THE THREE COMMITMENTS: CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND  DISPROPORTIONATE SUSPENSION OF BLACK MALES         A dissertation submitt...
Copyright byMacheo Kahil Payne      2012
CERTIFICATION OF APPROVALI certify that I have read The Three Commitments: Critical Race Theory andDisproportionate Suspen...
THE THREE COMMITTMENTS: CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND            DISPROPORTIONATE SUSPENSION OF BLACK MALES                    ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis dissertation is dedicated to my...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                                       ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                                       ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                           CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTIONGeneral Description of ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                   9vandalism, smoking,...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                10Since research clearl...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                   11teachers who wish ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                12suspended more than a...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                 13State, district and ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                  14low graduation rate...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                               15Theoretical Underpinni...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                16       This black mal...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                             17and address cultural mis...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                           CHAPTER 2LITERATURE REVIEW        This resea...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                19       Knaus found th...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                20       Gay’s (2006) a...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                21school in California,...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                  22highlighting race a...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                               23urban and rural princi...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                 24culture as a proacti...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                  25focusing on black m...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                26   according to race....
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                               27                      ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                                       ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                 29teaching their subje...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                                       ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                                       ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                32       For the purpos...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                33was observed in the c...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                341987; Greene & McKlin...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                35trends in consistency...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                               36disruptive and evoked ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                 37Analysis       Analy...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                    38       Data was r...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments              CRT Table 3.2                           APPLIED CRITICAL RACE THEORY     ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                           CHAPTER 4FINDINGS       The purpose of this ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                41teaching at OCMS and ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                 42wrote a referral and...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                43had multiple “entry p...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                                       ...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                 45institutional racism...
RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments                                                                 46class and learning. ...
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Macheo Payne competed his doctoral dissertation in December 2012. This is the final draft copy of his work on suspension of black males and effective practices in the classroom.

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  1. 1. THE THREE COMMITMENTS: CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND DISPROPORTIONATE SUSPENSION OF BLACK MALES A dissertation submitted to the faculty of San Francisco State University In partial fulfillment of The Requirements for The Degree Doctor of Education In Educational Leadership by Macheo Kahil Payne San Francisco, California December 2012
  2. 2. Copyright byMacheo Kahil Payne 2012
  3. 3. CERTIFICATION OF APPROVALI certify that I have read The Three Commitments: Critical Race Theory andDisproportionate Suspension of Black Males by Macheo Kahil Payne, and that in myopinion this work meets the criteria for approving a dissertation submitted in partialfulfillment of the requirements for the degree: Doctor of Education in EducationalLeadership at San Francisco State University. ____________________________________ Shawn Ginwright, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, San Francisco State University ____________________________________ Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University ____________________________________ Jamal Cooks, Associate Professor of Secondary Education, San Francisco State University
  4. 4. THE THREE COMMITTMENTS: CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND DISPROPORTIONATE SUSPENSION OF BLACK MALES Macheo Payne San Francisco State University 2012Research shows for the past 35 years, disproportionate suspension of black males compared towhite males, occurs primarily from disruption, defiance & disrespect (the 3 D’s). Three primaryfactors were found to contribute to this trend; institutional bias, teacher bias & culturalmismatch. Research also indicates that this is a significant equity issue and recently has becomea civil rights issue (Losen & Skiba, 2010). Current analysis of this problem is inadequatebecause although research & literature explicitly recognizes race as a fundamental variable indisproportionality it doesn’t recognize racism as the fundamental cause of disproportionality onan institutional and systemic level. Critical Race Theory (CRT) establishes racism as afundamental feature of education and disproportionality as a manifestation of that feature. Thus,addressing disproportionality must be rooted in addressing racism explicitly and ideally at theinstitutional or systemic level. This study examines the classroom to get insight and clues aboutrace based-solutions in an effort to support future studies that may explore race based solutionsat the institutional or systemic level. In this study, the CRT tenet of challenging race neutralityis operationalized and examines how a teacher “sees” race and addresses teacher bias as well asinstitutional bias and cultural mismatch, exploring potential race-based solutions. This casestudy used an intensity sample to identify two exemplary teachers who approached teachingblack males differently and found that they employed 3 common elements termed the ThreeCommitments. They are a Courageous Commitment, Emotional Commitment and aCommitment to Social Justice. These Three Commitments are potential race-based solutionsthat can be applied and tested on an institutional and systemic level to eliminate the ongoingrace-based inequity of disproportionate suspension of black male students.I certify that the Abstract is a correct representation of the content of this dissertation._____________________________________________ ___________________Chair, Dissertation Committee Date
  5. 5. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis dissertation is dedicated to my family. Starting with my ancestors, I thank mygrandfather Pops for always encouraging me to pursue higher education. I thank all of mygrandparents for their example as dedicated, hardworking black people committed tofamily, community and social justice. I am thankful for my parents for their love andsupport that provided me with the foundation for who I am today. I acknowledge andthank my wife and partner Kafi, for encouraging and supporting me through every aspectof this process. Your unwavering confidence in me has been a source of strength and aninspiration to me. I thank my sons Elijah and Cameron for cheering me on. This work isdedicated to both of you. I want to thank my chair, Shawn Ginwright for the substantialcommitment you made to support me in completing this project. You have been aninvaluable friend and colleague.
  6. 6. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 6 Table of ContentsCHAPTER  1  ..............................................................................................................................................     8 INTRODUCTION  ...............................................................................................................................................  8   General  Description  of  Research  Area  ...................................................................................................................  8   Purpose  of  Study  ...........................................................................................................................................................  10   Background  &  Rationale  ...........................................................................................................................................  11   CONCEPTUAL  FRAMEWORK  .....................................................................................................................  14   Critical  Race  Theory  ....................................................................................................................................................  14   Theoretical  Underpinnings  ......................................................................................................................................  15  CHAPTER  2  ...........................................................................................................................................  18   LITERATURE  REVIEW  .................................................................................................................................  18   Teacher  Bias  ...................................................................................................................................................................  20   Institutional  Bias  ..........................................................................................................................................................  22   Cultural  Mismatch  ........................................................................................................................................................  23   Conclusions  and  Implications  .................................................................................................................................  25   Research  Questions  .....................................................................................................................................  26  CHAPTER  3  ...........................................................................................................................................  27   RESEARCH  DESIGN  .......................................................................................................................................  27   Selection  of  Sample   ......................................................................................................................................................  29   Selection  ...........................................................................................................................................................................  30   Overview  of  Data  Collection  ....................................................................................................................................  30   Using  the  3  D’s  Protocol  ............................................................................................................................................  31   Role  of  the  Researcher  ...............................................................................................................................................  35   Observation  Data  Analysis  .......................................................................................................................................  35   Interview  Data  Processing  .......................................................................................................................................  36   Analysis   .............................................................................................................................................................................  37  CHAPTER  4  ...........................................................................................................................................  40   FINDINGS  .........................................................................................................................................................  40   Case  Summary:  Ron   .....................................................................................................................................................  40   Case  Summary:  Kelly  ..................................................................................................................................................  42   The  Three  Commitments  ..........................................................................................................................................  43   Courageous  Commitment  .........................................................................................................................................  44   Courageous  Commitment:  Key  Features   ............................................................................................................  46   Emotional  Commitment  ............................................................................................................................................  56   Emotional  Commitment:  Key  features  ................................................................................................................  57   Commitment  to  Social  Justice  .................................................................................................................................  62   Commitment  to  Social  Justice:  Key  features  .....................................................................................................  63  CHAPTER  5  ...........................................................................................................................................  69   RESTATING  THE  PROBLEM  .......................................................................................................................  69   SUMMARY  OF  METHODS  ............................................................................................................................  71   SUMMARY  OF  FINDINGS  .............................................................................................................................  73   APPLYING  THE  RESEARCH  ........................................................................................................................  76   FUTURE  DIRECTIONS  ..................................................................................................................................  78  REFERENCES  ........................................................................................................................................  79  
  7. 7. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 7APPENDICES  .........................................................................................................................................  84   APPENDIX  A:  Observation  Protocol  .......................................................................................................  84   APPENDIX  B:  Interview  Protocol  Questionnaire  ...............................................................................  84   APPENDIX  C:  Key  Terms   .............................................................................................................................  85   Key  Terms   ........................................................................................................................................................................  85  
  8. 8. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTIONGeneral Description of Research Area The purpose of this study is to explain the causes of disproportionately high suspensionrates of black males in schools by examining classroom teachers with effective, low-referringdiscipline practices. Nationwide, disproportionality of suspension of black male studentscompared to white male students, has been a persistent trend in US public schools for over 35years (Children’s Defense Fund, 1975; Skiba, Michael, Nardo, Peterson, 2002; US Dep. Of Ed2012). Black males are suspended at rates 2 to 3 times more than their white counterparts (Skibaet. al., 2002). Evidence shows that race is a dominating factor in this trend, even when controlledfor poverty (Wu, Pink, Crain, Moles, 1982; Skiba et. al., 2002) black students are suspendedprimarily for disruption which is a more subjective reason while white students are suspendedprimarily for more objective observable offenses (Skiba, 2008). These discrepancies are notsimply due to black students misbehaving more than white students. In fact, studies show blackstudents being punished more severely for minor infractions than white students (Skiba et. al.,2002). The office discipline referral (ODR) is the first step procedurally to the initiation of an outof school suspension (OSS) the documented point of origin for this disproportionality. Studiesconsistently showed that black students were sent out of class the majority of the time fordefiance, disrespect or disruption, infractions that are highly subjective and subject to teacherand administrator discretion and bias (Skiba et. al., 2002, Fenning and Rose, 2007). Whitestudents however were predominantly sent out for more objective offenses like cutting,
  9. 9. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 9vandalism, smoking, etc., infractions that carry a mandatory referral or suspension. Thisevidence suggests that the disproportionality of suspension is at least partially rooted inadministrator and teacher bias and that black students are held to a separate and unequal standardof conduct. In an effort to contribute to an effective solution, this study will explore effectiveclassroom practices that facilitate greater engagement and thus less disciplinary actions towardblack male students. Research suggests that there are three primary reasons for this trend indisproportionality: institutional bias, teacher bias, and cultural mismatch (Skiba, 2002, Fenning2007, Noguera 2010, Monroe, 2005). Many of these studies offer race neutral interventions suchas conflict management, mental health programs, tutorial & mentoring programs, and positivebehavior support (PBS). Some interventions like Positive Behavioral Supports show consistentsuccess in reducing suspensions, but not disproportionality (Sandomierski, 2011). While PBSaccurately focuses on the institution to create systemic change, it does not adequately address theissue of race and disproportionality. Thus, as found in Sandomierski’s study, schoolwide officediscipline referrals are reduced where Positive Behavioral Supports is implemented but overall,black students remained overrepresented in office discipline referrals and office disciplinereferrals. This indicates that the root of the disparity is not being addressed by current reasons orproposed interventions. The reasons [Skiba 2002, Noguera 2010 and Monroe 2005] cited areinstitutional bias, teacher bias, cultural mismatch. These reasons help to identify the root of theoverrepresentation of black males in suspension by examining the racial trends and elements ofteacher related causes of disproportionality. However this approach lacks an explicitacknowledgement of existing institutional racism. Identifying bias frames the identification as aphenomenon local to schools. Identifying elements of racism points to a more systemic problem.
  10. 10. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 10Since research clearly demonstrates disproportionality as a problem consistent along racial lines,solutions need to make race more central as well, specifically addressing racism. Critical Race Theory (CRT) provides a tool to better understand how racism contributesto disproportionality. One such tool is the tenet of challenging the assumption of race neutralityor the myth of colorblind institutions (Soloranzano, 1997). Many white educators have beenconditioned that noticing race as a white person is inappropriate and racist therefore develop ahabit of avoiding, even denying race as a factor in anything, opting for a colorblind approach totheir students and families. Many people of color however deem it critical to their survival torecognize race and racial dynamics (Singleton, Linton, 2006). This conflict leads some whiteeducators to consider any discussion about race by a person of color as racist. CRT boldlysituates American racism and its historical, legal complexity at the foundation of the Americaneducation system. CRT asserts that the heart of inequity and black/white disparities in educationare rooted in racism’s primary concept of white supremacy, the superiority or all things whiteover all things nonwhite.Purpose of Study The purpose of this study is to explore aspects of classroom discipline practices thatmitigate student office discipline referrals, by examining classroom teachers with effective, low-referring discipline practices. This study departs from prior research on the topic, which focusesalmost entirely on documenting how and why disproportionality occurs (Skiba, Noguera,Fenning, Monroe, Townsend). Rather, this study uncovers potential clues that point towardsolutions to eliminate this problem. By identifying teachers with successful discipline practicesand examining elements in those classrooms, this study will look at discipline strategies thatkeep students in class and reveals elements of effective engagement and teaching that can inform
  11. 11. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 11teachers who wish for more effective classroom management of black male students. Thisproject will investigate what constitutes effective classroom practices with black male students.Eliminating discipline referrals increases the likelihood of eliminating disproportionality ofsuspension of black male students in those classrooms and schools. The aim of this study is to study characteristics of the teacher who is the initiator of thesuspension sequence, not the student who is the subject of any suspension. Because students aresuspended, we naturally spend a great deal of focus on students and their behaviors that lead tosuspension. What gets less attention is the fact that teachers and administrators have dozens ofalternative interventions before resorting to a suspension. It is usually the teacher who initiates aprocess where the end result is a suspension. This study examines what teachers can do tomitigate initiation of suspensions through decreased referrals. Research indicates that oneelement of successful classrooms is strong teacher-student relationships. Establishing positive,supportive relationships with all students is a critical element of effective teaching andcontributes to student success (Darling-Hammond, 1992). It is anticipated that the findings willshow this to be a central component to a teacher’s success in keeping black males in theclassroom.Background & Rationale This issue of disproportionate suspension of black males has gained national attention(Civil Rights and School Discipline Conference, 2010). Leading scholars have presentedevidence that demonstrated how black male students receive more harsh school discipline andsuspensions on the basis of race, not behavior (Losen & Skiba, 2010). This discriminatoryexclusion pattern is a predictor of higher levels of academic failure and increased risk for goingto prison later in life (Foster 1986; Morrison, & D’Incau, 1997; Noguera, 2003). Black males are
  12. 12. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 12suspended more than any other group, and are the most likely group to be incarcerated. Thegreatest predictor of involvement in the juvenile justice system is a history of disciplinaryreferrals at school, more so than poverty indicators, or poor academic performance. (PublicPolicy Research Institute, 2005). Research has also found a high correlation between suspensionsand low academic achievement (Gregory, Skiba, Noguera, 2010). These indicators of race-basedmistreatment indicate a higher likelihood of incarceration for black males and connectionsbetween suspension and academic failure point to a significant equity problem. An abundance of research demonstrates that black male students are disproportionatelysuspended from schools nationwide compared to white male students (Mosca & Hollister, 2004;Skiba & Peterson, 1999; Skiba, 2000). For 35 years disproportionality in suspension haspersisted and has likely contributed significantly to the black male high school dropout rate,which is twice that of white males (Skiba, Michael, Nardo & Peterson, 2002), and the lownational high school graduation rate among black males, which is one fourth that of white males(UCLA Civil Rights Project, 2010) making this a significant issue in education. Researchdemonstrates that disproportionate suspension of black males reflects a discriminatory pattern onthe basis of race and gender (black male) and does not reflect a higher rate of negative behaviorpatterns in black males (Monroe, 2005 p.46). This discriminatory pattern is a civil rights issueand a critical equity issue in education (UCLA Civil Rights Project, 2010). Most schools in America have exclusion policies with suspension usually designated as alast resort, while relying on in school interventions first (Black, 1999; Henault, 2001). In schoolinterventions include conferences between the administrator the teacher, the student and parentsor guardians and are standard procedural steps before suspension. With student behavior as theprimary focus, suspension policies aim to discourage behavior that violates school rules. Because
  13. 13. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 13State, district and school guidelines for suspension are detailed but vague and allow significantsite discretion, teachers and administrators are tasked with determining which behaviors areserious enough to warrant referral and suspension to address those behaviors (Bowditch, 1993).This allows for two students to get vastly different consequences for the same violation. School safety is most frequently cited as the most urgent priority in schools, and aprimary justification for the use of suspension (Noguera, 2003). However, suspension rates forserious offenses that pose safety issues such as fighting, bringing a weapon, and destruction ofschool property are relatively small for black and white males indicating suspension is notprimarily used for school safety (McAndrews, 2001). This means that although safety is oftencited as a reason for suspension, safety is actually not an issue in most suspensions. Recentresearch by Gregory, Skiba, and Noguera (2010), found that black students tend to be suspendedfor subjective offenses (disruption, defiance, disrespect, threat, excessive noise) while whitestudents are primarily suspended for more objective, observable offenses (smoking, vandalism,cutting class). Schools seem to be less tolerant of black male behavior and more tolerant of thesame behavior when exhibited by white males. While some may argue that this finding simply reveals that black males exhibit adifferent set of behaviors than white males, research on referrals show that white students arereferred less frequently for the same behaviors exhibited by black students (Monroe, 2005). Thedisparity is not just in the rate, but the frequency of referral and suspension of black males overwhite males for the same behavior (Skiba, et. al. 2002). This data adds to a body of evidencerevealing more of a bias against black males, rather than a trend rooted solely in behaviorpatterns of black male students. Research suggests as a result of disproportionate suspensionsand exclusion from classroom learning links black male students to low academic achievement,
  14. 14. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 14low graduation rates, high dropout/push out rates (3 times that of white students) and the school-to-prison pipeline (Noguera, 2003; CDF, 2008, Nicholson-Crotty, 2009) where black males whohave been suspended at least once, are 10 times more likely than white students to be in thejuvenile justice system. Furthermore, compared to white males, black males earn college degreesat half the rate. Black males have twice the unemployment rate, 10 times the incarceration rate,and 16 times the murder rate of White males (Kaiser, 2006).CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKCritical Race Theory Critical Race Theory (CRT) is the primary lens from which this study views the problemof disproportionality. CRT in education as well as supporting theories, provide evidencesupporting the claim that disproportionality in suspension does not originate with black malesand their behavior, but stems from a larger system failure to enact effective alternative disciplinestrategies. This results in harm to black male students in the form of exclusion from schoolthrough suspension. Critical Race Theory (CRT) in education is based in legal studies and examines theinstitution of education in this country from a wide lens, looking at the racist foundations ofAmerica. Solórzano (1997) identified five tenets of CRT that can and should inform research.The centrality and intersection of race and racism and racism (challenge to white supremacy andthe centrality of whiteness); the challenge to dominant ideology (challenge to race neutrality orcolor-blindness); the commitment to social justice (critical theory, critical pedagogy, etc.); thecentrality of experiential knowledge (narrative and storytelling); and the utilization ofinterdisciplinary approaches (CRT in compliment with other liberatory frameworks).
  15. 15. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 15Theoretical Underpinnings The dominant theories that have explained the problem of disproportionality in theresearch are institutional bias, teacher bias, and cultural mismatch. These three explanations areflawed and inadequate for the following reasons. Institutional bias is when a set of policiesproduce a negative impact on a whole group. Institutionally biased policies are very difficult tochallenge because policies are disproportionately applied to groups on a legitimate but mostlydiscretionary basis, making challenges to due process difficult (Gregory, Skiba, Noguera, 2010). Institutional bias accurately shares the blame on an institutional level and even recognizesracial bias at this level but fails to recognize inherent bias against black students as aninstitutional norm rather than an exceptional condition that results from unfair policies like zerotolerance policies (ZTP’s) (Monroe, 2005). Teacher bias focuses primarily on hidden bias of theteacher in the classroom. Teacher bias is particularly challenging when a teacher is unable orunwilling to examine their bias by examining their own beliefs, stereotypes and practices from arace-based lens. (IAT, Harvard, Gladwell, 2010). Lastly, cultural mismatch accurately identifiescultural differences and dynamics in the classroom that contribute to black males being overdisciplined but implies that black culture and behavior is defective and incompatible with anacademic environment which is biased against black culture. Suspension of black male students in schools can be viewed as an indicator of a largersocial dynamic that is mirrored by gross negative outcomes for black males in society. The highrate of black male gun violence and incarceration of black males contributes to a pervasiveperception in schools that black males are dangerous and bad (Foster, 1986, Monroe, 2005).Black boys internalize this perception of black boys in schools as well, and being feared asdangerous becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (Rhem, 1999).
  16. 16. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 16 This black male trajectory is also characterized as the ‘school to prison pipeline’(Nicholson-Crotty, 2009). This is a process where black males, facing discriminatory treatment,are overly criminalized in schools, being referred for arrest and criminal charges for behaviorthat outside of school, would not warrant an arrest (Noguera, 2003). The result is the socialreproduction process in schools, preparing and routing black males for prison, more so than forcollege or the workforce. Social reproduction theory and the reframing of the achievement gap asan opportunity gap give context to disproportionate suspension rates of black males in schoolsand suggest how black males are pushed and pulled into the trap of failure in schools and society.CRT in education adds an additional frame to view the problem, highlighting the educationsystem and the legal system as the primary culprit for continued discrimination of black males inschools. The CRT challenge to dominant ideology counters claims that the legal system of justiceis colorblind, race-neutral and provides equal opportunity (Solórzano, 1997). In education, thisCRT tenet is at the heart of disproportionality of black males because while disproportionality ofsuspension of black males is explicitly examined with race as the variable, the problem ofdisproportionality in the research literature is examined from an assumption that the source ofdisproportionate suspensions must originate from black male behavior and not the institution thatis suspending them, which is assumed to be race-neutral. This study will examine teacher discipline practices in the classroom from a CRT lens toexplore to what extent is race an acknowledged factor in reducing out of class referrals of blackmale students. In other words, do teachers see race as opposed to being colorblind to race and theaccompanying bias against black male students. This study seeks to explore to what extent theCRT tenet of challenging race-neutrality can address teacher bias against black male students
  17. 17. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 17and address cultural mismatch, which negatively impacts black male students as well. This studyalso explores the CRT tenet of the centrality of whiteness and how institutional bias againstblack male students is mitigated through effective classroom discipline practices.
  18. 18. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments CHAPTER 2LITERATURE REVIEW This research review focuses on two tenets of Critical Race Theory that are most relevantfor explaining disproportionate suspension of black males: ‘the centrality and intersection of raceand racism’ and the ‘challenge to dominant ideology’. The centrality and intersection of race andracism, alternately termed the ‘centrality of whiteness’ (Ladson-Billings, 1995) claims that raceand racism is a central rather than marginal factor in individual’s experiences (Solórzano, 1997).The challenge to dominant ideology counters the colorblind myth or the assumption of raceneutrality, claiming that no laws or policies can legitimately be considered race neutral andattempts to claim race neutrality or colorblindness actually reinforce inequity and racism bydefault. This chapter will examine CRT studies that describe cultural mismatch as one of thecauses of disproportionality in suspension, as well as studies that describe the centrality ofwhiteness. Studies that show institutional and teacher bias are viewed through the ‘challenge todominant ideology’ tenet. By using the CRT framework to teach a writing class, Knaus (2009) demonstrates howteacher agency (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2009) is used in addressing institutional racism atthe classroom level. Knaus discusses how he taught a class and used it as a case study,imbedding CRT in the curriculum and instruction. The study analyzed students’ narratives oftheir own oppression, thus aligning with the tenet of the centrality and intersection of race andracism. Knaus does this by challenging the students to put race, gender and socioeconomic statusat the center of their writing.
  19. 19. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 19 Knaus found that by writing and speaking in class about racism, sexism and other formsof oppression in the class, the students felt more connected to the class and took more of aninterest in learning the academic material for the course. This study proved very effective in engaging students academically and highlightedstrong caring relationships between the teacher and students and explicitly acknowledged theresponsibility and agency of the teacher to counteract a larger racially biased institution byputting the dialogue about the impact of race, socioeconomic status and gender at the forefront.However, as a CRT case study of effective teaching, there was no mention of discipline practicesthat led to reduced referrals out of class. This notion of looking at discipline in an effectiveclassroom environment is a gap that my study seeks to fill. Gay (2006) examines culturally responsive teaching and classroom management througha CRT lens. Through a meta analysis of prior research, the article discusses several categoriesrelating to effective discipline, including teacher student dynamics, racial bias, and how relevantcurriculum impacts the learning environment. A few of the authors that Gay reviewed (Charles 2000, Epanchin, Townsend, & Stoddard1994, Haberman 1991, Jones & Jones 2004) found that when classroom discipline is a majorconcern for a teacher, it is more of a reflection of a larger classroom management issue. Thearticle highlights the effectiveness of culturally responsive teaching fostered by proactive,positive teacher student relationships, minimizing discipline problems making it a less relevantissue (Gay, 2006). This is a significant finding although the use of CRT to view the problem wasthrough the interdisciplinary layer of multicultural education, specifically highlighting effectiveculturally responsive interventions.
  20. 20. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 20 Gay’s (2006) article exemplifies the CRT tenet of challenging the dominant ideology byhighlighting the negative impact of the biased, unfair curriculum and policies in schools that donot reflect non-dominant childrens’ culture. Conversely, the positive impact on students of colorwhen the curriculum and policies do reflect their culture is also highlighted. Gay’s (2006) articledid not, however, directly address disproportionality in discipline for black students. While it isconceivable that a teacher does not pursue culturally responsive pedagogy or social justicepedagogy and still effectively addresses discipline for black male students in a way that supportstheir learning, this is not the norm. It is much more likely that a teacher who tries to ignore raceor be “colorblind” in the classroom and treat all students equally is more likely to reproduceinequity and perpetuate institutional bias, teacher bias and unwittingly push black male studentsout. This phenomenon is represented in the CRT model as inability or unwillingness to examinethe context of inequity and bias against some groups while refusing to be self-critical andexamine their views and practices with a race critical lens. All three categories of explanation; teacher bias, institutional bias, and cultural mismatch,cover a broad range of phenomenon that centers around institutional and teacher behavior as wellas black male student behavior. The following review examines these categories in the research,the common themes as well as the shortcomings in accurately explaining disproportionatesuspensions.Teacher Bias The problem of teacher bias is not only that teachers have a negative perception of blackmale students, creating hyper visibility (Skiba, 2002) and causing them to get suspended more,but many teachers deny treating students differently according to race. This finding, in a study byGregory and Mosley (2004) illustrates this by surveying fifty teachers from a large urban high
  21. 21. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 21school in California, about their attitudes regarding discipline and the factors involved in thediscipline decisions. The study found that very few teachers consider factors that are within theirown control as the cause of discipline problems, lending credence to the perception thatdiscipline problems in their classroom are the students’ fault and completely out of their control.The study found that there were a few teachers who were able to recognize their role inpreventing misbehavior. A few of these teachers were also able to reflect on how race isintertwined with discipline. The majority of teachers however were not able to recognize orreflect on these possibilities (Gregory & Mosley, 2004). Gregory & Mosley’s (2004) study examines culturally responsive discipline as a potentialintervention, focusing on teacher-student relationships in eliminating the disproportionality indiscipline. The study lacks an analytical treatment of race as a fundamental feature ofsuspensions in school policy. Also, the race-neutral or colorblind reasons that teachers gave forstudent misbehavior, such as lack of structure and normal adolescent behavior, could not accountfor the disproportionality according to race, thus assigning race neutral reasons for a race basedtrend (Gregory & Mosley, 2004). This study is an example of the challenge to the dominantideology tenet of CRT. Race is an implicit factor in discipline when exploring disproportionality among blackmale students because of teacher bias. Fenning (2007) did a meta analysis examining qualitativeresearch finding some ethnographic and interview data identifying teacher perception as a reasonfor labeling and removing students of color from class (Balfanz et. al., 2003; Bowditch, 1993;Vavrus & Cole, 2002). Balfanz et. al. (2003), Bowditch (1993), Vavrus & Cole (2002), reveal that perceptions ofloss of control and fear influence teacher decisions to exclude black males from class,
  22. 22. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 22highlighting race as a factor in teacher practices in the classroom. Fenning (2007), recommendspositive behavioral supports (PBS), a race-neutral intervention to address this problem. Unlikethe first article (Gregory & Mosley, 2004) which largely reported race-neutral, color-blindreasons given by teachers for ODR’s, Fenning (2007) acknowledges race in teacher reasons foroffice discipline referrals but offers Positive Behavioral Supports as a race-neutral, color-blindintervention. Both conclusions fail to challenge the dominant ideology that is clearly impactingblack males based on their race.Institutional Bias On a policy level, zero tolerance policies that mandate rigid disciplinary responses, suchas suspension or expulsion for broad categories of behavior, is one of the more obvious examplesof institutional bias (Martinez, 2009). Although Martinez demonstrates how zero tolerancepolicies disproportionally affect black males on the basis of race, implying institutional bias, thearticle assumes that the institution is racially neutral (and not racist) by focusing on how theinstitution is ill equipped (p.155) to deal with black male misbehavior. Similarly, Dunbar and Villarruel (2004) found that zero tolerance policies (ZTP’s) andpractices are shown to impact black males disproportionately according to region (urban vs.rural). Again, by illustrating the impact of institutional bias by race, yet examining thesedifferences according to region, a race neutral variable, this study contributes to the nuancedexamination of this complex problem but falls short of challenging the dominant ideology ofwhiteness. Again, race is implied in the regional category because of much higher concentrationsof black students in urban areas (Dunbar & Villarruel, 2004). Using a policy analysis framework,Dunbar and Villarruel interviewed 36 principals in a qualitative study that found fundamentaldifferences in interpretation and application of zero tolerance policies. Differences between
  23. 23. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 23urban and rural principals resulted in much higher suspension and expulsion rates in urbanschools because of the stricter application of ZTP’s. However, the study did not find significantdifferences in student behavior or level of violence in the schools. Both studies, Martinez (2009)and Dunbar and Villarruel (2004), point out the racial bias in disproportionality of disciplineamong black males, but fail to directly address it, instead focusing on other categories to explorethe problem. This pattern in the research of avoiding race and racism as a potential cause ofdisproportionality, while acknowledging the problem on the basis of race, highlights thechallenge in proving racial bias in disproportionality. Simply naming institutional bias as thecause of disproportionality in discipline is not precise enough to effectively address the problem.Only through using the CRT tenets to examine the problem of disproportionality in suspensioncan researchers address the complexities of institutional racism and how it is imbedded in thedominant ideology.Cultural Mismatch The third and most commonly explored cause of disproportionality focuses on blackmales’ behavior and its origins in African American culture. According to Fenning (2007) andTheodos, Benner, and Bohanon-Edmonson (2004), disproportionate minority discipline andexclusion is a combination of student misbehavior and the institutional reaction to studentbehavior. This primarily places the blame on the student, casting the institution as merelyresponding to black male misbehavior. Thus, according to these authors (Fenning, 2007; Theodos, Benner, & Bohanon-Edmonson, 2004), the disproportionate discipline is caused by the misbehavior of the minoritystudents. The resulting recommendation, a PBS intervention, is aimed solely at school-wide
  24. 24. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 24culture as a proactive strategy to reduce individual student misbehavior. While this interventionproves to be effective in reducing overall misbehavior, the reduction in overall suspensions forall students preserves the disproportionality of minority suspensions, leaving in place the corefactors that cause the disproportionality, albeit minimizing it. This proposed intervention (PBS)is inadequate and doesn’t begin to acknowledge the teacher bias and institutional racism, thusreinforcing the centrality of whiteness with a colorblind analysis of the problem. One of the seminal works that explores cultural mismatch in disproportionality of blackmales in suspension is Monroe (2005), who takes on cultural bias against black males in asynopsis of research findings. Monroe’s analysis of research shows how black males are unfairlytargeted for discipline according to racial stereotypes. By noting negative teacher attitudes andreactions to black male cultural behavior, Monroe addresses a dynamic that is missed by mostresearchers regarding disproportionality: adult misbehavior. By recommending race-based interventions that include race conscious teacherpreparation and examination of attitudes and misconceptions toward black students, Monroe(2005) is consistent in highlighting the racial basis of this problem and making arecommendation that is race-based. However, Monroe (2005) does not effectively address thesource of the racial bias. By focusing on teacher and institutional response to black male culture,race is still presented as a marginal factor, as something that is only relevant when black studentsare present because of their so called provocative culture (Monroe, 2005). Soloranzano (1997) reinforces the CRT tenet of the centrality of whiteness, casting blackmale culture as the “other” and as defective. By failing to view this problem of cultural mismatchthrough CRT, this article fails to recognize the centrality and intersection of race and racism.Instead, this perspective blames the victim through an analysis that uses multiple examples, all
  25. 25. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 25focusing on black male culture and behavior as the source of the problem. By using the CRTframe, this study views this cultural dynamic differently by focusing on black males as thepopulation that is impacted the most by this problem of disproportionality.Conclusions and Implications This section examined how the research literature blames the problem ofdisproportionality in discipline of black males on teacher bias, institutional bias and culturalmismatch. This paper analyses how these explanations at best, point out race as an issue whilestopping short of calling it racism, and at worse, effectively blames black males for thismistreatment. By showing how these studies lack CRT as a critical conceptual framework to analyzethe problem, this review identifies a gap in the research. In examining articles that view theproblem through teacher bias and institutional bias, I show how they overlap the CRT tenet ofthe centrality and intersection of race and racism. I discussed how the subtle focus on teacher orinstitutional bias against black male misbehavior misrepresents the problem and misses a criticalperspective. This perspective looks at how the problem lies with the teachers’ bias and theinstitutional bias based on race, not the black males’ behavior. While evidence shows that blackteachers suspend black male students’ less than white or Asian teachers, the findings do notindicate any reversal or elimination of the disparity (. White or black, teachers still send blackmales out of class more than white males. In examining articles that explored disproportionality through cultural mismatch, Ipresented the CRT tenet of the centrality and intersection of race and racism. This tenet explainshow the cultural mismatch perspective was better able to highlight teacher and institutional bias
  26. 26. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 26 according to race. Nevertheless, the cultural mismatch view is also flawed in its inherent implication that black culture is defective. Research Questions The purpose of this study is to explain the contributing factors to disproportionately high suspension rates of black males in schools by examining classroom teachers with effective, low- referring discipline practices. Based on the above literature, I developed the following questions:1) What are the features of discipline strategies and practices that mitigate disruption and office discipline referrals among black male students?2) Are there beliefs and assumptions (personal values) that effective teachers have about their students and their behavior that challenges race neutrality or the colorblind myth?a) How do those beliefs support effective discipline strategies & practices?
  27. 27. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 27 CHAPTER 3RESEARCH DESIGN The following Research employs a case study of two teachers who were studiedindependently and the data from those studies were examined across the two cases. This studyexamined two classroom teachers with effective, low-referring discipline practices in Oakland.The two teachers were observed and interviewed. These two case studies were examined andanalyzed based on trends and themes that answered the research questions. By using a case studydesign as a basis for the research, this study was able to explore how effective teachers employeddiscipline practices for black male students. Each teacher demonstrated key features ofclassroom discipline practices in the study. Using CRT, the study examined race as a factor inclassroom discipline practices by observing specific interactions the teachers had with blackmale students in their class. Specifically the study examined how teachers challenged the CRTrace neutrality or colorblindness when working with black males. By examining the classroominteractions between teachers and students, observations revealed how these two teachersresponded to common classroom behavior. Additionally, the use of interviews allowed theteachers to discuss how they viewed their students’ race in relation to how they managedbehavior of black male students and did discipline in the class. The use of a cross-case study design provided the researcher an understanding of teacherpractices through the collection of information using a customized data collection protocol in thetwo classrooms as well as accompanying interviews with the teachers. The protocol categorizedbehaviors according to more objective classification of what the prior literature identifies as the
  28. 28. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 28three D’s, disruption, defiance & disrespect, the primary reasons given for black malesuspensions. By utilizing this observation protocol along with follow up interviews, the researcherwas able to understand how teacher discipline practices and their values and beliefs about theirstudents’ behavior impacts their black male students. This research contributes to understandinghow office discipline referrals and disproportionate suspensions of black male students can besignificantly reduced or eliminated through effective discipline practices. Table 3.1 RESEARCH  DESIGN  Phase  #1   Intensity  sample:  Principal  nomination  of  select  pool  of  effective  teachers  &  pre-­‐ interview  and  consent  of  nominees    Phase  #2   Qualitative:  observation  of  classroom  during  instruction  Phase  #3   In  depth  interviews:  Recorded  and  transcribed  follow  up  interview  of  observations   with  the  teachers  Phase  #4   Confirm  observations:  Transcriptions  verified  with  teachers  interviewed   This research was conducted in four phases. The first phase of this project focused ongenerating an intensity sample of teachers whom embody the theoretical principles under study.The study was particularly interested in those teachers who had a lower than average number ofoverall referrals, including black males at their school site. Because one way to eliminatedisproportionality is to increase referrals of other groups, this study hopes to identify specificdiscipline strategies that will eliminate black male disproportionality by significantly reducingout of class referrals. By using a nomination procedure, administrators at two schools were askedto forward the names of two teachers they know of that fit the criteria. Teachers were identifiedbased on having a low or zero office discipline referral rate of black students, and effective at
  29. 29. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 29teaching their subject. ‘Effective’ meant that the teacher was excellent at teaching the academicmaterial for the course and demonstrated a good classroom discipline practices. Verification thatteachers met these criteria was at the determination of the principal. Phase two involved sixteentotal classroom observations which were 50 minutes on average, of the two teachers selected.Phase three focused on conducting in-depth interviews about how each teacher enacted thosefeatures. Phase four involved follow up observations or interviews of teachers to confirm anygaps in information or unclear findings as well as confirmation from teachers of the accuracy ofdata captured from observations and interviews with teachers.Selection of Sample This study analyzed the discipline strategies of two middle school teachers in Oakland,CA. The study focused on Oakland because it has the third largest population and proportion ofblack male students and the largest proportion of suspended black male students in the state ofCalifornia. The study focused on middle school teachers because studies show that middle schoolsuspensions have the highest indicator of increasing the odds of contact with juvenile justice(Nicholson-Crotty, 2009). Finding out what works well in these classrooms may translate intoeffective practices that can be examined by similar teachers in Oakland middle schools. Theprincipals were identified according to who responded to an inquiry of all Oakland Middleschool principals by email to identify their most effective teachers in 1. Teaching the subjectmaterial, 2. Having low or no office discipline referrals, 3. Having the respect of students andfamilies. Teachers that met these criteria had no more than 2 office referrals for a period of oneyear as well as verification of exemplary standing according to principal evaluations within thepast 2-3 years. This selection process was tiered with the first tier and involved contacting theprincipal of each school and asking for nominations of their top 2 performing teachers in the 3
  30. 30. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 30above categories, teaching, low referrals & student respect. From this list of teachers, 2 wereselected by contacting each teacher and asking them to participate in the study.Selection Initially twelve teachers were identified by principals. Those teachers were contacted byan email stating the intent and purpose of the study and asking the teacher if they were willing toarrange a face to face meeting to allow the researcher to explain the study and its procedures andobtain consent. Five teachers agreed to participate and signed a consent form. Those teachers’principal was also contacted and asked to sign a similar consent to allow the research to takeplace at their school site. A researcher participant rapport was established through this initial meeting by theresearcher discussing his own background, and interest in conducting this research, particularlyletting each teacher know that the researcher is not an outsider but a native to the area and deeplyrooted and committed to the communities they are teaching in, not just the research. Of the five teachers, one teacher only had one black male student in all five of herclasses, which was too low to quality for this study. Two other teachers that initially agreed toparticipate later were unavailable to participate in the research. The study ended up beingconducted on the remaining two teachers.Overview of Data Collection Table 3.2 Cases     Ron   Kelly  Number  of  black  male   45  in  3  separate  classes   22  in  3  separate  classes  students  Hours  of  observations   7   8  
  31. 31. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 31Interviewed   1-­‐  50  minute  interview   1-­‐  50  minute  interview  Class  characteristics    History  and  social  studies  classes   Middle  school  math  classes  Teacher   Male  10th  year  teaching,  from  bay   Female  3rd    year  teaching,  from  characteristics   area.  Identifies  as  Puerto  Rican   bay  area.  Identifies  as  mixed  race,   and  Black.  36  years  old.     half  Puerto  Rican  &  half  White.     Data collection occurred in three sequences. The first sequence was the classroomobservations. Each participating teacher agreed to a minimum of five classroom observations.The observations were all scheduled within a three month span during the spring of 2012. Eachobservation was one hour long or one class period. Observations were documented silently usinga customized written observation protocol (see Appendix A). The second sequence involvedindividual teacher interviews. Each interview was scheduled for one hour. The interviews wereconducted using an interview protocol of eight questions (see Appendix B). Interviews wereaudio recorded and both were conducted within one month of the last classroom observation.The third and final sequence of data collection was follow-up interviews with teachers by emailto confirm the data collected in the first interview. Short follow up questions were asked and atranscript of the first interview was attached for the participants review and verification foraccuracy. Both teachers verified the accuracy of the interview transcript. The classroom observations were documented using an observation matrix which wasdesigned to capture critical interactions between the teacher and students around the 3 D’s(disruption, defiance, & disrespect). The 3 D’s are behaviors most cited in black malesuspensions and highly subjective. By coding these behaviors according to prior research reasonsfor suspension, this protocol would directly observe and address the behavior that is at the coreof this disproportionate suspension of black male students.Using the 3 D’s Protocol 31
  32. 32. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 32 For the purpose of this study, the researcher conducted classroom observations using anobservation protocol observing teacher discipline procedures. For example, when a teacher told astudent to move to another seat and that student refused, or deliberately moved slowly, theteacher may have deferred dealing with the situation directly and kept teaching, only to return tothat student a few minutes later to check in with them, thus mitigating a referral out of class forbehavior that could likely be labeled disrespectful or defiant. The 3 D’s, are the three biggestreasons for African American male office discipline referrals and suspensions (Skiba, et. al.,2002) and was the focus of the interactions between teacher and students. The interviews were conducted, using open ended questions to document teacherattitudes about students who exhibited disruptive, disrespectful or defiant behavior as well asteacher attitudes about their discipline strategies and student engagement in the class. Thecontent focus and questions of the interview protocol matched the content focus and observationcategories of the observations so that the data was matched. Observed behaviors and strategieswere reinforced, explained and sometimes incongruent by the teachers’ perspectives in theinterviews. The purpose of this approach was to limit variability allowing deeper data analysis ona clearer more organized observation and interview. Follow up questions were asked over email of the two teachers interviewed to follow upwith any areas that may have been missed in the interviews and to also give the teachers anopportunity to reflect on their interview and offer further insight they may have on theirpractices. The observation protocol was designed to observe relevant phenomenon relating toteachers’ discipline practices. The interview protocols involved 8 standard questions (see appendix C) that mirrored thespecific observation protocol points. These questions reinforced, clarified or contradicted what 32
  33. 33. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 33was observed in the classroom. The interviewees were asked at the end if they have anything elseto add about any of the primary categories. All observation notes were kept safely in theresearcher’s home and audio recordings of the interviews were stored securely on theresearcher’s computer. The data will be kept by the researcher in perpetuity. The collection of the data occurred in several stages. The initial observations weredocumented by hand using data collection forms designed to capture teacher behavior andresponses to student behavior. The weakness of this method was observer bias, interpretation,and accuracy in documenting interactions. The strength of the method was that the observerdocumented according to specific types of interactions that were classified as disruptive,disrespectful or defiant. The observation protocol involved noticing and documenting how theteacher addressed 3 types of behavior: 1. Off task behavior or students not doing their work butnot distracting other students, 2. Disruptive behavior or students engaging other students, and 3.Challenging or oppositional behavior or students challenging or the teacher directly. Following the observations, the interviews were recorded on an audio device, transcribedby the researcher and coded based on the themes that surfaced from the classroom observationsand categories identifies in prior research. Institutional bias, teacher bias and cultural mismatchwere lenses used to identify key patterns in the data. The analysis design was “complimentarity” which sought elaboration, enhancement,illustration, clarification of the results from one method (observations) with the results from theother method (interviews). In other words, the interviews served to strengthen the final analysisand interpretation of the observations. This method was chosen to increase the interpretability,meaningfulness, and validity of constructs and inquiry results by both capitalizing on inherentmethods strengths and counteracting inherent biases in methods and other sources (Greene, 33
  34. 34. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 341987; Greene & McKlintock 1985; Mark & Shotland, 1987; Rossman & Wilson, 1985). Simplyput, the significance of the observations were strengthened or clarified by the teacher in theinterview. Observations revealed how contact points secured between teacher and students whoexhibited behavior that could have been classified as disruptive, defiant or disrespectful.Disruptive was considered any behavior that was off task but not necessarily involving multiplestudents or engaging the teacher directly. This behavior was typically students daydreaming orotherwise disengaged in the lesson or attempting to engage in off task behavior by themselves.Defiant behavior was identified as any behavior that was off task and involved more than onestudent. It was usually non-academic discussions or behavior that was not connected to thelesson. The final category of disrespectful behavior was any behavior that was directly engagingthe teacher or out of compliance with teacher direction. This usually took the form of a studentnot doing what the teacher has asked a student to do or the student engaging directly with theteacher, asking a question or arguing about being redirected. The interviews followed up to explore those interactions observed from the data, andasked questions so the teacher could further explain deeper meaning, reasoning, and rationale forthe interventions selected during key contacts. The information from the observation and interview from each teacher was matched upaccording to each category used in the observation tool (see appendix) and correspondingquestion in the interview. For example, classroom management strategy observation, wasmatched up with the teacher reflection describing their classroom management strategy. The twosources for each question (observation and teacher’s answer) was examined for similarities,differences and trends with each teacher. Then data from all of the teachers was examined for 34
  35. 35. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 35trends in consistency or inconsistency, strength or weakness to exploring the research questions.Similarities, trends and differences were noted and summarized, highlighting how teachersresponded to disruptions, defiance and disrespect from black male students. First the informationfrom the observations were analyzed to determine if the teachers were creative in their responsesto student behavior. This anecdotal evidence contributed to the research on disproportionatediscipline from the CRT framework.Role of the Researcher While conducting the study the researcher attempted to act as natural as possible.Teachers/participants were asked to simply explain to students that the researcher is a studentand will be in the class to observe the classroom. The researcher had minimal participation in theclassroom but engaged appropriately by responding when engaged by students and redirectingstudents as much as possible by asking them about the class and the school in general. Theseinteractions informed the context of the observation but was not used in any substantive way inthe data collection or findings.Observation Data Analysis Observation data was analyzed by coding behaviors according to key themes. These keythemes were identified by first coding the behaviors observed and creating categories for thetypes of interventions the teachers employed. A dozen different categories were identified andthey were arranged according to frequency. The categories that showed the highest frequencywere set aside and revisited after the interviews were conducted and transcribed. The categoriesof interventions were then examined for interventions to the behaviors most likely to warrant anout of class referral. This third layer of analysis highlighted interventions that were particularly 35
  36. 36. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 36disruptive and evoked high emotions. These interventions revealed clear trends across bothcases. These high emotion interventions revealed two distinct elements for mostly the sameinteractions but revealed different elements that warranted further exploration. The two elementswere emotional charge and how the teacher manages the emotional aspect of the event and theother element was a focus on academic engagement and reengagement, despite the disruption.This bore out the two categories of ‘expansive view’ and emotional flexibility. Subheadings for each category were distinguished through cross examination of theinterview data and the observation data.Interview Data Processing The interviews were transcribed and line numbered. Each answer was broken into smallerparagraphs of 2 to 3 sentences. Then the transcripts were reread several times for commonthemes that were also reflected in the observation data categories of different forms of behaviorredirections and the prior research themes of institutional bias, teacher bias and culturalmismatch. Interview themes emerged in three primary categories. The first two categories,‘expansive view” and emotional flexibility, addressed the first research question and aroseprimarily from the observation data but was confirmed in the interview data. The third category,beliefs informing practice emerged almost entirely from the interview data and addressed thesecond and third research question. After the three categories or elements were identified, the transcripts were highlightedaccording to each element and divided into three sections. Three copies of each transcript had tobe printed and each set of copies was used to highlight each element separately because somequotes fit in multiple categories. 36
  37. 37. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 37Analysis Analysis consisted of comparing the findings to the framework of Critical Race Theory,specifically the challenge to race neutrality, to see if elements of the classroom and interviewswere consistent or inconsistent with the tenets of CRT and if behaviors can be explained or not.The patterns that were highlighted was CRT tenet of ‘expansive view’ approaches to keepingstudents engaged in learning and the race based approach illuminated in the beliefs informingpractice category. This was important in order to ground the analysis and findings with theframework and lens of CRT for this significant problem of disproportionality. This dataexpanded CRT by including teacher beliefs informing practice in addressing oppression as wellas adding a dimension of ‘expansive view’ tenet which Crenshaw (1995) identifies as a term todescribe legal examination of addressing hidden discriminatory practices. This study developsCRT in educational practice as a classroom strategy to remedy hidden discriminatory bias and away to measure the impact of that bias. Teacher observations were cross examined for similarities and differences as well asconsistencies in each case study from observations to interviews. This information and insightswas compared to key elements of effective discipline outlined in the prior research as well as thekey reasons for office discipline referrals; disrespect, defiance and disruption as well as moreneutral classifications such as off task behavior, disruptions, and challenges. This was importantto highlight the range of findings whether consistent or inconsistent with the anticipatingfindings. Being consistent with the design of the study, it was crucial to examine and analyze thefindings horizontally and vertically. Each case was reviewed and studied as well as matchingobservations and interviews across both cases. 37
  38. 38. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 38 Data was reduced to the highest correlation of findings within and across cases; (validity)of practice (ex. engaging all students creatively), principle (ex. belief in students right to be inclass and learn) and outcome (students are engaged and stay in class). This increasedconsistency according to the framing in the problem statement and articulation of the keyelements of the problem in the prior research review. 38
  39. 39. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments CRT Table 3.2 APPLIED CRITICAL RACE THEORY Addressing disproportionality of suspension of black males using CRT as a theoretical frameKEY TENETS RESEARCH THE THREE TO CRT REVIEW COMMITTMENTSTwo tenets of CRT used Primary causes for Effective elements for to frame the causes of disproportionality cited significantly reducing or disproportionality in research eliminating out of class referrals of black male Centrality of Teacher Bias studentsWhiteness White Hidden stereotypes Courageous ideology, values, compel adults to have different Commitment:and interests are at Taking the center of all expectations and hold black students extraordinary steps aspects of to ensure students to a differentdominant culture & standard. stay in class and policy. learn. Institutional BiasThe Challenge to Inequality is Emotional dominant reproduced Commitment: ideology regardless of Utilizing a wide individuals in the Countering the array of tools to institution or claims that the manage their own assumed institutional legal system of intolerance of emotions.justice and all post- racism. modern American Commitment toinstitutions, namely Cultural Social Justice & public education is Mismatch Black Equity: colorblind, race- students culture is Deliberately direct neutral and pathologized and attention and provides equal viewed as resources to opportunity incompatible with counter (Brown v Board). the educational setting. institutional racism and inequity.
  40. 40. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments CHAPTER 4FINDINGS The purpose of this study was to explain how teacher responses to student behavior,influence disproportionately high suspension rates of black males in schools. By examiningclassroom teachers with effective, low-referring discipline practices, this study identified keyelements of a classroom management and discipline strategy that can contribute to the significantreduction or elimination of this disparity. The following research questions guided this study: (1)What are the features of discipline strategies and practices that mitigate disruption and officediscipline referrals among black male students? (2) Are there beliefs and assumptions (personalvalues) that effective teachers have about their students and their behavior that challenge raceneutrality or the colorblind myth? (a) How do those beliefs support effective discipline strategies& practices? Using classroom observations and in depth interviews, study participants revealed theirdiscipline strategies and practices as well as their attitudes toward their students and theirpersonal beliefs and values about teaching and how they approach discipline. This chapterpresents a description of each case, then displays the findings of both cases based on classroomobservations and individual in depth interviews with teachers.Case Summary: RonRon is a 36 year old male history and social studies teacher at the Oakland Community MiddleSchool (OCMS). Having taught for 10 years, he deliberately choose OCMS to teach because oftheir predominantly black student population and the neighborhood the school is situated inwhich features high poverty rates and high levels of community violence. This is Ron’s first year
  41. 41. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 41teaching at OCMS and has taught at 9 different schools in 10 years. He teaches US history andsocial studies for 7th and 8th grade students. The school serves approximately 215, 6-8 gradersand has 10 teachers and 2 administrators. The school is predominantly black and male. Eightypercent of the students are African-American and 115 out of 215 are male. Ten percent areLatino and the rest are Arab, Asian, and other races. Ron was observed eight times. His classes averaged 25 – 30 students with over half ofthose students being black males. His classroom is decorated with posters of African-Americanand Latino historical figures as well as posters for hip-hop artists. He uses media and musiceveryday in his class to creatively expose his students to a variety of cultures and practices fromaround the world in a way that engages their interest and sparks critical thought. He frequentlyuses a microphone for students to participate in class and remind other students to be quiet whenothers are talking, reinforcing the ground rule of “one mic”, where one person talks at a time. Of Puerto Rican heritage, Ron offers creative opportunities for students to earn extracredit points in his class by attending relevant community events. He clearly brings multipleskills and talent in his classroom. As an independent filmmaker, Ron uses multiple forms ofmedia to creatively engage students. He teaches standing up and never sits down. He movesaround the classroom teaching from all areas of the classroom. His classroom is highly organizedwith procedures in place when students enter the classroom. There is assigned seating andstudents have a writing prompt when they first enter the class. The classes involved a high level of engagement. Students were never asked to becompletely silent but were always expected and asked to engage in the work of the class. Hefrequently spoke to students about staying focused and on task. When doing discipline, he neverstopped the flow of his class for more than 10 – 15 seconds. During the 8 observations he never 41
  42. 42. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 42wrote a referral and he never required an extended intervention with any student. He laterexplained that there were more incidents that involved referrals out of class and physical contactwith students, fights etc. at the beginning of the year. Since the observations took place duringthe last 3 months of school, he indicated that there was a significant amount of improvementwith his relationship and rapport with his students and that they were more acclimated to hisform of discipline and management.Case Summary: Kelly Kelly is a 26 year old female math and algebra teacher at the Marcus Foster MiddleSchool (MFMS). In her third year of teaching, she worked at MFMS because of theirpredominantly black student population. This is Kelly’s second year teaching at MFMS. Shetaught math and algebra for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. The school had 430 students, 28teachers and 2 administrators. The school is predominantly black and male. Fifty five percent ofthe students are African-American and 230 out of 430 are male. Thirty seven percent are Latinoand the rest are Asian, Pacific Islander and other races. Kelly was observed 8 times for an average of 45 minutes. Her classroom environment hasa lot of student work on the walls. She had large posters in the front of the room of Che Guevara,a Cuban revolutionary and Barack Obama, the current US president. The other poster was amotivational poster of the ocean with the word “persistence” on it. The other features of herclassroom were multiple reminders of the discipline policy. She exhibited a calm demeanor,never raised her voice and walked around the room constantly. Her classes were frequentlysmaller than the school average with 20 – 25 students. She taught using creative projects. Forinstance they had a mathematical problem that analyzed the assassination of former US presidentJohn Kennedy which included a description packet, a video and a mathematical grid. Students 42
  43. 43. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 43had multiple “entry points” to engage in learning. There was no one way to engage with theproblems but rather several angles which a student could approach the problem. Kelly washighly organized and procedures were posted on the board. She walked around the class andwould frequently kneel next to her students to assist them individually. She spoke evenly and quickly and was able to multi-task instruction, redirection andrespond to request all at once. She would frequently encourage and compliment her students fortheir effort in math.The Three Commitments While there are a number of studies that have examined factors that contribute toeffective classroom discipline. This study has identified three primary elements that contributedto effective teachers doing discipline in a way that mitigated suspensions and out of classreferrals for Black male students (See Table 4.1). These primary elements, termed the threecommitments (the 3 C’s) were heavily evidenced in the observations and interviews and are inessence a response to the 3 D’s of disproportionality: disruption, defiance and disrespect. Thethree C’s counter the impact of disproportionality by directly addressing the inherent biases ofthe 3 D’s: teacher bias, institutional bias, and cultural mismatch. By challenging theseinstitutional and interpersonal biases against black male students at the classroom level, the 3 C’srepresent potential interventions at the institutional level as well. This chapter is organized in the following way. First, this chapter outlines the disciplinestrategies that reflect the first commitment, the ‘courageous commitment’ approach to studentlearning. In this approach, both teachers took extraordinary steps to ensure that students stayed inclass and learned. The second element is ‘emotional commitment’ and this is discussed anddemonstrated by the data. Lastly, the ‘commitment to social justice’ is discussed. This 43
  44. 44. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 44commitment confirms the existence of institutional racism and highlights strategies and practicesthat explicitly attempt to keep black male students from being suspended.Table 4.1 The Three Commitments The  Three  Commitments   Critical  Race  framing  of  teacher  practice  that  keeps  black  males  in  the  classroom.   Effective  Element   Description  of  Element   Key  Features   1.  Courageous  commitment   Teachers  taking  extraordinary   • Learning  focused   (Addresses  institutional  bias)   steps  to  ensure  students  stay   discipline   in  class  and  learn.   • Multiple  avenues  to   access  learning   • Student  centered   policies   2.  Emotional  commitment   Utilizing  a  wide  array  of  tools   • Socio-­‐emotional   (Addresses  cultural  mismatch)   to  manage  their  own   attunement   emotions.   • Relationship  building   • Emotionally  struggle   with  practice   3.  Commitment  to  social  justice   Addressing  institutional   • Beliefs  informing   (Addresses  teacher  bias  &   racism  toward  black  males  at   practice   institutional  bias)     the  classroom  level,  based  on   • Personal  regard  for   teacher  beliefs  &  experiences.   students  &  teaching   • Social  Justice  charge  Courageous Commitment The first element identified is the courageous commitment to student engagement andlearning. This element focuses on the courage that these teachers exhibit when conceptualizing adiscipline policy and implementing their strategies in the classroom. There were key strategies that the teachers explained in interviews and practiced in theirclassrooms that stood out as critical strategies for effectively addressing institutional racism.These strategies did not pathologize black male culture (cultural mismatch), they did not ignorepotential teacher bias or limit the risks to simple bias. These strategies took into account 44
  45. 45. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 45institutional racism and worked to teach and discipline black males from a race-based, andcourageous approach. The term courageous commitment reflects the personal commitment thatthese teachers exhibited to their students staying in class and learning. They linked their ownsuccess and sense of self-efficacy as a teacher to evidence (empirical as well as antidotal) thattheir students were learning and being prepared for success in overcoming institutional barriersof racism and inequity. The teachers in these two cases positioned themselves as responsible tosupport their students learning and success in school. They extended themselves personally andemotionally as well as professionally in a way that is best described as courageous. They bothexceeded their expectations as a teacher in an institution that is expected to fail most of theirstudents. Because of the difficulty that the students’ behavior and lack of academic preparationposed daily, they faced significant challenges. They could have easily pointed to numerousfactors outside of their control to explain why these students may have not been successful intheir class. Instead, they focused on what they did have control of which was their classroom.They took extraordinary measures to learn about their students and shape a learning environmentand discipline policy that fostered and supported the success of every student. To the extent theyachieved that, was the extent that they felt successful as teachers. Both teachers expressed abelief that they were only successful as teachers to the extent that their students were successfulin their class. When the teachers in this study approached student learning as their personalresponsibility, they took extraordinary steps to ensure that those students stayed in class andlearned. One obvious reason to keep students in class to ensure learning is that a student cannotlearn the material if they are not in the class or if the class time is spend disciplining andreprimanding students. Instead teachers were observed doing the following to keep students in 45
  46. 46. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 46class and learning. Teachers valued learning as a focus over compliance. This was evidenced byteachers giving explanations for all procedures and behavior expectations placed on students.Learning objectives were also explained constantly and put into context of a larger learningscheme. When students were disruptive or off task, the nature or content of their behavior wasaddressed in a way that reminded students of the learning expectation and how the procedure orbehavior expectation that was being violated, prevented them from learning. This is significantlydifferent from a compliance based strategy that emphasizes compliance for the sake ofreinforcing the authority of the teacher. A learning focused redirection emphasizes ateacher/learner partnership and the agreements that the teacher is accountable to meet as well asthe student. This approach makes for a more practical approach to discipline that reinforceslearning and gives students more room to reengage with learning.Courageous Commitment: Key Features One key feature of courageous commitment was a learning focus that emphasizedlearning over rule compliance. As long as students were engaged in academic learning, they weresupported in their behavior appropriately in a way that encouraged continued academic learning,instead of rule compliance. For instance Ron remarked to 15 students at once “Thank you, thiswhole side of the room for being quiet and working” while remaining in the general area of a fewstudents who were talking and not doing work. Even if students bordered on being inappropriate,RON found creative ways to reframe students as academic learners rather than misfits. Oneexample is when a student asked a black male student how to spell the word “asthma” and theblack male student said “spell it how it sounds: ass….ma”. At that point Ron responded “Thatkind of talking is alright as long as you are spelling words in the assignment.” As a result, thestudent stopped the behavior and returned to work. It was obvious that the student was trying to 46

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