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The three commitments


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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.

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. 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. Copyright byMacheo Kahil Payne 2012
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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
  • 47. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 47creatively use profanity and Ron’s response was a creative way to redirect the student to not useprofanity but stay engaged in the work. Another example of that was when students were talkingto each other and Ron said “If you’re talking about the assignment, its ok.” This fosteredresponsible self regulated behavior by extending a level of trust to the students to be appropriatewith their conversations and not need the teacher to referee or control every conversation in theclassroom. Students frequently would be engaged in chatter and Ron would choose to redirectstudents to do their work every time. He repeated “Stay focused” 3 times in an attempt to keepstudents engaged in academic work. One particular learning focused redirection, Ron connectedengagement in class with classmates to community service, revealing a social justice value. Inthis instance a black male student was talking and Ron remarked “You’re doing a lot of talking”.The student replied that he was helping another student. The teacher replied “Sounds like you’redoing a lot of community work. Helping out your community?” This was a strategic reframing ofcooperative learning as community engagement on a more macro level outside the school butalso casting the students as a community. Indeed his classroom was framed as a community oflearners. In general, Ron teacher never spent more than a few seconds redirecting students beforereturning to academic instruction. In the first observation the class seemed chaotic. The noiselevel seemed very high. After a few minutes of closer observation, there were only 6 studentstalking and 22 students quietly working. The teacher constantly redirected students but never formore than a few seconds at a time. He spent the majority of the time instructing and supporting 47
  • 48. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 48the 22 students engaged in work and framed most redirections of the 6 students as entreaties toreengage in the work. Ron explained in his interview that when establishing classroom norms “I try and take itaway from just being like ‘You are the student, you shut up because I am the teacher’ but insteadit’s like how can we work on creating an environment where we’re all getting out of it what weneed.” This was evident in how Ron consistently kept the focus on behavior facilitating learning,not rigid expectations. While observing Kelly one of the best examples of learning focused discipline wasobserved. A black male student came in the room late and the teacher asked him to take off hishat. He didn’t and the teacher walked to the other side of the room to help another student givingthe student some time to comply with the request. When the teacher returned, she said again“take off your hat”. At this point the student threw off his hat causing a tense moment. Theteacher knelt to talk quietly with the student, and then she got up and asked a question about amath problem on the board and the same student was the first to engage, answering the questionand continuing after that moment to participate and do his work. Kelly again displayed the ability to focus on learning when a black male student washaving a non-academic conversation with another student and the teacher walked over and asked“Ok, let me see what you did. Show me your work.” This intervention addressed the talkingindirectly through interruption and redirection to academic engagement. In the interview, Kelly really didn’t articulate this learning focused strategy shedemonstrated in her classroom. She actually mentioned a few practices that run contrary tolearning focused and in class flexibility. She mentioned more compliance focused and out thedoor policies “If (students) are not doing work I don’t want them in the classroom”. She 48
  • 49. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 49followed that statement up acknowledging that she goes back and forth on that practice clarifyingthat “some students can absorb stuff and that it’s the students that don’t do work and aredistracting to others (that have to go).” This was not demonstrated in the observations and sheacknowledges that her practice and her students’ ability to be more easily redirected evolved. Inthe interview when asked if more challenging interactions were missed, she said yes, and thenquickly affirmed that her students are good. Kelly also used warnings and threats implicitly and explicitly. Threats are gatewayinterventions to power struggles and exclusion because they limit options for the teacher as wellas the student. Yet still, in observations, she demonstrated great skill in reengaging students inlearning focused behavior and deftly avoided power struggles. This may reveal more traditionaland punitive training that the teacher received; being in conflict with a more learning focusedvalue and practice as a teacher. While an effective classroom requires some levels of structure, order and classcompliance to function properly, the main goal of any classroom is student learning and thisdoesn’t always happen in complete silence with the teacher talking and students listening. In fact,learning is optimized when students are engaged in their learning, talking to each other and theteacher, asking questions and building knowledge together. Sometimes, this even means notdoing what the teacher says or being out of compliance with the rules of the class. The teachersobserved, prioritized learning over compliance. Rule violations were referenced but opportunitiesfor reengaging with learning took priority over a drawn out discipline process. In other words,students who were out of compliance were allowed every opportunity to learn first, and be heldresponsible later. “Setting an example” or “teaching a student a lesson” by using an authoritarianstance, demanding immediate compliance and dispensing consequences on the spot was not 49
  • 50. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 50observed. Consequences were dispensed subtly if at all and students were allowed to atone fortheir transgressions through reengagement of learning. Ultimately, Kelly expresses why she works so hard to keep them in the class learning “Iview them as the product of whatever I am teaching them so I want them to learn as much asthey can in my class because I feel like thats a reflection about me as a teacher.” The heart of disproportionate suspensions is the out of class referral. These teachers werevery effective at addressing student behaviors without sending students out of class. A primarycriteria for selection of teachers in this study was a record of very few or no referrals. While eachteacher admitted to a handful of referrals during the course of the year, they cited extreme cases(fights and extreme belligerence). Beyond the emergencies, they employed creative in classstrategies to keep students in the class and learning. Some of the strategies included back of theclass conferencing and in a few instances having students step outside for one minute while theteacher speaks with the student and then has the student reenter the class. What stood out with these strategies is that they never stopped teaching for more than 10seconds. Oftentimes, sending a student out of class takes a couple minutes because of therequirement of a referral. Typically a teacher sends a student out of class out of emotionalfrustration and doesn’t take the time to write out a detailed referral so they send the student outwithout one or send the student with a sparsely written one leaving the administrator with littleinformation and only the students side of the story which leaves the principal with little optionbut to send the student back to class. This is the point at which most black male students becomea victim of disproportionality at an institutional level. Colorblind teachers have unexaminedbiases against black male students and thus exhibit low to no tolerance of their behavior. Theyeven view them as not only disruptive but dangerous to the teacher and other students. 50
  • 51. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 51 The teachers observed showed a range of capacity to address behavior in the class.Creative engagement, well prepared lessons that provide students with multiple entry pointsmaking the material easily accessible to a range of student abilities is one element. The other isan ability to employ multiple in class discipline strategies that address behavior and provide theopportunity for students to reengage in the learning. In observations, Kelly used in class consequences when students crossed her line. Shehad a range of in class consequences that included moving to a time out chair which they couldreturn to multiple times if they needed to, each time, for longer periods of time. She also haddelayed consequences which she verbally announced and documented. Each time she wouldquickly move on. Ron in observation had a different style. He gave numerous warnings beforeissuing a consequence. He gave a few students a consequence of stepping outside the classroomfor a minute and he would give the class a direction and step outside to speak privately. This waseffective in giving the student a moment to focus and speak with the teacher without anaudience. RON also would reassign students to different seats or enlist other students to supportstudents who were disruptive and challenged with the work. But addressing the students’academic challenge, their behavioral challenge faded away. In the interviews, both teachers expressed a more strict policy. Both articulated policiesthat had an out of class option but the road to that option was not a straight line. Both teachershad resetting levels if a student reengaged in class or if a student was advancing too quickly tothe out of class option. Ron expressed that he never followed a clear sequence that led to astudent going out of the class. He varied the steps in an order to build the student’s capacity to besuccessful. 51
  • 52. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 52 Classroom discipline policies are mostly created at the teacher’s discretion. School wideguidelines set the overall limits and expectation but it is largely up to the teacher to decide whatthe classroom norms and expectations are and what it takes to issue an office discipline referraland send a student out the door. Establishing an effective classroom discipline policy is difficultand Kelly was told in before she began teaching in her teacher training program that as a middleschool teacher, student discipline was going to be the biggest challenge. As a result, she spent thefirst 2 weeks of school going over classroom procedures and reinforcing expectations.Reminders about the behavior expectations are on the wall. The teachers in this study had discipline policies that served as the foundation for theirdiscipline strategies in the classroom. The teachers had very different approaches. One teacheroperated from a mostly informal policy with basic and generally defined rules while the otherteacher used a very defined policy that she reinforced with students during the first 2 weeks ofschool and the first day back from holidays and 3 day weekends. They both had different resultsas well. What was similar was how they used a discipline policy to support students for success. Ron describes his philosophy behind his discipline policy “Some people are like “I gotthis formula: It’s A, then B and then C and D, is see you later!” I don’t stick to that but I havecertain responses that the kids have all gone through A,B,C,D and so that they are used to it andthey know what to expect and that (I) the teacher won’t hold a grudge but, if they push it, it willbe predictable. It’s not in the same exact order but sequential.” Ron confesses that his policy isvivid in his head but that articulating it is more difficult. He explains further why he doesn’tfocus on a written policy, “I’ve never written down my discipline policy besides having 2 or 3rules because I don’t like to have the class have 15 rules to abide by because I remember what itwould be like for me to walk in the classroom and tell me 15 things to do. It’s not a pretty sight.” 52
  • 53. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 53By acknowledging challenges with a complicated discipline policy, Ron opted for a policy thatwas more responsive to his students, “if you’re at a new school you are establishing relationshipsfor the first time. So my discipline policy is different. I don’t have a universal discipline policybecause obviously each classroom it’s a different reality. And each group of kids (are different).But if you are at a new school the relationship is at that very beginning.” Finally he describeshow he used discipline to focus on learning with his students, “the main thing I work on ishaving students understand that in order for the class to learn, we have to be able to roll as aclass.” With a shared sense of why discipline is important in his class, he tries to establish apurpose for learning with order, “how can we work on creating an environment where we’re allgetting out of it what we need. And so it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand what thatlooks like or that they’re willing to participate but ideologically they understand yeah we all needthat.” When asked how does he actually do discipline, how exactly does this look in hisclassroom, he described a classroom management strategy of engagement that focuses on avaried and engaging lesson with anticipated responses and an anticipation of possible behaviors,“I start my lesson with a do now. Usually it’s something that captures their imagination,…something that’s like “ok we were bored and now it’s quiet all of a sudden, just for that 5 or 10minutes it’s quiet. They are seeing kids in Rwanda doing some new funky dance, they arewatching somebody do turfing on the great wall of China. They’re watching something and itsquiet for that and then it’s time to write and (the students are) like “aww, I don’t want to write..Aw that was tight!” And so on, all this talking starts. So I have multiple layers (of intervention).First I say “hey what’s up? it would be good to get you on point…”, kick back chill, just holler atyou then it gets a little intense and I’ll be like “enough with the playing, It’s time to get serious”and then I go back and do one more nice (intervention). I do it back and forth because I know 53
  • 54. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 54one doesn’t work for all of them.” By acknowledging students varying capacities, Ron uses whatworks for the student and doesn’t expect all students to conform in the same way. By seeing hislesson as an integral part of discipline, he highlights his responsibility and ability to influence thestudents’ behavior by controlling the environment in a planned, thoughtful, yet spontaneous way. Kelly has a much more predictable policy: “I always start with giving them the eye, like I see you, and then it’s like a silent warning I guess. And then if they continue, I go over to the desk as a first warning and kind of tap on the desk and touch their shoulder or hand like Chill out and then I’ll give them a verbal warning like okay this is your warning and they’ll understand that they have a verbal warning, then usually when they do that same thing again, then I’ll ask them to get up and take a 5 minute time out or chill out over there move seats for 5 minutes.”She continues: “If they continue in that spot, that time out to disrupt the class, then I’ll ask them to stay there for 10 more minutes then I’ll usually go over there and talk to them to see what’s going on like why are you acting out today, what’s going on, kind of figure that out and if they still can’t control themselves after 10 minutes I’ll ask them to leave, I’ll send them to a buddy room, I’ll call home and talk to a parent or try to get in contact, and if it’s something really intense, like if they are cussing me out or threatening me, then I’ll send them to the principal’s office and we’ll have a conference, and that’s usually how it goes.” Kelly had a policy that was clear and sequential. She described her policy from theperspective of her students. Both teachers did this. Kelly as a part of her discipline sequence tries 54
  • 55. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 55to find out what is happening with the student that may be behind the behavior. Ron considerswhat it was like for him in the classroom and experiments with interventions in search of theeffective response are to reengage his disruptive student. Both teachers put the student at thecenter of their thinking regarding discipline. By putting the student in the center, they buildlessons that minimize disruption. By using student centered considerations, thoughtful planningand anticipated challenging behavior, both teacher make it significantly more difficult forstudents to be sent out of class. They expressed multiple strategies and considerations for de-escalation rather than initiating power struggles. Both teachers had the out of class option but made it almost impossible for a student tofall into that option behavior wise. These key features, demonstrated by both teachers reflectedcourage to take responsibility for the students learning regardless of that happens outside of theclassroom. It took courage to explore ways of reaching students that often might be outside ofthe teachers comfort zone and certainly outside the students comfort zone. And courage isrequired to practice classroom policies that not only put students at the center of considerationbut implicitly and sometimes explicitly challenge racist and institutionally biased school widepolicies and practices (disproportionate out of class referrals of black male students & zerotolerance discipline policies or the 3 D’s).Table 4.2 Courageous Commitment: Key Features Courageous  Commitment:  “If  they  fail,  I  failed”   Teacher  taking  extraordinary  steps  to  ensure  students  stay  in  class  and  learn.   Key  features   Ineffective  practices   1.  Learning  focused  discipline   Compliance  focused:  Following  rules  &   teacher  direction  creates  power  struggles   where  learning  gets  lost.     2.  Multiple  avenues  to  access  learning   ‘Out  the  door’  practices:  Discipline  that   relies  heavily  on  threats  and  ‘cumulative   55
  • 56. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 56 intolerance’  of  ‘frequent  flyers’     3.  Student  centered  discipline  policies   ‘Set  Up  To  Fail’  discipline  policy:  Rigid,  one-­‐ way  discipline  policies  that  set  students  up  to   fail.  Emotional Commitment The second element is an emotional commitment. Teaching is an emotional endeavor andit is certainly an emotional experience for the students as well. The process of doing disciplinecan certainly require some emotional flexibility (Sutton, 2009). This category highlights not onlythe teacher’s ability to creatively and strategically respond to the wide range of students’emotions without being drawn into students’ negative emotions, particularly anger andfrustration. This element may arguably be at the heart of the overreliance on the three D’s as areason for referral. Perceived student disruptions, defiance, and disrespect stem from a subjectiveinterpretation and emotional judgment about not only the students behavior but their motivationand intent. When students negative emotions get teachers upset, Skiba (2002) calls these ‘powerstruggles’ and notes that they only escalate the disruption causing the teacher and studentsignificant frustration. What was observed in classrooms and later confirmed in interviews acrosscases, was a flexible approach to responding to these disruptions. The teachers struck a balancebetween reinforcing the expectation and being flexible in how it was met. What was emphasizedwas the ever present opportunity to learn and teachers encouraging students to re-enter learning. Student behavior is perhaps most difficult to deal with when the teacher is not prepared tomanage their own emotions in response to student behavior. There were behaviors observed inthe teachers that reflected an emotional flexibility that reflected a broader commitment toaddressing the inequity and institutional racism in the classroom. The interviews yielded some 56
  • 57. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 57important information about what the teachers believed about the students and how those beliefssignificantly influenced how they responded to student behavior. This section discusses featuresof how emotional commitment showed up in the data.Emotional Commitment: Key features Student behavior that is challenging is typically indicates some kind of emotional statethat the student is struggling with. Teachers who recognize this can become responsive tostudents in a way that supports them to engage in learning quicker. This requires a teacher tohave a certain level of emotional attunement to their students. Kelly demonstrated emotionalattunement when her student threw his hat off and she avoided taking it personal and acted in away that deescalated the situation and reengaged the student. Ron addresses student excitement in an emotionally encouraging way when a studentyells, “I finished my work!” and he responds, “How does that feel? Feel good?” Even the most well prepared teacher might be offended by a random disruption in class.In fact, the more prepared a teacher is and the more attached they are to their lesson, the morelikely they might take personal offense such disruptions and for good reason. This iscounterproductive and typically proves ineffective because in taking offense, the teacher resortsto punitive discipline measures, further taking away precious time and attention away from thelesson they worked so hard to prepare. What these effective teachers did was see disruptions asopportunities to reengage students in learning. This was because the teachers say mostdisruptions as manifestations of student anxiety, frustration, or outright anger and that their jobwas to route all disruptions quickly back into opportunities for learning. Perhaps the most challenging student behavior in a classroom is an angry or frustratedstudent. Any sign of anger or frustration in a class is typically cause for immediate dismissal, 57
  • 58. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 58especially if the anger is directed toward the teacher, sending the not so subtle message to allother students: “Any expression of anger and frustration will be punished!” This rarely worksbecause the source of their anger is not addressed and they lose their opportunity to learn. When anger was framed by the teacher as a result of anxiety in the classroom around thematerial as well as broader social and environmental factors, not due simply to poor studentchoices (never paying attention in class) or even poor social, environmental and politicalcircumstances (poverty, violence, lack of family & community support), but anger that stemsfrom the institutional and systemic racism that continues to uniquely impact black students(Kelly talk about her class in college & their anger & Ron talk about anger & racism & hisbackground with channeling anger). With this reframing of the problem, these teachersresponded to anger intentionally to get them to focus on learning. (Kelly & the hat throw). Whenthe teacher refocused the student to the work, it appeared that the teacher allowed a violent angryoutburst but with this unique understanding of student anger, she actually gave the student anopportunity to learn despite being angry. Since external conditions are frequently cited byeducators as reasons why they can’t get students to learn in class, this example illustrates thatdespite external conditions, despite student anger, the student can learn if the teacher properlysupports these students, especially black male students to learn. Kelly mentions how when she gets frustrated by racist or sexist outbursts of angerdirected toward her or other students, she reminds herself “I had to understand that it’s not reallyabout me and step back. So that was hard.” Ron uses a martial arts metaphor to describe his students’ anger that is directed at him“learning how to direct (anger) is like Aikido. I’m not going to sit there and try and block one of 58
  • 59. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 59(the students) punches when they are going at me. I’m going to just learn how to step out theway, and guide (the students) arm and movement and then direct it in a different way. Ron also talks about anger and how he handles the anger of oppression that his studentsbring in his class. “So my students are really angry, upset and don’t know how to articulate it soin my head theoretically what I do is I try and help them articulate why they are angry and usethat anger and divert it into action. And I think that there are so many reasons, rightful, justreasons why they are angry that if I could learn how to take that anger and help them articulatewhy they are angry and then give them a little bit of understanding of the social, cultural,political, context of this country, that anger could be used to fuel (the student) kicking ass andgetting an A.” Negative emotions are unavoidable by teachers. Dealing with 20 -30 students at one timefor 5-6 hours a day, there are many times that even the best teacher may get upset, discouraged,frustrated or feel any other number of negative emotions. Without realizing it, many teachersmay automatically assign the blame for these emotions to the students every time. This way ofthinking builds resentment in the teacher toward students and the students most blames fordisruptions end up being black males. The teachers observed used a different approach. Althoughthey both had nonnegotiable behaviors, they came to school prepared to deal with them insteadof setting up rules in hopes of students never breaking them, and thus teachers being upset thatthey are being “forced” to give a negative consequence because they set it up, or not giving theconsequence and failing to follow their own discipline procedures. Both of these are frustratingand stress inducing to any teacher. Instead these teachers came prepared to deal with their students and kept an awareness ofwhere and why these behaviors might come into this classroom. They didn’t take the infractions 59
  • 60. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 60personally and refocused their response to reflect what the students needed. These teachersconstantly reflected on their own practice and examined why they responded and how they couldrespond better next time. The teachers then shared in their interviews their thinking behind these strategies andwhat beliefs were behind these strategies. What Kelly was taught in her training was to be consistent and treat all students the sameaccording to a uniform discipline policy. What she discovered was that it wasn’t a practicalapproach. When asked about challenges she said “I do have consistency as a challenge. It’s hardbecause you kind of know, I can let some kids get away with some stuff because they are tryingto be funny or it kind of works with what we are doing so it’s like, do I give you a warning orthat was kind of funny and it wasn’t really disrupting anything, that’s kind of hard.”When she focused more on preparation and engagement, she felt that she had more leverage withthe subject material than with any punishment. By relentlessly looking for creative ways toengage her students in math, she demonstrated an ability to not be ruffled by off task orchallenging behavior. In this instance, any reasonable teacher would have likely thrown that student right out ofclass. Coming late, disruption the class, then violently throwing his hat on the ground might getan average teacher a little bit upset. This teacher stayed emotionally grounded and focused onacademic engagement and was successful. She never stopped teaching. Other students didn’tstop working and the student who lost his cool, quickly regained composure and beganpracticing math. The teacher’s emotional flexibility was not demonstrated by her showing arange of different emotions but rather by demonstrating an ability to regulate and control her 60
  • 61. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 61emotions in the face of a student outburst which allowed her to quickly and successfully redirectstudent’s emotions. Another example of emotional flexibility was when teacher 1 would lead discussions, hefrequently would redirect students who were talking and immediately return to the discussion.Although he redirected students repetitively, he never stopped for more than a few seconds andalways quickly returned to teaching. In particular, his emotional flexibility was demonstrated byhis consistent pattern of praising students and matching their enthusiasm and inquisitiveness,even if they were being disruptive seconds before. In one instance, a black male was talkingconstantly at the back of the classroom and was asked a dozen times to stop talking. During theclass discussion, the student stopped his side conversation and asked a question to the teacherwhich the teacher replied and encouraged the student to participate more. In this example, atypical response to this student may have been to simply give a few warnings and send thestudent out or not take their attempt to participate on task with the classroom discussion, but itwas as if the teacher was waiting for the student to participate and was immediately available tobring him into the discussion. The emotional flexibility in this case was the ability to hold thegoal of on task engagement despite repeated off task conversation. The emotional commitment to serve black students effectively required the kind ofcommitment that pushes a teacher’s emotional capacity beyond their comfort zone. Theseteachers demonstrated this commitment and demonstrated an ability to reflect on theirexperiences to improve how they handle situations in the future. This emotional commitment thatthese two teachers demonstrated required them to take responsibility for how they handledemotionally charged situations. They were both able to reflect on their interactions and learnfrom them. Through this struggle to become better teachers, they approached discipline practices 61
  • 62. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 62 with a socio-emotional skill set in order to mitigate flare ups and keep students in the class learning. Table 4.3 Emotional Commitment: Key Features Emotional  Commitment   Utilizing  a  wide  array  of  tools  to  manage  their  own  emotions.   Key  Features   Ineffective  Practice  Socio-­‐emotional  attunement   Emotionally  tone  deaf:  Teacher  misreads  or   is  unresponsive  to  student  emotional  cues.    Relationship  building   Doing  the  minimum  to  get  to  know  students   personally  Emotionally  struggle  with  practice   Blame  outside  factors:  Teacher  points  to   external  factors  outside  of  their  control  as  a   determinant  for  classroom  challenges  and   student  failure  in  their  class.   Commitment to Social Justice The third element is the influence of background beliefs that are rooted in social justice and challenge race neutrality. This element was revealed mostly in the conversations with the two teachers that were interviewed but also demonstrated in observations. This section explains the final element in three primary themes. First, the background beliefs of the teachers are discussed and illustrate exactly what they believe about the impact of racism and inequity on their black male students. Second, the teacher’s personal charge as educators is revealed. They explain their love and joy of teaching and their students and why they deliberately chose to work with black males. Thirdly, this section shows how these teachers view themselves as agents of positive change and have committed to overriding oppression in their classroom by employing whatever strategies that ensure that the educational inequity that their black male students experience stops with them. 62
  • 63. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 63Commitment to Social Justice: Key features Personal background and experience informed both teachers about the existence ofracism and inequity in very different ways and from very different perspectives; however bothteachers expressed a personal commitment to social justice and teaching black students. Theytalked about how racism exists in education and how their role is to counter some of the impactsin their students lives, not by lowering their expectations but rather by raising them higher thanthey were professionally obligated to and raising their level of support to ensure that they metthose expectations. Both teachers expressed a high level of responsibility as a teacher for theirstudents learning. Both teachers took a race-based approach to teaching. They choose to teachblack students who were underserved by the education system. It wasn’t just disadvantagesstudents and not just underperforming students. The context of oppression and racism played acentral role to their understanding of what these student face and how they could support them astheir teacher. Here are some direct quotes from Kelly: Regarding students and why they may be disruptive, she doesn’t assume ill intent. “Idon’t believe any of my students are malicious like trying to be totally disruptive because theyhate me or they hate somebody else. I just think there’s just some other thing going on and it’snot really an attack, it’s just kind of like that’s their way of coping with the environment thattheir in.” Kelly reflected on growing up and her family leaving Oakland because of institutionallyracist factors, but how she didn’t know what was happening at the time. Later in college, shetook a course that opened her eyes to educational inequity. “In college I took a course on values,culture, ethnicity, whole bunch of stuff and it was telling me about the opportunity gap and theeducational gap, and I had no idea.” She continues, “I lived in Oakland but my parents moved to 63
  • 64. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 64Dublin so that I didn’t have to go to Oakland schools because they weren’t good but I didn’treally understand that that’s was why we moved and reading all those passages and dissecting itand really seeing the huge differences of different cities and different races and ethnicities andhow much they differed between wealth and different poverty levels.”Ron similarly expressed how background beliefs and experiences shaped his approach in theclassroom. When referencing the classroom experiences of his students he assumes that theyhave experienced bias already. “I understand that historically education may have made you feellike “this” and we have that conversation “how do you feel in other classes? How do you feellike they were dissing you? How do you feel like they were punitive and didn’t care aboutanything that was going on in your life? Or maybe they just want to get you in trouble and keepyou in detention…etc.” Ron continues, talking about what he believes impacts his students “I know that mystudents are brilliant young beings who have not been given the opportunity or skills to find theirbrilliance sometimes.” Alluding to systemic oppression. He continues, sharing his personalexperience and connecting it to his belief about what his students face “My belief about learningis based on things that I have personally going through the public school system have had. Theteacher that hated me the most, I wasn’t going to get an A because they weren’t going to give meone but I’ll get an A- or a B+.” Ron refers to what his students feel in a typical classroom and why “I want their wholerelationship to education to be different, because in the majority of these classrooms in thiscountry it’s not a beautiful thing. There’s not real beauty in education. What they are learningrarely relates to their reality. So they’ve already dismissed it. They’re like “school sucks, schoolis wack, school is boring, school is the worst! Like, this is torture!” And what I hope by the end 64
  • 65. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 65of the year is that they find other words to talk about school and find other words to talk abouteducation.” All three teachers expressed love either in the classroom or in the interview. Their love,connection and attachment to their students is what gives them the motivation to work overtimeto prepare engaging lessons, remain focused on learning when addressing disruptions andcultivate the emotional flexibility when dealing with students ranges of emotions. Kelly gives a few examples of what her personal commitment to the students is and why.When asked how she viewed her students she replied “I am really attached to them…I want themall to go to college. I want them all to take at least pre calculus in high school. I see them as coolkids that I want them to do well in everything. I really do love all my kids and they’re really coolpeople and I think they could be very successful if they just keep on track. That’s how I viewthem. I am super attached to them.” Ron has a similarly passionate response to the same question: What is your view of yourstudents? “I love my students. The reason why I do this work and the reason why I been teachingin the schools that I choose to work at is because I feel like part of my purpose on this earth is toreach a certain population that most people have little to no success.” These beliefs and approaches reflected the expansive view approach to addressinginstitutional racism. Acknowledging that it exists and taking responsibility to remedy it byfocusing on student learning outcomes. These teachers were not colorblind and were very muchaware of classroom bias and larger systemic bias. This approach challenged the race neutralapproach to education that sees black students from a deficit-based lens (cultural mismatch &teacher bias) and focuses on how to remediate their learning. Instead they saw their students as 65
  • 66. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 66full of strengths, possibilities and potential yet impacted by institutional racism. In addition tohow they saw oppression, they saw their role to override it. Kelly talked about her commitment to address inequities in education. “(learning aboutthe opportunity gap and the educational gap) surprised me and I was like ok, I want to be thatchange in that community where I can help those kids and be an ally with them so they have abetter shot, because I had no idea about that so I was like ok, this is what I’m going to do”. Sheconnected her experience of moving from Oakland because of educational inequity to herpersonal decision to work in Oakland and address those same inequities. Ron connects his purpose as a teacher to addressing these inequalities. Here he talksabout his students and how he acknowledges how institutional racism in education may haveimpacted his students and how he tries to build trust. “I understand you may have gottenwhooped on by teachers, not physically but verbally and you may have felt like you are thecrumb on the bottom of the floor, but look at how I work my classroom, look at what I do on adaily basis and allow me to be a little bit different and see the differences.” Issues of oppression that manifest in the classroom are paramount for both teachers.When asked what their most challenging behaviors are in their classroom Kelly said first andforemost, racial slurs are not tolerated and addresses every time indicating a clear recognition ofracially offensive speech. Ron explains further “(I have no tolerance for) racism, sexism andhomophobia. It is very rampant and very present in our communities and so in the classroom it’sno different.. These things come up because not only do they think it but they hear it so they justsay it and it’s hard to try and continue to teach a lesson. When there’s that kind of stuffhappening because you need to address it.” He explains how he may address it in his class“(When students attack each other along racial, gender or homophobic lines) I’ll go into the 66
  • 67. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 67 whole structure of “crabs in a barrel” and how poor people and oppressed people are continuously being put against each other.” Ron explains how his belief in addressing oppression with his teaching super cedes his employment status at any particular school “Having a masters degree & having a teachers credential has enabled me to not sacrifice my educational philosophy as a teacher. Hence I have worked at 9 different schools in 11 years and it’s like “Oh, it didn’t work? Alright. You want me to change my teaching style? Here’s a handshake, I look you in the eye and throw em up.” I’m already working for the system and have conflicts with that being a radical independent thinker and so the one thing I’m not going to change is what’s going down in my classroom.” Ron teaches from a social justice standpoint and literally put’s his job on the line to fight oppression of black male students from within a system that he sees as fundamentally flawed. Table 4.4 Commitment to Social Justice: Key Features Commitment  to  Social  Justice   Responding  to  institutional  racism  toward  black  males  at  the  classroom  level,  based  on   teacher  beliefs  &  experiences.   Key  Features   Prior  Research  Reference  Beliefs  informing  practice:  Teacher   1.  Addresses  Teacher  Bias:  Teacher  rejects  can  relate  to  institutional  racism   colorblind  myth  and  accepts  the  reality  of  through  reflection  of  personal   race-­‐based  inequity  for  black  males  in  experience   education.  Personal  regard:  Expressed  love  for   2.  Addresses  Cultural  Mismatch:  Teacher  students  and  teaching     loves  and  appreciates  the  cultural  and  racial   identity  of  students  as  important  and  is   personally  committed  to  making  the   educational  setting  culturally  compatible  to   them.  Social  justice  charge:  Deliberate   3.  Addresses  Institutional  Racism:  attempt  to  address  institutional  racism   Teacher  educates  for  a  higher  purpose  of  and  inequity.   supporting  black  male  students  to  overcome   institutional  racism     67
  • 68. RUNNING HEAD: The Three CommitmentsTable 4.5 Effective Elements The Three Commitments Effective elements for significantly reducing or eliminating out of class referrals of black male students Macheo Payne COURAGEOUS EMOTIONAL using CRT in Discipline COMMITMENT TO COMMITMENT COMMITMENT SOCIAL JUSTICE Taking Utilizing a wide Commitment toextraordinary steps array of tools to social justice andto keep students in manage their equity.class and learning. emotions. “My job is to “If they fail, I “Don’t take it override failed.” personally.” oppression.” Learning focused Emotional Background discipline: attunement: Able beliefs: Teacher Academic to ‘read’ and can relate to engagement is respond to student institutional racism prioritized over disruption from through reflection rule compliance. social emotional of personal lens. experience. Multiple avenues Relationshipto access learning: building: Personal regard: Multiple in class Love and caring for Connecting with strategies and students & students & taking variety of teaching emotional risks. opportunities for students to access Social justice Emotionally learning. charge: Deliberate struggle with practice: Teacher attempt to address Student centered reflection and institutional racism discipline policy: examination of and inequity. Reinforcing own practice. policies to support building student capacity.
  • 69. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 69 CHAPTER 5RESTATING THE PROBLEM The purpose of this study was to examine classroom teachers with effective, low-referring practices in an effort to explain disproportionately high suspension rates of black malesin schools. Disproportionality of suspension of black male students compared to white malestudents, has been a persistent trend in US public schools for over 3 decades. Evidence thatshows black male students being suspended at 2 to 3 times the rate of their white malecounterparts also shows that race is a dominating factor in this trend, even when controlled forpoverty (Wu, Pink, Crain, Moles, 1982; Skiba et. al., 2002). Evidence shows black students aresuspended primarily for disruption, which is a more subjective reason, and that white studentsare suspended primarily for more objective observable offenses (Skiba, 2008). Thesediscrepancies reveal black students being punished more severely for minor infractions thanwhite students (Skiba et. al., 2002). By exploring effective classroom practices that facilitate greater engagement and thusless disciplinary actions toward black male students this study sought to identify key elementsthat teachers use in the classroom toward that end. Research showed the three D’s are theprimary reason black male students are sent out of the class and suspended at the highest ratenationally. These studies accurately described the intricacies of this phenomenon yet failed tolocate a central cause to this phenomenon. By examining this issue through Critical Race Theory (CRT), this study acknowledgesthe impact of racism in education, and sought to identify strategies to address manifestations ofinstitutional racism (disproportionality of suspension) that may provide teachers and schoolswith the tools at the classroom level to substantially reduce or eliminate the disparity of 69
  • 70. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 70suspension. Using the CRT tenet of challenging the assumption of race neutrality or the myth ofcolorblind institutions, this study identified race as a critical factor to examine in the classroom,where disproportionality of suspension is initiated with the out of class referral. Instead of further documenting how and why disproportionality occurs, this studyuncovered potential clues that point toward solutions to eliminate this problem. By identifyingteachers with successful discipline practices and examining elements in those classrooms, thisstudy looked at discipline strategies that keep students in class and revealed common disciplinepractices that accomplished this effectively. This study may serve to inform teachers who wishfor more effective classroom management of black male students. By investigating whatconstitutes effective classroom discipline practices with black male students, this study’sfindings can be used to eliminate out of class discipline referrals and increase the chances ofeliminating disproportionality of suspension of black male students in classrooms and schools. With national attention (Civil Rights and School Discipline Conference, 2010), leadingscholars have presented evidence that disproportionate suspension of black males represents adiscriminatory exclusion pattern (Losen & Skiba, 2010). Further, studies suggest this is apredictor of higher levels of academic failure and increased risk for going to prison later in life(Foster 1986; Morrison, & D’Incau, 1997; Noguera, 2003). Because black males are suspendedmore than any group, and are the most likely group to be incarcerated, being suspended fromschool has been linked to being the greatest predictor of involvement in the juvenile justicesystem, more than poverty indicators, or poor academic performance. (Public Policy ResearchInstitute, 2005). These indicators represent a higher likelihood of incarceration for black malesand connections between suspension and academic failure suggest that disproportionality poses asignificant race-based equity problem in education. 70
  • 71. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 71SUMMARY OF METHODS This study explored the ways in which effective teachers practiced effective discipline,termed in this study as the three commitments, in their classrooms. Through interviews, andextensive classroom observations, this study utilized a case study design examining twoclassroom teachers with effective, low-referring discipline practices in Oakland, CA. The twoteachers selected for this study were observed in their classrooms sixteen times and interviewedas well. These two case studies were examined and analyzed based on themes highlighted fromthe literature, then reported using key elements revealed in the observations and interviews. Byusing a case study design as a basis for the research, this study was able to explore how effectiveteachers employed discipline practices for black male students. Using CRT, the study looked atrace as a factor in classroom discipline practices. Specifically, this study examined how teacherschallenged race neutrality or colorblindness in education. This study was able to gain an understanding of how teacher discipline practices and theirvalues and beliefs about their students’ behavior impacts black male students in their classroom.This research contributes to understanding how office discipline referrals and disproportionatesuspensions of black male students can be significantly reduced or eliminated through effectivediscipline practices. Conducted in four phases, the first phase generated an intensity sample of teachers inOakland, CA. public middle schools, whom embody the theoretical principles under study.Several teachers were identified based on principal nominations of teachers who send studentsout of class far below the average. Phase two involved multiple classroom observations of thetwo teachers selected. Phase three consisted of in-depth interviews getting them to articulate theirdiscipline philosophy, practices and beliefs. Phase four involved follow-up observations and 71
  • 72. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 72interviews of the two teachers to confirm gaps in information and unclear findings as well asconfirmation from teachers of the accuracy of data captured from observations and interviewswith teachers. Observations were conducted using a protocol designed to capture teacher studentinteractions involving student behavior that was consistent with what the research highlighted asthe three D’s, which was behavior that was most frequently cited as reasons for black males to besent out of class and eventually suspended. Each teacher was observed eight times for a full classperiod, totaling over 12.5 hours of classroom observation over a 3 month span of time. Afterobservations were completed, the teachers were interviewed separately for 1 hour. Both teacherswere asked the same 8 questions and 2 additional questions that followed up on interactions ofinterest observed in the classroom. Each interview was transcribed and coded for key themes.Relying heavily on prior research categories of causes for disproportionality: institutional bias,teacher bias, and cultural mismatch, as well as two CRT tenets of ‘expansive view’ outcomesand the challenging race neutrality, three key elements emerged and were developed into a tableof significant findings with evidence from the data supporting the effective elements as well askey features of the effective elements. These elements, termed the three commitments werefound to counter the three D’s which are the top reasons for suspension of black males, and alsoaddress the primary reasons for disproportionality in the research, teacher bias, institutional biasand cultural mismatch. The result was a set of research findings that addressed the research questions directly. Itwas revealed how black males were effectively and creatively engaged in an intentional effort tokeep them engaged in the classroom, learning. Teachers beliefs and attitudes were expressed inthe interviews and data revealed how their background experiences and beliefs inform and 72
  • 73. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 73influence their classroom practice. Using the CRT lens, the findings reveal a set of practices thatthese two teachers used to effectively address disproportionality of suspension of black males atthe classroom level.SUMMARY OF FINDINGS The key findings of this study, outlined in detail in chapter 4 revealed the effectiveelements termed the three commitments, discovered in both teachers’ classroom practice as wellas their interviews. Although there was no connection between the two teachers studied, therewere similarities in the findings. They worked at different schools, came from differentbackgrounds and had significantly different educational experiences as students and asprofessional educators. They exhibited very different styles in the classroom and theirclassrooms were run differently. One teacher was a male and one was female. One openlyidentified as a male teacher of color and appeared as such. The other identified as mixed raceonly when asked and appeared as a white woman. The differences were across the board and yetthe findings were consistent for both teachers. The three commitments; the courageouscommitment, an emotional commitment, and the commitment to social justice were consistentlyrepresented by solid corresponding data in observations as well as interviews. The first commitment, the courageous commitment represents an important reframing ofdisproportionate suspension of black male students as a black male behavior problem to a teacherand institutional problem. These teachers showed that as the adult in the class, they werecourageous enough to structure and conduct their class in a way that emphasizes learning andengagement and eliminates all non-emergency, non-safety reasons for out of class referrals. Byfocusing on learning over rule compliance, teachers were able to avoid the power struggles thatare common in classrooms with black male students. The teachers demonstrated flexibility in the 73
  • 74. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 74classroom to sort and manage disruptive or challenging student behaviors in a way that keptstudents in the classroom and kept avenues for academic reengagement open. Lastly, teacherswere able to form and implement discipline policies that were student centered and designed tomeet the educational learning objectives for student success and implemented in a way thatallowed for adjustment based on student capacity. In other words, teachers provided adequatesupport to students to meet the expectations of behavior in the classroom, setting them up forsuccess, not failure. This was significant because it frames discipline as a shared responsibility.The teacher takes equal, even more responsibility for the climate and behavior in the classroom.As the architects of the lesson, these teachers didn’t see their lesson and teaching method asseparate from student behavior and how they did discipline. Discipline was seen as an integralpart of the organization and preparation of the lesson. These courageous set of practices supportthe teacher in having more responsibility in keeping black males in class and learning despitesystemic issues of race and bias demonstrated in the literature. This addresses element countersthe institutional biases that push black male students out of the class faster and more frequently.Teachers take responsibility for their students learning and reject external reasons or excuses forstudent failure. The second commitment, the emotional commitment, revealed important connectionsbetween teaching and emotional maturity. While it is reasonable and arguably unavoidable forteachers to experience a range of emotions, positive and negative in teaching, these teachers inthis study utilized a wide array of tools to manage their own emotions and redirect their students’emotional behavior. By being able to read and respond to student disruption from an emotionallens, these teachers exhibited an emotional attunement to their students and themselves. Theteachers connected a greater awareness of inequity and racism as having a real impact on their 74
  • 75. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 75students and their emotional disposition in their classroom. The teachers in this study showed invery different ways, how to respond to black male behavior in a balanced, yet real way thatproperly anticipated and framed challenging behavior in a way that redirected it in moreconstructive, learning focused behavior. This ‘commitment’ is significant because when ateacher and student gets angry, the teacher has the institutional power to suspend and the studenthas far less avenues to deal with the situation. Emotional commitment on the part of the teacherthrough emotional attunement, relationship building, and emotionally struggling with their ownpractice, supports a much more equitable approach to teaching that greatly minimizes teacherbias and cultural mismatch in the classroom. The third commitment, the commitment to social justice is a significant finding because itaddresses a key CRT tenet of challenging race neutrality, the notion that eliminating racial biasand disparate outcomes by race can be achieved by ignoring race and pretending that students arenot treated and impacted differently because of their race. The findings from this study indicatethe opposite. They indicate that teachers who keep students in class and reduce or eliminatedisproportionality of suspension through very few or zero out of class referrals of black malestudents do not do so on accident but through deliberate action that is informed by a personalhistory and awareness of inequitable practices through systemic discrimination. The teachers inthis study revealed that they not only are aware of the inequitable forces coming to bear on theirblack male students, they deliberately teach where they teach to address that inequality. Throughrace-based strategies and a deep personal commitment to the students personally and impactingthe system at large through their individual efforts, these teachers communicated a commitmentto override the oppression through their classroom teaching. Both teachers’ demonstratedexceptional skill and ability to teach in less challenging environments yet choose to teach in a 75
  • 76. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 76more difficult setting with a high concentration of black males. They did this to deflect thenegative influences that impact these students, particularly black male students by constantlyfocusing on student learning and constantly taking responsibility as teachers. These teachersformed close personal connections to the work and to the students. The influence of backgroundbeliefs, personal commitment and an explicit mission to override the oppression of black malestudent drove these two teachers to perform uncommonly well in a challenging environment.Both teachers exceed the national average lifespan of teaching in urban schools. Ron has beenteaching in high poverty schools for 11 years and Kelly entered her 4th year in a high povertyschool. This uncommon commitment and uncommon results reflect their powerful commitmentto social justice and in this way countered teacher bias and institutional bias.APPLYING THE RESEARCH Disproportionality of suspension has been occurring for over three decades and very fewefforts have significantly impacted the reduction or elimination of this disparity. Prior researchreveals that a great deal has been learned about how it occurs on multiple levels includinginstitutional level, classroom level and the level of the student. This research addressesdisproportionality at the classroom level and offers some insight about how black male studentscan be engaged effectively, rather than sent out of class and suspended. Teachers can directlyaccess these findings and reflect on their own classrooms. The findings offer a core set ofpractices that can not only inform other classroom teachers, but can possibly be applied at theinstitutional level as well. These clues to equitable teaching of black males, the threecommitments, can be used in teacher recruitment and training for new teachers, integrated into ateacher training course that examines equity, and it could be used by new teacher coaches, orBTSA coaches that are required to support beginning teachers for their first 2 years of teaching 76
  • 77. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 77in the classroom to obtain their clear teaching credential. This study could also be used by schooldistricts that have a problem with disproportionality by using the elements in concert with similarfindings around caring, relationship building and effective classroom management to developtrainings for professional development opportunities for teachers. Principals and siteadministrators can use these elements to support classroom teachers who are struggling withblack male students in their classroom. District leaders can direct energy and resources using thethree commitments on a district level to push district leaders to adopt a courageous commitmentfor these outcomes schoolwide. Districts could systemically embed socio-emotional lens throughmental health resources and counseling in schools for students as well as training for schoolleaders and teachers. Finally, districts and school boards could explicitly adopt a social justicemission and focus in district strategic plans and strategic visions. Also formalizing mechanismsof accountability for a social justice mission through voluntary resolution plans to addressdisproportionate discipline and suspension of black males on a district wide level in coordinationwith the Dept. of Education’s office of civil rights. Most significantly, this study can be used to frame disproportionality of suspension ofblack males as an adult problem, and a symptom of institutional racism, using the CRT lens ofchallenging race neutrality and using the expansive view to measure equitable systems. Byholding institutions, principals and teachers, all adults involved, as having the responsibility andthe power and capacity to eliminate disproportionality, address racism explicitly throughpractice, it can have a powerful effect on future research on the topic and ultimately inclassrooms across the country. The most powerful finding is that with just two cases, it wasdemonstrated that teachers can come from very different places and arrive at a common place ofaddressing the opportunity gap head on, explicitly supporting black male students to overcome 77
  • 78. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 78institutional and teacher bias that stem from systemic racism embedded in the educationalsystem.FUTURE DIRECTIONS This study would yield stronger more valid results if it were duplicated with a largersample size of ten or more teachers. It would also be strengthened with a control group selectionof teachers who were not necessarily identified as effective teachers but include less effectiveteachers in discipline. Additionally, this study would be significantly enhanced if students wereinterviewed about what they experience in classrooms with effective discipline practices as wellas classrooms with less effective discipline practices. This additional layer of research would provide substantial depth to the findings. A largersample would make the findings more generalizable across a broader group of teachers. Acontrol group of teachers would reveal more solid consistencies or inconsistencies with thefindings being in alignment with the research questions. For example, there may be a teacher thatsends out black male students regularly but also exhibits some of the background beliefs. Lastly,interviewing students would give insight to what students think and feel when they exhibitdisruptive or challenging behavior. It could also reveal what a particular student’s awareness isof the origins of their emotions or the core reason they are sent out of class or kept in class.Some questions might arise such as: Do they experience and articulate experiencing racismthrough discipline practices? How do they articulate what happens to them in school regardingdiscipline and suspension? The findings could be substantially extended and provide yet moreinsight into what exactly is the cause of disproportionate suspension of black males and moreimportantly what are effective interventions that can eliminate this widespread disparity inAmericas public education system. 78
  • 79. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 79 REFERENCESBanaji, M. R., Nosek, B. A., & Greenwald, A. G. (2004). No place for nostalgia in science: A response to Arkes and Tetlock. Psychological Inquiry, 15, 279-310.Cartledge, G., Tillman, L. C., & Johnson, C. T. (2001). Professional ethics within the context of student discipline and diversity. Teacher Education and Special Education, 24(1) 25-37.Christle, C., Nelson, C., and Jolivette, K. (2004). School characteristics related to the use of suspension. Education & Treatment of Children, 27(4), 509-526.Darling-Hammond, L. (1992). Reframing the school reform agenda: New paradigms must restore with local educators. School Administrator, 49(10), 22-27.Darling-Hammond, L. (1998). Teachers and teaching: Testing policy hypotheses from a national commission report. Educational Researcher, 27(1), 5–15DeShano Da Silva, C., Huguley, J. H., Kakli, Z., Rao, Radika. (2007). The opportunity gap: Achievement and inequality in education. The Harvard Educational Publishing Group, Cambridge.Dray, B. J., & Wisneski, D. (2011). Mindful Reflection as a Process for Developing Culturally Responsive Practices. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44(1), 28-36.Dunbar, C. and Villarruel, F. (2004). What a difference the community makes: Zero tolerance policy interpretation and implementation. Equity & Excellence in Education, 37(351-359)Fatt, R. (2009). Keeping youth connected. Focus on Oakland. Retrieved from, P. and Rose, J. (2007). Overrepresentation of African American students in 79
  • 80. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 80 exclusionary discipline: The role of school policy. Urban Education, 42(6), 536- 559.Fenning, P., Theodos, J., Benner, C., & Bohanon-Edmonson, H. (2004). Integrating proactive discipline practices into codes of conduct. Journal of School Violence, 3(1), 45-61.Gay, G. (2006). Connections between classroom management and culturally responsive teaching. Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 343-370).Gregory, A. & Mosely, P. M. (2004). The discipline gap: Teachers view on the over- representation of African American students in the discipline system. Equity & Excellence in Education, 37(1), 18-30.Gregory, A., Skiba, R., Noguera, P. (2010). The achievement gap and the discipline gap: Two sides of the same coin? Educational Researcher, 39(59).Haberman, M. (1991). Pedagogy of poverty versus good teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 73(4), 290–29Knaus, C. B. (2009). Shut up and listen: Applied critical race theory in the classroom. Race, Ethnicity & Education, 12(2), 133-154Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what’s it doing in a nice field like education? Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 7-24.Martinez, S. (2009). A system gone berserk: How are zero-tolerance policies really affecting schools? Preventing School Failure, 53(3), 153-158.Monroe, C. R. (2005). Understanding the discipline gap through a cultural lens: 80
  • 81. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 81 Implications for the education of African American students. Intercultural Education, 16, 317- 330.Noddings, N. & Shore, P. (1984) Awakening the Inner Eye: Intuition in education (New York, Teachers College Press)Noguera, P. (2003). Schools, prisons and social implications of punishment: Rethinking disciplinary practices. Motion Magazine.Public Policy Research Institute, Study of Minority Overrepresentation in the Texas Juvenile Justice System Final Report (2005)Raible, J., & Irizarry, J. G. (2010). Redirecting the teachers gaze: Teacher education, youth surveillance and the school-to-prison pipeline. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 26(5), 1196-1203.Sandomierski, T., (2011), "Disciplinary Outcomes by Race and Gender in Schools Implementing Positive Behavior Support: Does Fidelity of Implementation Reduce Disproportionality?" Theses and Dissertations. University of South Florida. Paper 3329.Solorzano, D. G. (1997). Images and Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Racial Stereotyping, and Teacher Education. Teacher Education Quarterly, 24(3), 5-19.Skiba, R., Michael, R., Nardo, A., Peterson, R. (2002). The color of discipline: Sources of racial and gender disproportionality in school punishment. The Urban Review 34(4).Skiba, R., and Peterson, R. (1999). The dark side of zero-tolerance: Can punishment lead to safe schools? Phi Delta Kappa, 80, 372–376.Skiba, R. J. (2000). Zero-tolerance, zero evidence: An analysis of school discipline practice. Bloomington: Indiana University Education Policy Center. Retrieved from 81
  • 82. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 82UCLA Civil Rights Project (2010). Study finds big racial gap in suspensions of middle school students. Retrieved from middle-school-studentsWu, S. C., Pink, W. T., Crain, R. L., & Moles, O. (1982). Student suspension: A critical reappraisal. The Urban Review, 14 (4), 245-303 82
  • 83. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 83 83
  • 84. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments APPENDICESAPPENDIX A: Observation Protocol Student Action & code Teacher Response Comments D1- disruptive C- challenging R- redirect S- Prob. solve D2- defiant O- off task T- threat N- No action D3- disrespect BM- Black male C- conseq. D-defer action 1 D1- BF asks if she can move her R- grants permission, asks Didn’t stop teaching but seat why? Then says I want to acknowledged her check in with you later frustration and his intent to discuss it with her later 2 D1- BM asks if he can move R- says fine “you’re the Again, didn’t miss a beat closer one who sat in the back” with lecture 3 D1- BF begins sneezing P- tells student to go get Showed concern and class uncontrollably some water didn’t question the grant 4 D3- BM keeps writing when told R- verbally says “people Students are task oriented to stop taking notes for a second are still writing” and and eager to get all info convers the slide so they being presented- good can’t keep writing problem to have in class 5 D1- IF get’s up to throw N- doesn’t stop teaching, Must not be a procedure. something away student sits back down and Student didn’t distract get’s back to work learningAPPENDIX B: Interview Protocol QuestionnaireGeneral Questions:RQ1: What are your discipline procedures?RQ1: What are your behavior expectations in class?RQ1: How do you do discipline in your class?RQ2: What students are your most challenging students?RQ2: What do you think about the black male discipline gap? What causes it?RQ2: Why do you think that?RQ2: What do you believe you can do to address it?What do you consider disrespectful behavior? And how do you respond?Follow Up Questions:
  • 85. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 851 & 2. What is your seating policy? When the student asked to move, what were yourconsiderations?3. What accommodations do you make for students? What is your policy regarding physicalneeds (allergies, bathroom, etc.?4. I noticed you are in touch with students activity at all times. What is your thinking behindmanaging the class this way?5. What is your policy around movement around the classroom?6 & 7. How do you balance allowances with being consistent?8. What do you consider defiant behavior? And how do you respond?9. What do you consider disruptive behavior? And how do you respond?APPENDIX C: Key TermsKey Terms Below are a list of terms in the research questions and operational definitions for them.a. Disproportionality in this paper means- Overrepresentation of black males in out of schoolsuspension ratio (total number of suspensions of black males over total number of black malestudents) versus White male out of school suspension ratio. This is caused by inequitable andunfair treatment on a systemic basis according to race and gender (black & male) and not anoverrepresentation of black males exhibiting behavior that warrants suspension (Skiba, 2002).b. Critical Race Theory in Education- CRT begins with the notion that racism is normal inAmerican society. Since schooling in the US puports to prepare citizens, CRT examines theintersection of citizenship and race. (Ladson-Billings, 1998).c. Effective Teachers- These are teachers who are respected by their principals, students andfamilies and effective at teaching their subject matter. According to nominating principals,effective teachers have not sent students out of class at all this school year (Ladson-Billings,1998; Darling-Hammond, 1998). 85
  • 86. RUNNING HEAD: The Three Commitments 86d. Effective Discipline- Discipline strategy that successfully reengages all students, particularlyblack males in learning and almost never involves punishment, referrals, or other punitivemeasures. This approach to discipline is not colorblind and recognizes the inequitablecircumstances of underserved students and black male students in education. (Haberman, 1991)e. Discipline Strategies- Deliberate practices the teacher uses to address off task behavior,disruptive behavior, or challenging behavior in an effort to reengage students in learning.(Haberman, 1991)f. Effective Relationships- Purposeful practices that bond the teacher with students appropriatelyenabling the teacher to support each student to realize high academic expectations set by theteacher. (Nell Noddings, 1984) 86