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Education with Racial Justice

Kathryn Schiller and Alex Pieterse will design and implement early career mentoring programs to build knowledge on racial justice issues, beginning with work in the Troy, Schenectady and Kingston school districts.

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 4, 2017) — School of Education (SOE) faculty will be at the forefront of a new three-year project that will impart to early career educators a deeper understanding of racial justice principles and the impact that racial justice issues have upon students, their fellow educators and their communities. The teachers would ultimately achieve excellence in promoting social justice along with academic success for their students.

The National Education Association (NEA) grant, administered through New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), will accomplish its goals through redesigning and implementing early career mentoring programs in the Troy, Schenectady and Kingston school districts. This redesign will be facilitated by SOE associate professors Kathryn Schiller of Educational Policy & Leadership and Alex Pieterse of Educational & Counseling Psychology, who together will head a development, evaluation, and research team for the project.

Year one of the program, to be launched over the next few months, will create a dialogue to build knowledge on racial justice issues and infuse this knowledge into the redesign of existing support programs. “We will be collecting initial information from teachers and mentors this spring to establish a baseline,” said Schiller, an expert in inequity and social justice, evaluation, school improvement, and educator preparation.

The duo will create questionnaires and interview protocols for assessing teacher and mentor competencies, educator attitudes toward racial justice and inclusiveness of school cultures, and at the end of the year provide recommendations from the assessments of needs around social and racial justice based on their data. Finalized plans with the districts, created in concert with NYSUT officials, are tentatively scheduled for launch in May.

Identified issues of inequity and injustice within each school or community will be addressed in year two and incorporated into the redesign of mentoring programs. Year three will include a concerted effort to share the lessons learned from the pilot programs within the school districts through workshops led by Pieterse. Findings and observations from the districts, NYSUT staff and higher education partners will be presented at local, state and national conferences.

The project is supported by a grant of $321,600 from the NEA, the largest professional interest group in the United States, which represents public school teachers and professional teachers and staff at colleges and universities, along with college students preparing to become teachers. UAlbany will receive half of that funding.

Even after the three years, the UAlbany faculty members and NYSUT officials will track changes from their baseline information to document progress toward the development of effective teachers who promote social justice and academic success for all students.

“Racial disparities in educational outcomes are an important area of intervention,” said Pieterse, an expert in psychosocial outcomes associated with the experience of racism, and antiracism advocacy. He adds “This project seeks to raise awareness of how race impacts educational practices and to facilitate a greater awareness of race-related bias.”

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