaridou, and Coleman (2012), self-knowl-
edge and acceptance of ones own ethnicity, culture, and background are important
components of personal conviction, motivation, and awareness of social justice issues,
attributes of leaders desirous of creating schools where moral values, justice, respect,
care, and equity are guiding lights (p. 36). From passion, school leaders engage in
specic practices to address issues of inequities in schools.
Passion is the impetus for transformative practices the second strand within the
courageous conversations model. Practice refers to essential individual and institu-
tional actions taken to effectively educate every student to his or her full potential
(Singleton & Linton, 2006, p. 6). At the practice level, passion energizes school
leaders to take actions that address the achievement gap and tackle institutionalized
inequities (Singleton & Linton, 2006; Skrla et al., 2004). For example, school lead-
ers draw on equity and context-specic issues directly involving their schools or
indirectly through the district and use data to identify patterns of marginalization.
Skrla et al. (2004) purport in their work on equity audits a tool to guide schools in
working toward equity and excellence (i.e. teacher quality equity, programmatic
equity, and achievement equity), that school leaders will need to have access to
practical tools to use in developing a more comprehensive, more insightful under-
standing of equitable and inequitable relationships in their current systems. Whether
it is equity audits (Skrla et al., 2004) or other approaches, school leaders may need
to utilize data-based tools in order to leverage educational equity in the climate of
high-stakes accountability. Regardless of the specic approach taken, school leaders
must have a laser-like focuson practices that strive to achieve the vision of an
824 K.C. Manseld and G. Jean-Marie
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equitable school system [that] refrain from blaming underserved students for the
systems failures(Singleton & Linton, 2006; p. 69).
The nal strand of the courageous conversations model is persistence the long-
term time and energy commitment to remain focused on equity to close the achieve-
ment gap (Singleton & Linton, 2006). Persistence orchestrates the hard work of cul-
tural transformation in schools. Time and effort are devoted to instructional
improvement and school leaders garner resources to remove barriers for teachers
and staff (i.e. increase their effectiveness with students of color in the classroom).
Singleton and Linton (2006) assert that persistence is staying the course in pursuit
of equity because persistent educators consistently and collectively push forward
with their transformation ideas (p. 211). They caution that without persistence,
schools will continue to drift from one school improvement initiative to the next
without developing capacity for lasting, systemic change. Similarly, Fullans (2010)
work on capacity building argues change takes time and can only occur if careful
attention is given to building trust and other important social processes.
For the purpose of this study, we draw upon QSA (Gladstone et al. 2007; Heaton,
1998; McCaston, 2005) to examine how school leaders are engaging school mem-
bers (i.e. teachers, students, parents, and community) about educational inequities
for an improved understanding to better serve the needs of all learners. QSA is
dened as the use of existing data collected from prior studies to pursue a new
research question or utilize alternative theoretical perspectives (Gladstone et al.
2007; Heaton, 1998). While utilizing quantitative data in secondary analyses is quite
common, using qualitative data similarly is an emerging phenomenon (see e.g.
Barbour & Eley, 2007; Heaton, 1998; Witzel, Medjedović, & Kretzer, 2008).
Interest in the use of QSA for our current study stemmed from conversations
about our similar research on women, leadership, and social justice which led to
subsequent conversations about Singleton and Lintons(
2006) framework on
courageous conversations. Based on our discussions, we concluded that we should
re-examine our primary data (i.e. interviews, observational and eld notes, and
documents analysis) to examine a new empirical question on how school leaders are
engaging in courageous conversations to address educational inequities, distinct
from the original studies (Heaton, 1998; Hinds et al., 1997; Szabo & Strang, 1997).
Following the lead of Heaton (1998), Hinds et al. (1997), and Szabo and Strang
(1997), we adhered to ethical considerations for using QSA. First, we examined
original interview transcripts, observational notes, documents, and eld notes from
both studies to check for compatibility of the data with QSA; thus, allowing addi-
tional in-depth analysis, Second, QSA is tenable if secondary analysts have access
to the original data. Since we were either the lead or solo researcher, we were well-
positioned as secondary analysts to access and reanalyze tapes, interview transcripts,
and eld notes. Third, we followed the recommendations of Witzel et al. (2008) and
provided an overview of the original studiesdesigns and methods in addition to our
process and account of categorizing and summarizing the data for the QSA (Witzel
et al., 2008). Lastly, we took into consideration the ethical issues involved in the use
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 825
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of original data as outlined by Hinds et al. (1997) and based on our professional
judgment, we believe that the re-use of the data does not violate the contract we
made with participants in the original studies.
Overview of original/primary studies
Primary study 1
The original study was a two-year ethnography that examined the development of a
new public magnet school founded to meet the needs of racial/ethnic minority girls
from challenging economic circumstances in a major metropolitan area in Texas (see
Manseld, 2011). The 35 participants included the principal, teachers, students, and
parents as well as members of the central ofce administration, school board, and
the private foundation that partially funded the school. Adult participants consisted
of the founding members of the school and student participants were drawn from
the rst graduating class of 2014.
Data collection and analysis
Data were collected via interviews with adults and focus groups with students that
lasted between one and three hours. Conversations were supported by participant
observation over a two-year period and supplemented by document analysis. Inter-
views and focus groups were recorded and transcribed. Following Wolcott (1994)
and Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis (2002), quotations from participants as well as
excerpts from observational eld notes and collected documents played a role in
capturing participantsmeanings. Emulating the work of Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw
(1995), Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis (2002), and Olesen (2005), several readings
of interview transcripts and listening for complex perspectives, multiple voices, and
recurring refrains occurred. Open coding of interview transcripts line-by-line to note
consistent themes or story lines was conducted followed by focused codingthat
consisted of additional readings of the data utilizing the theoretical framework to
carefully lter initial impressions. A similar process of identifying symbols, themes,
and patterns was used while examining data collected via participant observation,
photography, and documents.
Primary ndings
One theme that emerged with all participants in the study concerned how this school
was different from any other school in more ways than just being one of the rst
single-sex public schools in Texas. Parents extolled the caring nature of the faculty
and administration and remarked on how thankful they were that their daughters
were nally in a rigorous learning environment. One parent said, This is more than
a school. Theyre preparing you for life.Parents also expressed appreciation for the
conversations and course assignments that helped students recognize and discuss
racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. They also remarked how awesomeit
was that students were learning to be tech savvy as well as learning strong leader-
ship skills. Students also spoke of the schools uniqueness. One student remarked,
Its the opposite of every school Ive ever been toin how the teachers and princi-
pal really care for us.Another student added, Were like family.Teachers also
826 K.C. Manseld and G. Jean-Marie
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noted how working at the school was a welcome relief from their prior experiences.
On more than one occasion, teachers remarked about how they nally worked
where everyone worked as hard as I do and care as much as I door how Inally
have a principal who gets itand really cares about these girls and supports what I
do.The principal believed much of its uniqueness derived from the fact that she
was afforded the autonomy to create a positive school culture from the ground up.
She also felt one major difference lie in the fact that she loves these girlsbecause
she was these girls.The principal communicated on several occasions of her per-
sonal experiences with racism, sexism, and classism and how important it was that
she approached the development of this new school with these realities in mind. But
rather than just help students know what theyre up against,she felt it was impor-
tant to help empower girls to become strong women. And that was done through
rigorous formal curriculum, student-centered pedagogy, reality-driven informal cur-
riculum, and most of all: through developing deep, caring relationships.
Primary study 2
Using a phenomenological approach (Moustakas, 1994; Munhall & Boyd, 1993), in
this original study (e.g. see Jean-Marie, 2009), the professional experiences (formal
and informal leadership preparation; leadership and management practices; and
issues of diversity, race, and gender) and challenges of 11 female high school princi-
pals in one southwestern state were examined. The participants from this earlier
study represented six urban and suburban districts. The sample included seven Cau-
casians, two African-Americans, one Native American, and one Lebanese-American.
Six of the participants were 55 years old or older, and nine were married or were
once married. Four of the principals had doctoral degrees; three had 30 years of
experiences as educators, ve had 11 or more years in administration including
headships in more than one site (i.e. experienced principal), while four were are at
the other end of the continuum in that this was their rst placement as a principal
and at a high school (i.e. novice principal).
Data collection and analysis
Data collection included open-ended, semi-structured interviews, and each interview
lasted approximately 90 min. Participants were asked 15 questions (i.e. sample ques-
tions included: what made you decide to enter administration? what core principles
guide your leadership practices? how do you dene diversity and how does your
school embrace diversity? how does your gender and/or race impact your role as an
administrator? what challenges do secondary female administrators confront today?
what recommendations would you suggest to improve/eliminate these challenges?
what recommendations would you suggest to recruit more secondary female
administrators to the profession?). Based on the research design and themes derived
from the review of literature, each question was constructed to collect information
for comparative analysis. The interviews were subsequently transcribed and
reviewed for emergent themes and patterns. Analysis of the eleven interviews
involved identifying codes and themes generated by participants and the comparison
of these themes with the existing literature. As maintained by Bogdan and Biklen
(1998), analyzing the data involved a systematic process of collecting it, organizing
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 827
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it, dividing it into manageable units, synthesizing it searching for patterns, and deter-
mining what was important and what should be reported.
Primary ndings
Three major ndings dominated the discourse of the participants in this study. First,
the principals articulated the importance of engaging in collaborative efforts that
cultivated leadership for improved student learning through consensus building
efforts. These efforts represented relational dimensions of leadership practices where
openness and trust were fostered. Second, another common element of relationship
building was their approach to leadership. Specically, principals connected their
spiritual beliefs and values as having a direct inuence on how they led their schools
(i.e. articulated their beliefs and spiritual commitment about furnishing help and
being of service to teachers, students, and the community). Finally, the leadership
styles of the principals indicated an understanding of diversity and leadership for
social justice (i.e. addressing the needs of the least voicedin their schools such as
marginalized students, students on drugs, teen pregnancy, low SES students, students
who have incarcerated parents, students who live alternative lifestyles, students who
are involved with juvenile justice system, and those who are sexually abused.).
Relatedly, gender and race played signicant roles in the leadership experiences of
these principals. Several women expressed concerns that in order to be successful as
females they needed to be assertive, more male-like qualities than female-like quali-
ties. While issues of gender permeated the discussion, of equal importance were
issues of race. Much like their leadership experiences as women, there was an
unconscious assumption by several of the women that race did not matter when it is
in fact present in much of their discussion and race (un)consciousness resonated
within their perspectives.
Overview of current/QSA study
The exploratory nature of QSA facilitated our interest to re-examine our original
studies using Singleton and Linton (2006) framework. The guiding research question
for this current study is: How do some school leaders engage in courageous con-
versations with school members (i.e. teachers, students and parents) to: (1) transform
beliefs and practices concerning educational inequities; and (2) engender equity to
enhance learning for all students?
Using a comparative, thematic approach, the analysis focused on the detection of
themes on the tenets of courageous conversations. All the interview transcripts,
observational and eld notes, and document analysis from the two primary data-sets
were revisited for inclusion in the QSA. After sorting through the data, the QSA
study focused on a subset of primary data originally conducted by the authors, repre-
senting school leaders who were talking and walking(Dantley & Tillman, 2009)
about how to disrupt beliefs and practices that perpetuate inequities in educational
outcomes for those who historically have been marginalized because of race/ethnic-
ity, class, gender, etc. Specically, we focused on participants whose philosophical
beliefs about educational inequities were at their forefront of their practices. Based
on that, our QSA focused on four exemplars (see Table 1below).
Maria, a multi-ethnic female in her thirties chose to return to her poverty-stricken
and often criminally violent community after receiving her administrative credentials
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to pay it forward.She was hired as principal because she understood rst-hand
contextual and identity complexities of people of color and her ability to have criti-
cal conversations about decit thinking with teachers and parents. Moreover, she
had a record of turning around schools establishing a positive culture and making
curricular and pedagogical changes that better met the needs of diverse students.
Within the same school, the teacher that most exemplied a commitment to engage
in courageous conversations around race, class, and gender with parents and stu-
dents was Tanya. Tanya, a white English teacher and self-professed feminist, boldly
engaged (or attempted to engage) parents, students, and fellow educators in con-
versations about whiteness and white privilege, sexism, racism, classism, and homo-
The other two exemplars are Principals Gertrude and Linda. Gertrude, an Afri-
can-American female principal, had been in public education for 18 years. She
began her rst principalship position at the age of 44 and had been a principal at
Albert High School for eight years. Albert High was located in a suburban school
district with more than 14,000 students in 25 schools from grades Pre-K12. A
native New Yorker, Gertrude settled with her family in this suburban community.
Linda, a Caucasian female principal with 35 years of experience in public education,
began her rst principalship at age 50 at Chester High School. She was born and
raised in the town where she was a principal. Over the years, she had developed
strong ties with her constituents (parents, community, elected ofcials, university
partners, etc.) in an effort to build strong community support for her school. She
commented, Im a political person. I put all my energy into the school.In sum,
this QSA study highlights the narratives of the four participants that purposefully
link their personal background and professional experiences revealing their passion,
practice, and persistence to disrupt the status quo about educational inequities.
In the ensuing discussion, we share our ndings based on the re-analysis of our two
studies within the courageous conversations conceptual framework. Our ndings
depict how practitioners in our studies exemplied the constructs of passion, persis-
tence, and practice in their commitment to engage fellow educators in courageous
conversations about race/ethnicity, gender, class, and other markers.
Table 1. Overview of QSA participants.
Study 1 Study 2
Maria, a 35-year-old multi-ethnic female
principal with 10 years professional
Gertrude, an African-American female
principal, had been in public education for
18 years, began her rst principalship position
at the age of 44
Tanya, a 45-year-old white female teacher
with 20 years professional experience
Linda, a white female principal with 35 years
of experience in public education, began her
rst principalship at the age of 50
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Passion: confronting resistance to change the status quo
Maria and Tanya exemplied Singleton and Lintons(
2006) framework of passion
because they especially possessed self-knowledge and acceptance of ones own eth-
nicity, culture, and background and understood how personal experiences were
important components to personal and professional convictions and motivations. In
her initial interview, Maria shared, I love these girls. I was these girls.In later
interviews, she reiterated her impetus for engaging in her anti-racist/classist/sexist
work and how it related to her identity as a poor multi-ethnic female:
I think a large part of it came from my own experiences in schooling, and I think I
related to the girls because I grew up in a very similar circumstance. I grew up in pov-
erty and had very little opportunity in terms of school And I think that when I
looked at the girls, when I saw what their challenges were, and things that they were
facing and also the opportunity to make a difference in that and to change it to where
it was acceptable for them to be different, to be smart, and to get out of that cycle of
poverty, that it was something that was very personal to me.
Additionally, she spoke of about her observations that so many of the schools that
serve poor and minority students are staffed with poor quality teachers that werent
interested in teachingand how her prior experiences as a student, teacher, and lea-
der in those schools were part of my inspiration.She also spoke of her experi-
ences with historically racist school nance schemes and how important it was to
not only recognize unjust practices in larger society but to educate the children that
were there about what was going on and that there was a lot of social injustice.
Also working alongside Maria was Tanya who was equally attuned to the injus-
tices she saw and worked to transform. Tanya was very cognizant of her whiteness
and bravely engaged her students and fellow educators in conversations concerning
white privilege. Unfortunately, these conversations were met with resistance from
parents. She reported that she was accused of being a racistbecause of her discus-
sions. Parents contacted her as well as Maria via phone and/or email to complain.
Tanya shared that she cant stop talking about race just because someone thinks
that makes me a racist.She added that faulty thinking would mean she would have
to also stop talking about sex and gender because would make me a sexist and a
homophobe and that just wasnt true.
Her passion for teaching about gender was evident on many occasions via
observation of classroom lessons as well as documented in recorded interviews.
Tanya integrated what she called, a strong womens studies component into all I
do.For example, rather than just have students memorized the denitions and spel-
lings of weekly vocabulary words, she also interrogated the origins of words and
how and why they have been used throughout history:
I mean, theres hero-heroine. I asked the girls, Whats a hero? Whos a hero?They
come up with words like: men, strong, brave, adventurous, and so on. And then I say,
Whats a heroine? Who is a heroine?And theyre like, a female who is a hero?
And I say, Look it up! Find heroinein the dictionary! Tell me where that word
comes from!And so they did. And you know what they found? They found out that
heroineis the diminutive of hero! I mean, whats up with that? Why does the male
get to be the great big hero and the female just a little bit of a hero?
Tanya also challenged the girls to understand literary concepts traditionally
taught in English courses. For example, when studying plot and the variety of roles
that are assigned to characters, the students found that even in the most highly
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regarded texts female characters were usually given very stereotypical roles. How-
ever, male characters were usually afforded a plethora of complex characteristics
and identities. Tanya used these examples from the curriculum to discuss real-world
problems the girls are facing:
We have had long conversations about how women are expected to fall into those
usual literary roles. And we talk about how when they are adults and try to break into
new elds of study that other people will try very hard to place them back into those
neat little categories where they think they belong and how they are going to have
to ght tooth and nail to not let that happen.
Similar to Principal Maria and Teacher Tanya, a common thread between the
other two exemplars Principals Linda and Gertrude was that they believed in, val-
ued, and were committed to educational equity for all learners. Linda, whose high
school student population was 77 percent Caucasian, valued opportunities to engage
in teaching and learning processes that impacted the minority student population in
her school. Briey recalling her childhood years, Linda talked about her upbringing
with regard to diversity and values, and stated:
I was lucky to be raised by parents who werent prejudiced. Growing up, I didnt
understand prejudice until I watched it on TV in the 1960s. It was then I recognized
there were racial problems. I didnt grow up that way. We must recognize that every-
one doesnt think or come from the same background the way youdo. We can work
together no matter what the situations are.
Her family and cultural context inuenced Lindas core leadership values. She
articulated how she was investing her energy into her school:
I want to be here and take care of my students and staff. Most of my time is focused
on building our culture through an understanding of the kids who are in this school. I
stay connected so that we [teachers and staff] understand the challenges each student
faces black, white, Native American, girls, boys, LGBT, etc. I dont pass this
responsibility off to someone else. I have to model this for my staff so they are not
ignorant to the challenges our students face, in particular high-poverty, minority chil-
Referencing the diversity of her suburban high school, Gertrude stated:
Diversity is about difference not deference we have students on the high and low
end of the socioeconomic status [SES]. We have a strong middle class school; but we
have some kids who are way up in terms of SES. Then we have kids who are just try-
ing to make it.
Gertrude regularly encouraged staff members to view the school and society through
the eyes of students and the communities they come from. Articulating that shesa
teacher rst and how important it was to have that dedication or calling, her passion
about addressing the inequities that have hindered opportunities for low performing
students in her school is community focused. She noted,
Its important to reach the community, in particular those who are struggling economi-
cally and sometimes teachers unfairly label them as failures. They are our kids. We
have to reach all of them. Excuses are not tolerated. I dont accept the labeling. So, I
challenge my teachers to do better. Even in this suburban school, we talk about poverty
and race. It cant only be about academics.
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Practice: building capacity for achieving equity and excellence for all learners
A second theme that emerged among the four participants was that they were rmly
committed to building capacity to achieve equity and excellence for all learners and
created spaces in schools to address inequalities. For example, Principal Maria
exuded that laser-like focusis so important to implement practices that will move
institutions forward in their quest to educate a diverse student body to their full
potential. For example, she mentioned on many occasions that hiring the right
teachers was the most important thing I did as a leader.Furthermore, she stated:
Making sure that people that were in the room with the students understood where they
came from, were empathetic to their situation, but not having sympathy on them to the
point where they were hindering them. And that was one of the things that I was look-
ing for. Somebody thats going to challenge them, push them, love them, and provide
that environment because thats what makes the school function right.
This attitude also emerged from Teacher Tanya who also shined the spotlight on (in)
justices. Her practices in the English classroom were directly related to her beliefs
and passion for discussing race, gender, and class issues. Additionally, she refused
to blame underserved student for the school systems failure to facilitate their growth
through her teaching discipline. Rather, like her fellow colleagues, she implemented
tutoring sessions and students were free to call her on her cell phone with questions
about homework or to further discuss concepts covered in class. On several occa-
sions, during observations of her (and her colleagues), she repeated these types of
phrases to students: We will not let you fail at this school.”“You are smart. You
can do this. If you arent getting it, it means we need to try something else.
Building on this, Principals Gertrude and Linda also articulated how their prac-
tices were aligned with their core values to eliminate inequities. Dominating their
experiences was their commitment to advance the conversations of issues related to
diversity and equity in school practices. Principal Linda shared several books that
she and her staff were reading: Alfred Tatums (2005) Teaching Reading to Black
Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap; Jawanza Kunjufus (2002) Black
Students, Middle Class Teachers; and Alan Blanksteins (2004) Failure Is Not an
Option. She asserted that Im reading things all the time and that informs my prac-
tice on a daily basisto challenge unequal power relationships based on gender,
social class, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, language, and
other systems of oppression. She also talked extensively on how she fostered ongo-
ing conversations with her school community about the knowledge, skills, and
habits of mind and heart she believed essential in developing and nurturing all her
students into informed citizens.
Further, Linda was also attentive to the increasing diversity of her school and
ensured that students had opportunities to embrace their diversities along race/eth-
nicity, gender, and LBGT through her efforts to support student clubs (e.g. Black
Student Association; Latino Group; Gay, Straight Alliance) along these markers:
We have 45 different cultures in our school, and we have 17 Katrina kids here. So
everybodys diverse. Everybody has a different way of learning. There are 1750 ways
of looking at learning as far as our kids go. We have to be specialists in looking at
individual needs. What we believe here at Chester is its good to see your [ethnic]
group and to be part of your [ethnic] group. We want to celebrate all the different kinds
of people and groups.
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Gertrude also sought ways to motivate teachers to help transform their instructional
practices to serve the needs of the diverse student population in the school. For
example, she regularly visited different classrooms to participate with teachers and
students in multicultural activities. She asserted, Ill jump in there, do various exer-
cises and motivational techniques. I want to model this for my teachers.Probing
deeper into the data, Gertrude mentioned the in-depth multicultural training she con-
ducted occasionally in her district and annually for her teachers. She discussed her
staff training, which grew into a two-week series with teachers and students:
At the beginning of each school year, I provide a one-hour staff development training
session with my staff. We ask teachers to implement instructional strategies by putting
students in groups to examine issues of race. Teachers ask students in their groups to
respond to this question, Have you ever been looked upon unfavorably because of
your race/ethnicity?Students share their experiences. I do this so that my teachers are
more cognizant of ethnic awareness, studentscontributions, and different learning
styles. I want all my teachers to become aware of the composition of their classes and
school by listening to the voices of students. I call it the three prongs: Accept.
Accommodate. Afrm. We have to accept our students, accommodate them based on
their learning styles, and afrm them.
Both Gertrude and Lindas leadership practices focused on recognizing and
embracing the diversity of their studentsdemographic and promoting efforts (i.e.
instructional leadership) to build on the strength of studentsdiversity.
Persistence: tenacious travelers on precarious paths
Just as practices seemed to naturally ow from passions, the quality of persistence
emanated unsurprisingly from the practices. Singleton and Linton (2006) emphasize
that persistence involves a signicant investment in time and energy to remain
focused despite possible distractions. It means doing what it takes to stay the course
in pursuit of equity and transformation.
Persistence was evident in both Principal Maria and Teacher Tanya. For example,
during the schoolsrst year, Maria counseledtwo teachers to transfer to another
school. She had engaged all teachers in courageous conversations concerning race,
gender, and class and found that these particular individuals possessed and pro-
nounced decit perspectives about learners who are African-American and Latina,
as well as made some unsavory remarks about families from lower class back-
grounds. These particular teachers also expressed discomfort about working with
all girlsand being around all these females.Maria carefully confronted these
teachers about their discomforts and found that they were unable or unwilling to
thoroughly examine and rethink beliefs. While Marias conversations were uninch-
ing, they also emanated from a place of caring. Both these teachers later shared that
they left because they did not twith the mission of the school and that there
were no hard feelings.
Teacher Tanyas persistence met with some resistance from parents during the
second year of operations. She had devoted herself to continuous improvement in
her instructional offerings to remove barriers and further open up opportunities for
transformative learning experiences. One particular assignment met with serious
pushback from a couple of what she called, squeaky wheelparents, but Tanya
refused to back down.
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The controversy began when Tanya decided to have students research a variety
of womens issuesthat intersected with race, class, sexuality, and other cultural
issues such as: The AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa; the spread of sexually
transmitted diseases in American teen populations; female genital mutilation in
Somalia; and human trafcking Texas. The curriculum required students to learn the
processes of nding trustworthy sources, taking precise notes, crafting appropriate
citations, and synthesizing information into a coherent whole. Additionally, she was
committed to making all class assignments work toward cultural transformation
inside and outside the school. Unfortunately, some families balked at the heavy
and sickeningresearch topics. Both Teacher Tanya and Principal Maria persisted
in their commitment but tried to appease offended families by offering an alternative
assignment for those students. However, a directive from the central ofce
derailed their efforts.
For Principals Linda and Gertrude, fundamentally rooted in cultural understand-
ing, their persistence to advance their school communitieslevels of understanding
about educational inequities was through initiatives they implemented to raise
awareness and address these issues. In discussing the kind of impact they wanted to
have on the academic and professional lives of students and teachers, they expressed
a belief in restructuring school programs into new designs to support their students
learning and professional communities. Both principals placed a general emphasis
on providing support programs or structures to assist students with their academic
goals, educational planning (such as individualized student development plans and
graduation plans), and instructional leadership practices (i.e. study groups, monthly
and quarterly progress reports, and extended day tutoring).
Principal Gertrude focused her efforts on developing educational programs that
attracted and retained students. She provided more instructional time and develop-
ment programs for low-performing students. Programs to help students succeed
included Saturday for Success,a two-hour Saturday program for students who
have less than a C average, academic lunchtime for students who needed individual-
ized instruction from the principal and assistant principal, and after-school tutoring.
Gertrude articulated the importance of fostering high academic achievement for all
students by rewarding students (academic lunch bunch), recognizing higher achiev-
ers with an academic bowl(all subject- area preparation for ACTs), and presenting
a letter jacket (indication of school pride) at school assemblies to motivate students.
Echoing a similar sentiment, Principal Linda evidenced an equity focus for all
students in her efforts to provide diverse student group clubs to reect her study
body, regardless of the size of individual groups. Linda spoke of the different stu-
dent groups that were present in her school (e.g. Black Student Association, Latino
group, Native American group, LGBT group, Straight Alliance group, etc.) and
proudly afrmed, We want kids to join different groups and integrate into these
groups our students need to have an identity and have outlets where they can per-
sonalize how they feel.This was a demonstration of her ethic of care toward stu-
dents, a critical dimension of her transformative leadership style.
The women in this study served as exemplars for how school leaders can engage in
courageous conversations to transform beliefs and practices concerning educational
inequities and enhance learning for all students. Both formal and informal leaders in
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this QSA study were guided by personal convictions, commitment, and considered
action to attain goals for equitable schools. They did not rest on the rhetoric of their
values and beliefs, but expended considerable strategic and practical energy toward
the realization of their vision for achieving educational equity (Jean-Marie, 2008,
2009; Scheurich & Skrla, 2003; Singleton & Linton, 2006). This was true for all the
school leaders in this study whether they originated from a place of privilege or
oppression. The ndings bring focus to two important areas on schools can more
rigorously address systemic inequities and promote an environment that is support
of all learners.
Using school data to understand and improve school conditions and student
Whether emanating from personal marginalizing experiences and/or uninching
recognition of inequities, some of the school leaders articulated their commitment to
facilitating equitable outcomes for students was directly connected to professional
accountability (Scheurich & Skrla, 2003). They used their school data not only for
assessing academic performance but also understanding school conditions that
enhanced or impeded studentslearning experience. They were exceptionally con-
scientious of not only their accountability to affect change for their studentslives,
but they were highly aware of the bottom line in terms of test scores. Their beliefs
in and commitment to quality education was more than a motto; it was realized in
the experiences they provided for students. Their commitment to students, while
centered on caring, also dovetailed with the political climate of their contexts: They
worked within their political realities of high-stakes testing and were tenacious in
their efforts to help their students survive and thrive within the neoliberal account-
ability climate.
Further, their interest in studentssuccess began with developing an authentic
relationship between themselves as school leaders and their students (Bascia &
Young 2001; Furman & Starratt 2002; Jean-Marie, 2008,2009). The school leaders
also played a signicant role in improving access and opportunity for children his-
torically marginalized by mainstream public schooling (Brooks & Miles, 2008;
Dantley & Tillman, 2009; Jean-Marie, 2008,2009; Larson & Murtadha, 2002). They
led with purpose, knowledge, courage, and commitment in the midst of increased
accountability and high-stakes testing. Energized to change the conditions of stu-
dentslearning, the three principals and the teacher by chronicling how stewards
of educational equity can lead in their school communities provide a snapshot of
the kind of transformative leadership needed in the twenty-rst century. The work of
school leaders is vital for improvement of educational practices to close historic
achievement gaps in every school and district across the United States (Skrla et al.,
Educational leaders addressing student identities to eradicate systemic inequities
Similar to how school leaders in the study practiced leadership that was attentive to
identity intersectionality markers, leaders should bring focus to school members (i.e.
teachers, staff, and administrators) the realities of studentslives and the ways their
practices create marginalizing conditions. Every school member plays an essential
role to improve the quality of school learning and experience for students that is
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 835
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focused on addressing systemic inequities (Brooks & Miles, 2008; Jansen, 2008).
But effective leadership (i.e. transformative: Shields, 2010 and applied critical
leadership: Santamaría & Santamaría, 2012) is critical to such processes. Effective
school leaders have an awareness of broad social and cultural realties of students
and their schooling experiences (Dantley & Tillman, 2009; Jean-Marie, 2008;
Lyman et al. 2005).
Moreover, the ways the intersection of student identities (i.e. race, ethnicity, gen-
der, class, etc.) form the contextual backdrop for societal inequities must be readily
recognized. Beyond an awareness of contextual factors and the importance of identi-
ties, effective leaders assess how policies and practices may be marginalizing stu-
dents as they pertain to issues of race and other markers of difference (Dantley &
Tillman, 2009). School leaders should soberly ponder the ways students are social-
ized in the school setting. As evident in the study, school leaders concerned with
educational inequities should interrogate discipline policies as well as investigate
how various educational practices such as tracking and induction to gifted or other
special education programs are accomplished and how they might impact student
populations differently according to identity complexities (Brooks & Miles, 2008;
Dantley & Tillman, 2009; Jean-Marie, 2008,2009; Singleton & Linton, 2006). They
are positioned to create a school climate of openness and intellectual rigor, and help
teachers develop strategies for closing the achievement gap between the haves and
haves not(Brooks & Miles, 2008; Dantley & Tillman, 2009; Jean-Marie, 2008,
2009; Singleton & Linton, 2006).
Conclusion and implications
At a time when the US rapidly shifting demographics are increasingly diverse and
changing the social landscape of schools, courageous school leaders are needed the
most to embrace and support the increasing levels of diversity in K-12 schools.
Leadership that is transformative (Shields, 2010), which draws upon applied critical
leadership (Santamaría & Santamaría, 2012) and advances educational equity (Jean-
Marie, 2005,2009; Theoharis, 2007), are vital to eradicating the vestiges of inequi-
ties that persist. School leaders can draw on context specic issues directly involv-
ing their schools by focusing efforts to identify patterns of marginalization based on
race/ethnicity, gender, class, etc. However, in order for school leaders to robustly
develop capacity to address educational inequities, such an effort should begin with
raising the critical consciousness of school members.
At times, this may involve school leaders turning the mirror inward (Black &
Murtadha, 2007)toreect on their beliefs and practices that may perpetuate inequi-
ties along race/ethnicity and other forms of biases such as gender or sexual orienta-
tion. They also have to be willing to engage conversations with school members,
internally and externally on practices that are systematically creating the gap
between the haves and haves not.Reecting and becoming more consciously
aware may lead to places of discomfort but it also gives them an opportunity to
understand the intricacies of racial discrimination, biases, inequities, etc. Further,
school leaders can challenge others only to the extent they change their own beliefs
and practices. In addressing issues of race in schooling, school leadersheighten
awareness of institutional racism is important in order to effectively create a school
climate of openness and intellectual rigor (Jean-Marie, 2009) and develop strategies
for closing the achievement gap (Singleton & Linton, 2006).
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Finally, a broader implication of this QSA study pertains to leadership prepara-
tion programs: higher education must prepare leaders to have courageous conversa-
tions about educational inequities! Practicing these skills in the university classroom
and through eld-based experiences provide aspiring leaders opportunities to
engage, share, and test their ideas (Jean-Marie, 2009). How can we prepare our stu-
dents to face this difcult task in the real world (not just theoretical)? Recent efforts
supported by the University Council of Educational Administration and US Depart-
ment of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education grant are
bringing together through a cadre of universities in partnership with the Southern
Poverty Law Center to develop curriculum modules to prepare school leaders to sup-
port the learning and development of diverse learners. These modules include
accessible, powerful learning experiences in the areas of racial awareness, advocacy,
data use, parent and community engagement, leadership for English language lear-
ners, and problem resolving. Such initiatives at the institutional and national level,
show promise to more coherently engage faculty on integrating these modules in
existing courses offered in building-level educational leadership preparation to
enhance their knowledge and skills.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributors
Katherine Cumings Manseld (PhD, The University of Texas at Austin) is an assistant pro-
fessor of Leadership and Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Manseld is a rst-
generation college graduate who studies issues of educational and vocational access and
achievement as they relate to identity intersectionalities such as gender, class, religion, race,
and place. Manseld is published in a variety of venues including: Education Policy Analysis
Archives,Educational Administration Quarterly,International Journal of Multicultural
Education,Journal of Educational Administration, and Journal of School Leadership.
Gaëtane Jean-Marie is a professor and chair of the Department of Leadership, Foundations,
and Human Resource Education at the University of Louisville (KY, USA). Jean-Marie is an
award-winning teacher and researcher, and the author of numerous books and articles. Jean-
Marie is the editor of the Journal of School Leadership and serves on the Editorial Review
Boards of Journal of Educational Administration and Journal of Research on Leadership
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... Principals who are successful at retaining teachers take a proactive approach and focus on teacher growth, including building opportunities for teachers to collaborate (Brown and Wynn 2007). Research documents examples of principals strategically counseling out teachers who were poor fits for the principal's vision of the school's goals (Mansfield and Jean-Marie 2015) and using administrative procedures to remove ineffective teachers (Grissom, Loeb, and Nakashima 2014;Kraft 2015). Some evidence suggests that when removing low performers, "counseling out" is more important than formal administrative procedures (Grissom and Bartanen 2019b ...
... Strategies include offering teachers training on such topics as the challenges faced by students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to shift mindsets about students and affect instruction (Gerhart, Harris, and Mixon 2011). Principals report engaging in book studies with their staffs that focus on books addressing social justice and ways of teaching diverse students (Mansfield and Jean-Marie 2015). ...
... Studies describe principals prioritizing diversity in teacher hiring as an equity strategy (Mansfield and Jean-Marie 2015). , for example, documents principals' preferences for hiring diverse teachers along racial and gender lines to better represent the mix of students in their schools so that students can see themselves represented and have "some people on this campus that they can go to" (p. ...
... The idea is that by providing individuals with tools to engage in dialogue about racial disparities, schools can take steps towards addressing inequities that exist for all students (Singleton, 2015, p. 26). While Singleton (2015) discussed courageous conversations as a tool to discuss racial disparities, like others (see Mansfield & Jean-Marie, 2015), we believe this framework applies more broadly to encompass additional identity markers. In the context of this case, we ask participants to leverage courageous conversations to discuss disparities for language learners. ...
... This study involved a qualitative secondary analysis (QSA) of two studies originally conducted by the first author during her time as a practitioner and adult facilitator of student voice groups (Gladstone et al., 2007;Mansfield & Jean-Marie, 2015), combined with elements of duoethnography (Norris et al., 2012;Sawyer & Norris, 2013). In this section, we detail the methods, sites, and data-collection approach of the original studies and then describe our approach to re-analyzing the data and our duoethnographic approach to making meaning out of the first author's practitioner experiences. ...
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Background/Context Increasingly, K–12 students are seeking to influence educational policies that directly affect their lives. As student intervention in policy increases, it is important to understand the composition of these groups and how they seek to exercise power and influence over policymakers. Purpose This study sought to examine how two state-level student voice groups for policy change sought equitable representation in their composition. As student voice groups expand beyond school, city, or district level groups to focus on state- and national-level advocacy, the character of their composition takes on additional importance as they claim to speak on behalf of larger numbers of students. Setting This study draws on interview, document analysis, and observation data from two student voice groups working to influence state-level legislative action on K–12 educational policy. Research Design: We combine secondary data analysis of data from state-level student voice groups with elements of duoethnography to explore how participants thought about, strived for, and fell short of equitable intra- group representation. Findings We found that the members of both groups were personally committed to equity both in terms of group composition and advocacy. Additionally, group members had structures and policies—such as remote access and low barriers to entry—that encourage equitable representation. Participants reported a relational climate of inclusion. Despite these assets, outcomes were mixed: the groups successfully achieved racial and ethnic proportionality with the state, but remained predominantly urban and able- bodied in their composition. Conclusion Despite the groups’ best efforts, group members’ challenges with distributed recruitment and emphasis on certain skills such as public speaking limited equitable outcomes in representation. This research makes clear that who is involved in the group at the outset and their network will shape representation. It also indicates that although technology can lower barriers to entry, it is not a panacea. Finally, this research reinforces the notion that students engage in self-policing of the group in order to gain greater legitimacy in the eyes of policymakers.
... Interrogating personal experiences of disembodiment, disillusionment, and varied marginalizations and isms-for example, sexism, racism, classism- (Edwards, 2017;Mansfield & Jean-Marie, 2015;Maseti, 2018) may be engaged by connecting and collaborating with others. These include autoethnographic explorations by women of color and minorities, women and their experiences of tenure, LGBTTIQ people as role models, and early career academics and their experiences of being invisible-outsiders. ...
We explore autoethnography as a complex and potentially transformative methodology for understanding and enacting higher education. First, we position higher education in the context of global corporate managerialism and consider the possible effects of this on lived educational experiences and practices. In what follows, we each offer an account of how our individual learning about autoethnography as/in higher education has evolved concerning particular research interests: learning and teaching (Kathleen), academic identities (Daisy), academic leadership (Inbanathan). We argue that creating and teaching autoethnography can open spaces to experience higher education as a social, ethical, and collective endeavor. Autoethnography illuminates the relational, often unseen, complex nature of higher education—portraying participation that calls for care, connectedness, and sensitivity. In thinking and working autoethnographically, we choose to understand the academic self and vocation as personal, social, emotional, embodied, and mindful.
... Educational leaders are also reducing inequalities by having difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, and other categories of oppression with students and staff (cf. Mansfield and Jean-Marie, 2015;Sue, 2015). ...
... According to Mansfield and Gaëtane (2015), issues of race and ethnicity, class, gender, and other characteristics that historically impact access to education are the "elephant in the room" (p. 819). ...
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Teachers experience difficulty in introducing some sensitive and controversial issues in the classroom environment. The purpose of this qualitative instrumental case study was to identify strategies that exemplary secondary social studies teachers implement when facilitating classroom discussions about sensitive and controversial issues, specifically, racial issues framed within Singleton and Linton’s 4 agreements of courageous conversations: stay engaged, speak your truth, experience discomfort, and accept and expect nonclosure. This study utilized qualitative data collection. Semi-structured, online one-to-one internet-based interviews were used to document the lived experiences of exemplary secondary social studies teachers and the strategies they use when facilitating discussions about sensitive and controversial issues such as race in the classroom. Voluntarily submitted participant artifacts such as lesson plans, strategies, and multimedia resources were utilized to provide in-class strategies and context. The 4 purposefully selected secondary social studies teachers, 3 males and 1 female, met the criteria to be included in this study by being a recipient of the National Council for the Social Studies, Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher of the Year award. Moreover, each participant is a current or previous classroom teacher of 1 or more courses under the content area of secondary social studies. Geographically, all participants reside within the continental United States. An overall conclusion of the findings revealed that teachers need to teach and model how to communicate effectively by acquiring the ability and willingness to share, hear, understand, and accept multiple perspectives effectively both in and of the classroom. Keywords: best practices, secondary social studies, strategies, race, sensitive and controversial issues, courageous conversations, perception, effective communication strategies
... Johnson and Fuller (2014, p. 1), similarly to Beachum (2011), contend that culturally responsive leaders place emphasis on "developing a critical consciousness among both students and faculty to challenge inequities in the larger society." Similarly, Mansfield and Jean-Marie (2015) argue that change and transformation require raising the "critical consciousness" of members of higher education institutions, in so far as "the change begins within us to choose to develop into transformational and critical leaders who can serve the needs of a diverse populace by serving as a voice for historically underserved communities" (Cruz, 2015, Epilogue). ...
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Cultural competence philosophy and praxis was born out of healthcare provision in the 1980s. As such, the essence of care cannot be separated from cultural competence practice.
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Purpose:Despite an explosion of professional development to help educators discuss issues of race and equity, expectations for addressing racial disparities outstrip current leadership practices, and scant empirical research exists on the organizational changes that emerge from the work of equity teams. This study examined equity teams’ theories of organizational change for equity and how those theories related to their efforts to change school policies and practices. Research Methods/Approach: Drawing on institutional logics from organizational theory, this comparative case study examined transcripts and fieldnotes from 22 meetings and 27 interviews with two school equity teams in diverse contexts in the Pacific Northwest. Findings: Despite differences in the principals, team conversations, and organizational contexts, we found that both teams’ discussions asserted a primary theory of change for shifting schools toward greater equity. According to this “commonsense” notion, efforts to become more equitable as a school first require shifts in individuals’ understandings, beliefs, and attitudes—changes to “hearts and minds”— prior to engaging in other actions to address organizational change. Ultimately, our findings suggest that the dominance of a hearts-and-minds-first theory of change constrained changes to organizational policies, structures and practices. Conclusions: Alternative theories of change to catalyze equity-focused organizational shifts hold promise for fostering educational justice. Future participatory design research with schools may yield knowledge of multiyear organizational change.
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This article presents an historical overview of pedagogical orientations of school leadership in the United States, and then considers issues facing contemporary educational leaders in this context. Our survey begins with a consideration of the early influence of Frederick Taylor and ends in the present day, a time when the fields of practice and scholarship in educational leadership collectively stand at a critical, yet not unprecedented, crossroad - the intersection of social justice and scientific management. Copyright 2006 by the INTERNATIONAL ELECTRONIC JOURNAL FOR LEADERSHIP IN LEARNING.
Earning a college degree was not easily attainable for Black women during the civil rights movement. Asthe civil rights movement became a full-scale struggle, like many other Blacks, the Black womenadministrators in this study confronted and disrupted institutions thought to be responsible for theiroppression. This study examines southern leadership discourses of Black women administrators who camefrom a tradition of protest transmitted across generations by older relatives, black educational institutions,churches, and protest organizations (Morris, 1984). What can an examination of university-level Blackwomen administrators inform with respect to the struggles, challenges, and successes they experience?
The educational leadership discourse is being challenged to include a spiritual voice in its conversation. Spirituality is defined as the part of life through which individuals make meaning and understanding of the world. It includes the esoteric exercise of personal critical reflection and forms the basis for values and principles that inform individual personal and professional behavior. This article examines purposive leadership. a concept grounded in what Cornel West called prophetic spirituality. It suggests educational leaders who build their professional practice in purpose-driven leadership clearly understand the multidimensional aspects of their daily challenges and yet find the inner strength to resist hegemonic structures and forms of oppression and systemic inequities in the educational system. These leaders' perceptions are not limited to proficiencies and minimum competencies but are clearly focused on ontological pursuits, academic and intellectual engagements. and projects fostering students' sense of destiny, purpose. and commitment to societal change.