We are Monique Liston, Ph.D. and Leah Peoples, Ph.D., and we are evaluators that work in Urban Education. We have a two part blog post dedicated to breaking down the debts owed to historically marginalized people.
The conversations on the “achievement gap” permeate critical dialogues about race in the field of education. This discourse limits our collective opportunity to address how internalized, institutional, ideological and interpersonal oppression have severed our deepest connections to one another — our ability to dignify each other as human beings. Our racialized identities marginalize us from one another, yet our pride – particularly within the MIE – allows us to see marginalization as an opportunity for resistance. Our goal is to liberate us all from how race, class, gender, and sexuality oppression stifles us, but we have to be in the position to share what we have learned to make our experiences a process of healing and restoration. Educators need to witness and examine this process as they develop their capacity to teach the next generation. In our role as evaluators, we have the opportunity to disrupt the pervasive and persistent nature of oppression through evaluation design, practice, analysis, and presentation. Here are two lessons learned and one hot tip (shared in Part 2) that have helped us to do this urban educational contexts.
- Challenging achievement gap discourse. Gloria Ladson Billings (2006) gave us language to challenge achievement gap discourses. Achievement gap discourses problematize brown and black children as lacking or deficient before addressing the generational harm that racist, classist, sexist and homophobic institutions have caused. Ladson-Billings puts forth the “educational debt” as an opportunity for us to focus on what the institutions owe to children color as opposed to how children of color are unable to cope with the system. Evaluators have the power to change the dialogue in all aspects of the evaluation process.
- Recognizing quality education as a debt owed to marginalized and historically oppressed communities. With Ladson-Billings guidance, as individuals within the system we are constantly attempting to pay down a debt owed. The urgency, of which Martin Luther King, Jr. is famous for identifying is critical for educators to understand and apply within their classrooms, school buildings, and administrative districts. The system created a debt and our labor of love, time, and skill must serve as payment on that debt. Each moment in which we do not provide love, time, and skill that addresses the needs of those harmed by the system we are compounding interest — causing the debt to increase and preventing the young people owed from ever getting their justice — a balance paid in full. With this in mind, evaluators in urban education have an inherent goal with every evaluation. To what extent does this program, initiative, or opportunity pay down the debt owed to children of color?
Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding achievement in U.S. schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3–12.
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