Evaluating Equity Training: 3 Tips for Optimizing Antiracist Teacher PD

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By Julia Ramsey

Like much of the world, K-12 schools and districts are grappling with how issues of race play out in the classroom. Teachers are clear in their desire for the training and resources to have productive conversations about race, understand their own implicit biases, and ultimately bring that understanding into instructional practice and school community.

"Through verbal and nonverbal communication, students receive messages about their value and worth on a minute-to-minute basis throughout the school day."

Unconscious bias is, by definition, unconscious. Assumptions and behaviors don’t change on their own — schools must create the environment for teachers and administrators to continually learn and grow. A one-time seminar may provide information, but it doesn’t meaningfully change behavior over time. This means PD leaders have two tasks:

  1. Include embedded, ongoing anti-racist content in their professional learning programs
  2. Continually evaluate and adjust those programs for effectiveness and equity

Any work that deals with attitudinal change like unconscious bias must be embedded so it’s front-of-mind and continuously active. This means applying the same best practices found in any other PD intervention: set goals like KASABs, track them regularly, and assess their outcomes formatively for implementation success.

With such a critical and sensitive subject, there’s no room for “wait and see.” Let’s explore how to evaluate anti-racist teacher PD, and ensure that the training is translating into classroom practice.

 

Why data?
Qualitative feedback can give us a lot: a basic sense for how the training was received and a richness in understanding why or why not. But no one person can attend every training and observe every classroom. 

We know that implementation matters in curricular and instructional programs like SEL: the same is true for equity. The results of continuous learning are hard to measure in the moment, but implementation is trackable — and what gets measured gets managed.

 

Tip 1: Monitor attitudes over time
The main source of insight into your program’s success is the lived experience of your teachers. Getting this information is typically accomplished by assessment surveys: a short questionnaire given to participants at regular intervals throughout the year. 

We typically recommend one assessment beginning-of-year (to establish a baseline), one middle-of-year (to observe progress), and one end-of-year (to draw conclusions for the next cycle). Many districts also choose to administer a shortened version after each individual training, then use the results to inform the next session in real time.

Above: Change over time in the Culturally-Responsive Classrooms subdomain, with focus activities noted 

 

Tip 2: Understand demographics and dimensions
When evaluating equity programs, it is critical to understand who is taking what away from the trainings. Using an optional race and/or other identity questions in your assessment form gives you an additional data dimension to understand the results. 

Data dimensions are attributes of data, not data themselves: you probably don’t need to know how many teachers of what race attended the training, but understanding how different groups respond lets you cross-index for greater insight.

Triangulating data like this is a powerful tactic. If 82% of teachers respond positively to the statement “This training allowed me to express my thoughts and feelings honestly,” it might seem encouraging on the surface. But if the 18% of teachers who respond negatively are all within one racial subset, then something is clearly not right — and perceiving it early means you can make adjustments for the very next training, instead of waiting for next year.

Above: A post-training questionnaire, disambiguated by respondent race. Numbers displayed are the average of a 1-4 scale, with 4 being “strongly agree” and 1 being “strongly disagree.”

 

Tip 3: Specific questions versus generic assessments

To ensure that the data is consistent and aligned, it’s best to use an internally standardized framework for these assessments. 

Many PL departments have a universal framework for evaluating the impact of professional learning as a whole. For anti-racist and equity training, however, we recommend using questions specific to the subject. 

For example, instead of “How prepared to do you feel to apply this training to your practice,” you might ask “How prepared do you feel to implement content & curriculum that highlights excellence in people of color?”

You also may want to consider using different equity-focused questions depending on what topic(s) a specific training covers. For example, you may separate the indicators into four focus areas:

  1. Personal attitude
  2. Content & curriculum
  3. Instructional practice
  4. Grading practice

With a solid understanding of what makes your equity programming work, you can optimize it for success — and build your teachers’ skills for the conversations that matter.

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