UHCL prof presents anti-racism research in international conference: 'Look at the data, not the politics'
Learning about racism and its effects is essential for teaching anti-racism in the classroom. When educators are equipped knowledge about the ways race and racism have impacted education, their own cultural humility is strengthened and their awareness of inclusion-related issues is raised.
Racial equity in education is Jennifer Grace’s area of research expertise. “I have learned that educational leaders do not have conversations about anti-racism in their preparation programs, and I look back and think how much better I could have been as a school leader if I had learned more about this,” she said.
Grace, an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at University of Houston-Clear Lake, will be among the speakers presenting at the Educational Leaders Without Borders conference in May in Athens, Greece. Her presentation is based on her article, “Not Looking to Shame, Blame or Horrify: Texas Educational Leaders Reflect on Employing Anti-Racism in Everyday School Leadership,” published in the February issue of the International Journal for Qualitative Studies in Education.
Grace said the article referenced in the upcoming conference was one of several she had published on the topic. “I am so proud to be presenting with educational leaders from all over the world in Athens,” she said. “The presenters are from five continents and half the attendees are not from the United States. We will talk about putting in action steps and dismantling a long and historic system of oppression. It’s a greater purpose than myself.”
She added that the title of the article reflected her belief that blaming or shaming others was not the objective of her goal as an educator. “It’s just about realizing the things we didn’t know and things we could have done differently,” she said.
Her research, she said, is not necessarily focused on ways to teach ethics lessons to children. “Teaching anti-racism is less about individual dispositions and more about outcomes,” she explained. “There are still very persistent disparities in educational achievement outcomes, particularly with Black and Latino students. It’s more about learning how our policies perpetuate these disparities, looking at them differently, and finding ways to increase access and opportunities for all students to realize their full potential.”
Grace said her work studying anti-racism was rooted in her previous research, which explored the school-to-prison pipeline that exists among Black young men who have been expelled from school. “This is a natural progression from that work,” she said. “I spoke to many of those young men and really listened to their experiences. I learned about their perception of the lack of access to quality services, policies that are unjust, and began connecting it to how educational leaders navigate issues of race and racial disparities.”
As the director of UH-Clear Lake’s Master of Science in Educational Management program, Grace said that her students, most of whom are actively employed as educators, have reacted positively to the opportunity to reflect on their own practices.
“I also teach a class called Race, Gender and Ability in Education to doctoral students,” she said. “We talk about removing the political element of the conversation and just think about what the research tells us. Let’s look at the data, not the politics, and then take a look at ourselves. It’s very important to have these conversations with up-and-coming and current leaders in education.”
For more information about UHCL’s College of Education degree programs, go online.