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Step 2 – Set Expectations for the Team

Once the team is assembled, it is important to establish clear expectations for the work of the team. Collectively, the team should come to an agreement around the goals and expectations associated with the work of the team. The team should also establish clear rules and norms when meeting in person and when working together outside of meeting times. Conversations around race can be very contentious and people can become very passionate when it comes to the insidious impacts of every day racism. We want people to be passionate about eradicating racism in their schools and communities but we also have to remember people are entering the conversation with diverse experiences and perspectives. We therefore suggest a number of factors to consider as you begin the process of setting team expectations.

Guiding Questions

  • 1. What is the reason for conducting a policy analysis?
  • 2. What is the goal of the process?
  • 3. Has the team collectively agreed on rules and norms?
  • 4. If one or two people do not agree with the rules and norms, how will you as the leader of the team listen to their concerns, make sure they feel listened to despite not being part of the majority, and make sure a compromise is reached among the team members?
  • 5. How will you navigate potentially needing to change team expectations as the work progresses and ideas or goals shift?
  • 6. How will you make sure team meetings provide a space where everyone feels valued and part of the conversation?
  • 7. How will you make sure team meetings provide a space for consistent personal and group reflection on the work of the team, particularly when it comes to race?

Key Recommendations

  • • Ask every team member to write a racial autobiography prior to the first team meeting and share these with the group. Racial autobiographies can assist in team members developing a greater racial awareness, gain more insight into their colleagues’ racial experiences, and cultivate anti-racist mindsets that may then lead to anti-racist practices (Gooden & O’Doherty, 2015).
  • • Use Leonardo and Porter’s (2010) article, “Pedagogy of fear: Toward a Fanonian theory of ‘safety’ in race dialogue,” which addresses “the myth of safety in race dialogue for people of color” as a starting point on how to engage in cross-racial dialogues as a team and better comprehend why people of color may not necessarily feel “safe” in public race discussions. Often facilitators of racial dialogues work to establish a “safe” space for participants to engage in these discussions, but according to Leonardo and Porter creating “safety” or “safe spaces” is a “misnomer” that in reality is designed to make white people feel safe and comfortable in these discussions. However, creating this safety ultimately is “oppressive” to people of color as well as color-evasive because it protects white people from participating in racial dialogue so that they don’t have to “feel racist” (p. 147).
  • • Engage in consistent reflections about race with the team, particularly in terms of how the policy under analysis may contribute to racial inequities.
  • • Welcome discomfort, suspend judgement, stay engaged, and expect challenges throughout the process (Kyser et al., 2016).

Step 3 – Understand the Sociopolitical and Racial Context of the District and Community

Context matters and is critical to understanding how policy and practice are shaped and implemented. Understanding the racial context of the district and community, including how it may have changed over time, the students being served, and how the sociopolitical context has played a role in addressing the needs of the district and community, both historically and contemporarily, can help to frame a well-informed and comprehensive policy agenda (Green, 2017). Politics and those with key political roles can affect the durability of policies, how and who is making decisions around the policies, and why such decisions are made (Diem, 2012). We therefore suggest considering a number of different items related to the sociopolitical and racial contexts of your district and community as you engage in your policy analysis processes.

Guiding Questions

  • 1. What is the demographic make-up of your school and community?
  • 2. How has the demographic make-up of your school and community changed over time?
  • 3. What is the political context of your school and community?
  • 4. W’hat are the policy interests of your school board?
  • 5. How has racial equity and anti-racism been addressed in school and district policy?
  • 6. W’hat are the policy interests of your city council and mayor? W’hat does the education policy agenda include for the city? How is racial equity and anti-racism addressed in the city in regards to education and schooling?

Key Recommendations

  • • Identify school districts and communities that have engaged in racial equity work specific to the policy you are currently examining. Determine the successes and challenges they experienced during the process as well as lessons learned.
  • • Assemble historical documents from your school, district, and local community to better understand how policy has changed over time, who the key players have been in the process, and what positions have been taken for or against a policy issue.
  • • Collect demographic data on your school district and community from such databases as the U.S. Census, state departments of education, and the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • • Identify where racial equity work is occurring in your community.
  • • Research education policy agendas for your local representatives, city council members, and mayor.
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