The encroachment of racial politics into all areas of education will now affect who gets hired and promoted in Jefferson County Schools in Kentucky. With the use of a new “Equity Screening Tool” developed by the JCPS Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department (DEP), prospective principals will have to prove themselves sufficiently progressive before getting a job.
A presentation recently given by “Racial Equity Expert” Dwan Williams of the DEP explains the process. The equity screener will be used as part of the candidate’s credentials in the same way as a resume, letters of recommendation, and other application materials.
According to documents obtained by Chalkboard Review, “scorers from Diversity, Equity, and Poverty, Human Resources, and School support will use this tool to assist in discerning if a candidate is suited to lead in Jefferson County Public Schools.” Euphonious in its language, this amounts to little more than a political litmus test for district leadership.
Among other troubling factors, the equity screener explicitly rejects the concept of colorblindness – instead promoting one race over another, a practice akin to old school conceptions of racism. The screener doesn’t measure a potential hire’s opposition to oppression, but rather their adherence to the dogmas of Kendian era so-called ‘anti-racism.’
So, what else is the screener meant to capture? In a slide titled “Filtering for Equity,” we find out exactly that. In order to show “evidence addressing racial equity in current role,” there are a series of questions required to be asked of a candidate.
“What trainings has the candidate attended with regard to cultural competence?” the first question asks. We recently reported on a handful of such trainings: anti-racist math initiatives, early childhood LGBTQ+ instruction for preschool teachers, and a lecture on critical race and whiteness theories. Any potential candidate need not worry though, as it is pointed out the Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Department offers more than 300 hours of professional development.
Another question asks, “What proven and positive impact has the candidate had on improving racial equity in the school?” Though the suggestion for meeting this qualification refers to the phrase “data driven” and “artifacts,” one has to wonder how something like this could be proven to the satisfaction of an objective observer.
One of the ways potential hires are able to prove themselves having a positive impact on racial equity, according to the screener, is by attending workshops given by the same body which has developed the screener itself. In other words, in an obvious conflict of interest, the body which provides equity and diversity workshops stands to gain from the use of this screener in at least two ways: first, by having their tool implemented in the more than 150 schools in the county, and second by pushing people to attend the seminars which they put on for teachers. From one vantage point, this screener can be seen as nothing more than a jobs program for diversity specialists.
Litmus tests, such as this one, are not new to the world of education. Notably, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) controversially listed “social justice” as a necessary disposition for any prospective teacher. Steve Blach, the former president of the National Association of Scholars, noted that this “concept is so variable in meaning as necessarily to subject students to the ideological caprices of instructors and programs.” And even though it’s no longer a national standard, “”Many teacher-training programs at public institutions continue to use ‘social justice’ in their student-evaluation protocols.”
In reality, this push for anti-racist policies extends far beyond the hiring of principals. A racial equity analysis tool will be used when “developing recommendations for staffing, budget allocations, developing curriculum, and adopting alternative discipline practices.” Similarly, a Racial Reflection Guide, inspired by the work of Geneva Gay, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Zaretta Hammond, encourages principals to “recruit, retain, and only hire teachers with a clear passion and understanding of who they are and why Racial Equity is the cornerstone to public school success.”
In addition to the stated goals of promoting racial equity, the racial equity policy requires teachers to be screened for implicit biases in their practice, and to be trained in social emotional learning curriculum and restorative justice practices – the latter has a track record of demonstrably worsening behavior and academic achievement in schools. The policy represents a grab-bag in progressive ideological practices which have taken over public education in much of the country.
Ceding this much authority to a group of ideologically motivated actors in the hiring and monitoring of candidates, as well as the practices in the classroom of every teacher in the district, is, frankly, insane. In a state where 84% (!) of African American 4th graders are reading at a basic or below basic level, that this school would focus on ideological posturing over instructional and managerial excellence makes one wonder what the priorities of school officials in Kentucky really are. For public education to regain the respect it has lost among so many, a return to academics, and a turn away from ideology, is sorely needed.