Disrupting Injustice: Principal Strategies to Advance Social Justice

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The problem: Social injustice across our social landscape, with concentrations in schools where social justice is most needed.

A solution: Leadership focused on targeting, disrupting, and transforming such norms into new outcomes.

Teacher College Record published a paper by George Theoharis, an assistant professor in educational leadership and inclusive education at Syracuse University, titled “Disrupting Injustice: Principals Narrate the Strategies They Use to Improve Their Schools and Advance Social Justice.”

The study’s focus is on principals who positively advance social justice in their schools, who rely on the notion that schools can be places that break the predictive qualities of race, class, gender, and cognitive variation on student outcomes. However, the focus of these principals is not directly on targeting academic gains — which often result in practices that “maintain structures that isolate, track, and segregate instead of structuring inclusion and belonging of all kinds. The findings of this study directly contradict many current practices and reforms that propose that the best ways for students with disabilities, students learning English, and other struggling students to learn involves individually designed and/or remedial instruction conducted outside the general classroom.” Rather, their focus is on targeting the injustices themselves, with academic gains being an outcome.

The principals highlighted in the study focused on strategies to disrupt specific injustices. Below is an overview of the four main injustices and strategies that disrupt these injustices. They are reprinted directly from the study. However, for a fuller analysis and in-depth look at these strategies in practice, we would encourage you to take a look at the article.

Injustice 1: School structures that marginalize, segregate, and impede achievement

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Eliminate pullout/segregated programs.
    • Increase rigor and access to opportunities.
    • Increase student learning time.
    • Increase accountability systems on the achievement of all students.

Injustice 2: Deprofessionalized teaching staff

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Address issues of race.
    • Provide ongoing staff development focused on building equity.
    • Hire and supervise for justice.
    • Empower staff.

Injustice 3: A Disconnect with the community, low-income families, and families of color

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Create a warm and welcoming climate.
    • Reach out intentionally to the community and marginalized families.
    • Incorporate social responsibility into the school curriculum.

Injustice 4: Disparate and low student achievement

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Confluence of all efforts and strategies

 

Image:Photo Credit: Dustin and Jenae via Compfight cc

Schoolhouse vs Jailhouse Infographic

The schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline continues to plague our society. The causes for the criminalization of our youth are many, complex, and solvable. Whether we are transforming norms in our schools or implementing larger social justice policies, we must engage students in ways that build their strengths, confidence, and overall well-being. A good place to start is by dialoguing about equity, racial justice, and restorative discipline practices.

Take a look at the infographic by Jason Killinger below. While some of the stats are Philadelphia and Pennsylvania-centric, the overall picture it paints is enough to indicate we need to rethink our approach to providing opportunities for our students.

Be sure to click on the links under the infographic for more information about disrupting this cycle.

Education-vs-Incarceration-infographic

ACLU’s School to Prison Pipeline: Talking Points

New York Times article titled, “Black Students Face More Harsh Discipline, Data Suggests

The Answer Sheet’s post on Closing the school-to-prison pipeline

Professor of Law and Director of Racial Justice Project at New York Law School, Deborah N. Archer’s piece in New York Law School Review, Vol 54.

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