Educational Leadership


Negotiating the Contested Terrain of Equity-Focused Change Efforts in Schools: Critical Race Theory as a Leadership Tool for Creating More Equitable Schools

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Educational leaders attempting to enact equity-focused change in their schools are frequently met with fierce opposition by politically powerful parents whose children are well served by the status quo. The purpose of this conceptual article is to: (a) explore the utility of Critical Race Theory as a framework for helping K-12 school leaders anticipate and make sense of resistance to change efforts aimed at creating greater educational equity for underserved students, and (b) suggest ways that school leaders can more effectively engage in equity reforms in their schools. To do this, we examine a highly contested public debate over a recent equity-focused change effort at Berkeley High School (BHS)—a large, racially and socioeconomically diverse public school in Northern California. Using the events at BHS as an example, we argue that change efforts could be undertaken more effectively by: (a) identifying and addressing the underlying property interests up front, (b) anticipating how majoritarian narratives rooted in “colorblindness” and deficit thinking would be employed as a means for obscuring and maintaining unequal access to scarce resources, and (c) focusing on specific areas of interest convergence.