Incorporating successful Black and Latinx student voice at suburban schools : White principals as anti-racist leaders

Within suburban schools, the educational experiences of Black and Latinx students are racialized because achievement is defined as the appropriate domain of White or Asian students. Classifying the academic success of a Black and Latinx student as unusual leads to marginalization and limited support for these underrepresented students within predominately White and Asian suburban schools. This study is grounded on the assumption that Students of Color are successful, and that their success is reproducible. At the same time, it seeks to uncover the tremendous amount of effort that students have invested in being academically successful, despite societal and school-based obstacles. Using a qualitative study design, 16 Black and Latinx students who were identified as academically successful participated in up to two rounds of focus group interviews. A Critical Race Theory (CRT) lens made central the voice of the students in the data collection and analysis. The concept of figured worlds (Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, 1998) provided the theoretical frame to analyze their narratives about the high-pressured, racialized school environment and some o f the causes and coping mechanisms they used. Culturally Responsive School Leadership (Khalifa, Gooden, & Davis, 2016) served as a practical foundation for understanding how school leaders in a racialized school can begin to approach reforming site systems and practices with the goal of supporting all students equitably. Recommendations for school leaders include making connections to underrepresented families and community members a priority. Additionally, further recommendations focus on ways to develop and sustain a culturally responsive school, classroom, and instructional focus. Finally, attention is given to ways an anti-racist school leader, especially a White leader, can use critical reflection on their own internal biases as a starting point to infuse critical discussions about race into everyday conversations with the school community.