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Seeing What They Want to See: Racism and Leadership Development in Urban Schools

Abstract

This critical race theory (CRT)-framed qualitative study (n = 9) examined racism within a context of urban teacher leadership development. A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with three White principals, who each identified one White and one African American teacher as “most promising” leadership potential. These teachers were interviewed, leading to analysis of principal support and teacher perceptions of being supported. The findings clarify principals who adopted a language of equity, while simultaneously arguing that their White teachers were more effective (based erroneously on the belief that the White teachers’ students had higher test scores). The African American teachers, on the other hand, were framed as experts in culturally responsive approaches, given increased teaching responsibilities, and not provided similar leadership opportunities. This difference in opportunities and expectations had lasting impacts on the African American teachers, who internalized the lack of resources and negative messages they received from their principals. The paper concludes with CRT implications for inclusive leadership development processes.

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Correspondence to Christopher B. Knaus.

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Knaus, C.B. Seeing What They Want to See: Racism and Leadership Development in Urban Schools. Urban Rev 46, 420–444 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-014-0299-0

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Keywords

  • Urban schools
  • Principals
  • Mentorship
  • Teacher leadership
  • Racism