Kim Gibbons
Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI)

On behalf of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI), welcome back to the start of another school year!  Whether you are just beginning your career as a school administrator or are a seasoned veteran, the start of a new school year is always an exciting time filled with new opportunities and challenges.  For those of you who are not familiar with CAREI, we are a research center that serves as the link between research and practice in Minnesota schools PreK-16 and other agencies interested in applied educational research.   For over 30 years, CAREI has brought together university researchers and school practitioners to share findings, discuss current issues, and identify solutions.  Our vision is to be the premier network hub that builds educators’ data-based decision-making capacity through high-quality technical assistance, professional learning, and program evaluation in education.  CAREI partners with rural, suburban, and urban districts of all sizes. We work on a variety of projects that address teaching and learning issues from Pre-K through college. We also have an option for districts to join the “CAREI Assembly.”  CAREI Assembly membership is one of the best ways that a school district can stay connected to the emerging knowledge about educational policy and practice.  Please let me know if you would like more information on becoming a CAREI Assembly Member at

Each school year we publish a short  electronic newsletter each month called the CAREI Research Watch. In it, we summarize current research in education that we believe can inform the practice of district, school, and teacher leaders.  Last year, 54 school districts were members of the CAREI Assembly and received these newsletters monthly. Our April 2019 special issue focused on Culturally Responsive Leadership in Education.  Keep reading for summaries of Five “Must-Reads”  from this issue.

Must-Read One: Implementing an Equity Literacy Framework in Schools
Gorski & Swalwell (2015)

This article helps leaders look inward at their own biases. This article highlights the importance of implementing a framework centered on equity, in order to create environments which purposefully address issues such as racism, homophobia, sexism, and economic inequality in schools. The authors identify four specific abilities which educators and students alike develop through an Equity Literacy framework:

  1. Recognize forms of bias, discrimination, and inequity, even when subtle.
  2. Respond to bias, discrimination, and inequity in a thoughtful and equitable manner.
  3. Redress bias, discrimination, and inequity by responding to both interpersonal bias and also systemic and social change.
  4. Cultivate and sustain bias-free and discrimination-free communities including through an understanding that everyone in civil society has a basic responsibility recognize, respond to, and redress inequity.

This general framework is applied to the school settings through five guiding principles for an equity literacy curriculum.

  1. Equity literacy is important in every subject area.
  2. The most effective equity literacy approach is integrative and interdisciplinary.
  3. Students of all ages are primed for equity literacy.
  4. Students from all backgrounds need equity literacy.
  5. Teaching for equity literacy is a political act – but not more so than not teaching for equity literacy.

Read more about each of these principles and the authors’ experiences in school-based focus groups which highlight the need for an equity literacy framework in the full article.

Must-Read Two: Culturally Responsive Leadership – An Introduction
Khalifa (2018)

Enjoy a good biography? Learn about Joe, a legendary culturally responsive school leader. This freely available introduction to Dr. Muhammad Khalifa’s book Culturally Responsive School Leadership summarizes his ethnographic research in Davistown, a community near Detroit, Michigan. Conclusions of his research are explored in more detail in his book, and are highlighted here.

  1. Culturally self-reflective leaders can engage in reflection on their personal and organizational roles in a way that provides space for students and families to view their leaders as fair and reduce suspicion between some minoritized students and the school.
  2. School climate can be changed in ways that foster a sense of belonging for minoritized students.
  3. In conjunction with this change in climate and feelings of belonging, student identities associated with minoritized communities can be explicitly accepted and honored.
  4. School leaders can promote culturally responsive curriculum and instruction in ways that promote connections between curriculum and students’ lives and facilitate engagement with curricular content.

This introduction also summarizes key contextual and historical factors of oppression and their impact on school and community underdevelopment. The role of school leaders in calling attention to the enactment of oppression in an ever-changing way and on a variety of characteristics including racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and national lines is explored. Dr. Khalifa challenges our views on how families can engage with the school and to resist the harmful school-centric leadership role adopted by most principals. He proposes a model of school leadership which centers on community leadership and the culturally responsive behaviors that school leaders can use to resist oppression in school environments, engage the communities they serve, and improve the lives and educational experiences of minoritized children. Access the introduction chapter here or purchase the book from Harvard Education Press and other book sellers.

Must-Read Three: Implementation of Best Practices for Transition Planning with Students Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Youth with Disabilities and their Families
Gothberg, Greene, & Kohler (2018)

In general, post-school outcomes are poor for students with disabilities.  However, for students with disabilities who come from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds, the outcomes are even more discouraging.   This study reviewed research identifying 11 research-based practices for promoting the active involvement of youth and their families from CLD backgrounds during the transition planning process. These practices are broadly categorized as:

  1. Use culturally responsive communication with families.
  2. Demonstrate cultural reciprocity with families when planning transition services.
  3. Utilize person-family centered approaches.
  4. Provide cultural competence training to school personnel.
  5. Provide transition training to parents on topics including special education law, parent rights and responsibilities, and available special education services.

In a survey administered to school staff from interdisciplinary transition teams from 90 school districts over five years, the results indicated that none of these five best practices were consistently implemented. In most school districts, staff focused on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) compliance with little to no consideration of the specific needs of students and families who were CLD. Additionally, no training was provided to staff or families regarding the specific needs of this student population. The authors identified this as an area for state Departments of Education and local school districts to improve the training and support provided to teams focused on transition planning to address this research-to-practice gap.

Must-Read Four: Low-Cost Strategy for Addressing Discipline Disparities for Black Male Students
Cook, Duong, McIntosh, Fiat, Larson, Pullmann, & McGinnis, (2018)

The school to prison pipeline is criminal – but these researchers are on the case! Exclusionary discipline continues to be a common practice in schools and disparities exist with students of color, especially Black males, receiving exclusionary discipline at the highest rates. This study examined the efficacy of a low-cost strategy for addressing malleable root causes of discipline disparities for Black male students. The GREET-STOP-PROMPT (GSP) approach used (a) proactive classroom management strategies, (b) a self-regulation technique for teachers to mitigate the impact of biases when responding to problem behavior, and (c) reactive strategies to increase empathic, consistent, and appropriate responses.

  1. GREET: Teachers were provided specific evidence-based classroom management techniques to increase their knowledge, skills, and confidence. These included Greeting students positively at the door; Reinforcing positive behavior with frequent, specific, contingent feedback; Establishing and cueing behavioral expectations; Engaging students by increasing opportunities to respond; and Taking time to provide wise feedback by voicing high expectations and belief in students.
  2. STOP: Teachers were trained to self-regulate their behavior through a process of Stopping any immediate reaction, Taking a breath to regulate, Observing the knee-jerk reaction, and Proceeding positively by identifying a course of action and doing what is most effective.
  3. PROMPT: Teachers practiced progressive methods for responding to perceived or actual problem behavior by providing Proximity to correct behavior; Redirecting students to get back on track; Ongoing Monitoring and reinforcement of peers for social learning; Private prompting; and Teaching through a structured empathy statement, labeling inappropriate and appropriate behavior, outlining choices, warning of consequences, giving think time, and checking back in with the student.

This study tested this strategy with three schools that were under Federal and State oversight due to racial disproportionality with exclusionary discipline. In all three schools, Black male students were more than 2.5 times more likely than other students to be referred to the office for behavior problems. Teachers were trained on the intervention during two 3-hour sessions. Teachers also received ongoing coaching and attended problem-solving meetings.

Decreasing trend and level changes were observed in the three schools with the implementation of the GSP intervention, indicating that the intervention was effective in decreasing the discrepancy in office discipline referrals (ODRs) per week between Black male students and all other students. In all three schools, Black male students continued to be more likely to receive  ODRs than other groups. However, the overall number of ODRs at all schools decreased with the implementation of GSP and the likelihood of Black male students receiving ODRs was reduced by two-thirds. Additionally, teachers reported that GSP was feasible and acceptable, indicating that this could be a sustainable practice for schools to implement.

Must-Read Five: The Principal’s Guide to Building Culturally Responsive Schools
The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

This guide for school leaders is organized by action, with each including a rationale, specific recommendations, and an extensive list of resources and tools. The following actions are identified:

  1. Engage in Culturally Responsive Leadership: Building leaders must be willing to engage in critical self-reflection and understand their own multiple identities.
  2. Diversify Student and Adult Capacity: Building leaders facilitate student and adult leadership and ownership of school change. Leaders are committed to identifying and interrupting policies and practices which perpetuate unequal outcomes.
  3. Utilizing Assets To Ensure Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning: Teachers and staff may need coaching on implementing effective culturally responsive teaching. Leading that effort is the role of the principal. Culturally responsive instruction does not mean that students of different races should be taught in different ways. Rather, it is a focus on incorporating aspects of students’ lives into the curriculum to make it more relatable across cultures.
  4. Providing Diverse Opportunities for All Students: Building leaders can facilitate an inclusive environment which creates a safe space and appreciation for diversity.

Download the full guide from the NAESP website.

Additional Resources

Disparities in Rates of Chronic Absenteeism
The Hamilton Project created this interactive data map showing rates of chronic absenteeism by state and school district. You can also select “Student Characteristics” to see how students are disproportionately affected by chronic absenteeism based on characteristics of ethnicity and special education status.

Disparities in OSS Rates
This interactive data map from the Department of Education demonstrates out of school suspension (OSS) rates by state and district. The interactive map allows filtering for Black male and Black female students. Additional maps for Hispanic, Native American, and students with disabilities are available here.

Income Mobility and Geographic Disparities
The US Census Bureau and researchers from Harvard University and Brown University have released data looking at adult outcomes of earnings distributions and incarceration rates based on the neighborhood in which children are born. Read the executive summary of their research and explore the data map.

School Climate for LGBTQ Students
GLSEN (pronounced “glisten”) is a research and advocacy organization focused on supporting LGBTQ students. In January, GLSEN released state snapshots of school climate based on the 2017 National School Climate Survey. See Minnesota’s snapshot here.


Cook, C. R., Duong, M. T., McIntosh, K., Fiat, A. E., Larson, M., Pullmann, M. D., & McGinnis, J. (2018). Addressing discipline disparities for Black male students: Linking malleable root causes to feasible and effective practices. School Psychology Review, 47, 135-152.

Gorski, P. C. & Swalwell, K. (2015). Equity literacy for all. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from

Gothberg, J. E., Greene, G., & Kohler, P. D. (2018). District implementation of research-based practices for transition planning with culturally and linguistically diverse youth with disabilities and their families. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, Advanced online publication, doi:10.1177/2165143418762794

Khalifa, M. (2018). Culturally Responsive School Leadership. Race and Education Series. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

National Association of Elementary Principals. The Principal’s Guide to Building Culturally Responsive Schools.Alexandria, VA: Author.

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