Dissertation

School board governance with student equity in mind: A case study exploring the impact of colorblindness in educating Black children in a pk-8 school district

There are fundamental questions about the way in which varying student populations experience schooling in U.S. public K-12 schools, specifically regarding Black students who face persistent historical challenges to opportunities in schools that have come short of promises made through civil rights laws, national education reform and legal remedies by the U.S. court system. Race-conscious remedies through the courts have been cut short due to legal precedents based on interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment as colorblind, and those implemented outside the court are almost always politicized. The false assumptions that schools are neutral from societal politics and injustices and that we live in a post-racial society blind many educators to African American students' schooling experiences and social emotional needs as well as to those of the adults who advocate on their behalf. This study consisted of qualitative research of critical ethnography to explore and understand, within a single district, how a school board, as part of a collective of institutional actors over time, understands, influences and responds to the phenomena of disproportionality and access disparity among its Black student population. This study examined this issue as occurring within a socio-political and legal environment of meritocracy, accountability and colorblindness, and a contemporary phenomenon of racism. Secondly, lacking a common language to discuss the contemporary phenomenon of racism and how it affects the schooling experiences of a historically marginalized group of children, this study also used Hill-Collins' Domain of Power as a conceptual framework to understand and explore how both racism and anti-racism are contextualized within a school district. Findings exposed gaps in school board members' and central office administrators' knowledge of systems thinking, and how ideologies, district and school structures, processes and practices, intersect and reproduce the forms of oppression that cause distributive and cumulative injustices among ascriptive student groups. Implications present a need for a discursive instrument to identify and deconstruct the structures and mechanisms that cause inequity and limit access for Black students.

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