Research points to teachers’ racial bias in the classroom as a root cause of the disproportionate rates of disciplinary referrals and out of school suspensions for Black students. But school-wide discipline programs alone cannot fully address the racial discipline gap because they do not help teachers overcome racially biased decision making. In this study, Carter Andrews and colleagues will evaluate whether adding a teacher racial knowledge and awareness component to a popular discipline reform initiative, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, reduces the Black-White gap in referrals and suspensions. The new intervention component aims to raise teachers’ racial consciousness and empathy for Black students while also developing teachers’ capacity to use data to see and understand disciplinary trends in their school. The team will use a wait list experimental design with 40 elementary schools to test the impact of the racial knowledge and awareness component on referral and suspension rates. Qualitative case studies of eight schools, randomly selected from the treatment and control groups, will explore decision making practices and educators’ growth in empathy and critical race consciousness. The team plans to make all intervention materials freely available and will conduct outreach to school district and other educational leaders to raise awareness about the intervention.
Can an intervention that cultivates elementary school teachers’ critical race consciousness and empathy for Black students reduce the racial discipline gap?