‘What Have You Done to Be More Anti-Racist?’: School Districts Screen Potential Teachers for ‘Cultural Competency’

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Schools across the country are screening potential teachers for their “cultural competency” asking candidates “what they’ve done personally or professionally to be more anti-racist,” according to Education Week.

“Ultimately, when we’re looking for people to serve our students, my key questions are: Can you teach these students, even if they don’t look like you?” Karen Rice-Harris, chair of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators’ diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, said.

Education Week reported that “school districts are increasingly asking teacher-candidates questions about cultural competency, race, and equity during the application and interview process.” Although it is “slow work,” Rice-Harris says teacher prospects should be able to adequately answer “how they honor the diversity of their students in their instruction and curriculum.”

As Breitbart News has reported, given the emergence of critical race theory as a major political issue, institutions that wish to implement it may surreptitiously refer to it by other means, or camouflage it behind phrases like “culturally responsive teaching” — which uses the same CRT acronym — “culturally competent,” “social emotional learning,” “anti-racist,” and “equity.”

Lauren Dachille, founder and CEO of teacher hiring software company Nimble, said school systems have been asking “cultural competency” questions for “at least the last five to 10 years,” says Education Week.

“But after the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the nation last year,” writes Education Week of Dachille, “districts seem to be putting even more of a focus on how applicants think and talk about race in the classroom.”

Now that Americans have become “a little more aware of the concept of anti-racism and maybe a little more woke as a culture,” Dachille says, racial questions “might be more explicit.”

While Dachille contends that “many districts will also dig into whether candidates believe that all students have the capacity to learn and thrive academically,” as Breitbart News has reported, one core belief of critical race theorists is that certain races are incapable of competing in advanced academic courses, leading to the discontinuation of such courses in areas controlled by adherents to the ideology.

Dachille’s Nimble is working on “leverag[ing] artificial intelligence to help districts gauge candidates’ cultural competence by their answers during the interview process and on their application,” according to Education Week.

“Districts often want their teachers to believe that all students, regardless of their background, can learn at high levels,” Dachille said, but implied one predictive factor was the level to which a teacher believes learning is achieved in school versus at home.

Principal of Boston’s Shaw Elementary School Ashley Davis says “we can tell” when candidates are simply able to talk about anti-racism, and when they are actual practitioners of the ideology. “Are you just talking language or are you able to connect your language with what you actually do?” she said.

Indianapolis’s school district director of talent acquisition Alex Moseman said of their hiring practices that “We want hiring managers to have a baseline about where a candidate is starting from in terms of [their] mindset about race … and we want to be clear from the front end about our values as an organization.”

“Sometimes, candidates will talk about equity and justice but not talk about race,” Moseman continued. “Sometimes, they’re not comfortable yet having a specific conversation about race in the classroom. That’s fine—that’s where [they] can grow as an employee.”

As Breitbart News reported, Tony Kinnett, an Indianapolis, Indiana, school administrator who in early November blew the whistle on critical race theory being taught in his district said the curriculum “suggests to all of our students who aren’t black or brown that they are responsible for centuries of horrible oppression that the United States has built.”

“Every single class at Indianapolis Public Schools is founded on two strategic priorities,” he explained. “One is the official academic priority that we’re all supposed to encourage, and the second is the racial equity priority, which sounds really great, but it actually pits our students against each other based on color.”

Education Week reports districts that employ these interview tactics believe they contribute to teacher retention rates, though “can’t explicitly connect that progress with the district’s interview process,”

Surveys of teachers of color who left the teaching profession show they “do so in part because they’ve experienced microaggressions and racist stereotypes from their colleagues.” According to Sharif El-Mekki, the founder and CEO of Center for Black Educator Development, ” teachers of color want to work in a school system where inequities in education are openly addressed and educators are asked to examine their own biases.”

El-Mekki, who was also a principal at a Philadelphia charter school, said during his interview process, he would ask candidates if they had ever worked for a black administrator before. He also sought personnel “who had both the courage to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for the success of students of color and the humility to interrogate their own mindsets about race,” according to Education Week.

A teacher candidate once pushed back on El-Mekki’s questioning, he told Education Week, saying she did not think it appropriate to talk about race. “No,” El-Mekki apparently responded, “this is natural conversation for us—talking about race, class, and privilege.”

Addressing the current teacher shortage affecting schools across the country, El-Mekki said it is sometimes hard to weigh the importance of a given candidate’s view on the prominence of race in their everyday life and filling a vacancy.

“We’re struggling, people are resigning—I don’t know if I want to ask about [applicants’] anti-racist approach, we’ve got a vacancy [to fill],” he said, continuing, “And that, to me, is scary.”

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.


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