How to address implicit bias in education

WRAG kicked off its 2017 public education learning series, in May, with a session on the challenges facing education. After the session we asked the speakers, Terry Dade, assistant superintendent of Region 3 for Fairfax County Public Schools, Adele Fabrikant, executive director of Teach For America’s DC Region and Maura Marino, CEO of Education Forward DC, to reflect on how they and their groups work to understand and overcome implicit biases and the impact those biases can have on which education initiatives get funded. Terry Dade was unable to respond but Adele and Maura’s responses are below.


Adele Fabrikant (left), executive director of Teach For America’s DC Region and Maura Marino (right), CEO of Education Forward DC.

Interviews by Education Forward DC

What do you see as the impact of implicit biases in education grant making in DC?

Maura: When we look at student outcomes in DC, race is a huge predictor. That is the result of how we’ve structured schools. In everything—from who is hired to teach our students, to how teacher-training programs are organized, to the culture of schools, and the way curriculum is written—the system needs to be rebuilt to dismantle the institutional biases.

There is a tremendous need to change the power structure in philanthropy.

Historically, leaders of color have had less access to philanthropy than white leaders. We want to be intentional about supporting leaders of color who have really compelling ideas, who can lead the way toward our mission of ensuring that all kids in DC have access to great schools.

Adele: There are very limited resources going directly to communities of color, or to low-income communities. It’s clear that grant makers are often less comfortable investing in organizations that are less known. Just as we need diversity in the work, we need diversity in thinking around resource allocation to support the work.

What work are you doing to give teachers and leaders skills and resources to address and overcome their biases?

Adele: When teachers first come to Teach for America in the DC region, we focus on identity development. We do that so that teachers are well aware of themselves and their own identities and biases before they walk in the door to the classroom, where those biases will play out in the way in which they work with their students. And then we revisit and build on these lessons throughout their two-year commitment with us.

Regardless of what we believe is effective teaching and learning, it has to start with validating a student’s background and experiences in the classroom, and leveraging them as a means of learning.

Maura: The programs we work with are thinking deeply about how we equip all educators to understand that implicit bias, racial bias, and racism need to be understood and confronted in order to be effective in supporting student learning for all students. They work on intentionally unpacking and supporting teachers on topics such as culturally relevant instruction, cultural competency in work with families, and what it means to run an equitable classroom.

Among the groups we’re supporting is one called The Fellowship for Race and Equity in Education, which is bringing together a group of leaders from K-12 education, housing, transportation, juvenile justice, and policing for 18 months. These leaders will build their own skills as leaders for equity in their organizations, and will collaborate on projects that interrupt racial bias in work across the city that impacts youth.

What can grant makers do to overcome biases and give grantees, especially those who are people of color, a better chance at receiving grants?

Maura: I bring a ton of biases to the work—everything from social norms, to how I communicate, to how I interpret other people’s communications. It is not my intention, but the impact might be that I am overlooking someone who is really high potential, or we chose to fund someone because we’re comfortable with them and their network. Because of that, I have to purposefully understand my own identity, check my assumptions, and build a team and organization in which a diversity of perspectives are valued, and we can call each other out when biases are showing up.

Many funders expect to see organizations present in a certain way—for example, they expect to see an organizational summary in PowerPoint slides, or they expect leaders to talk about metrics and outcomes using certain structures. If it’s not a world that you’ve worked in, there would be no reason to know those norms and expectations. We have to step back as a grantmaking community and ask: in what ways are those biases standing in the way of the great work that can be truly transformative for our kids?

Adele: Being explicit about the decision-making process is important. Certainly I think having a diverse set of people with diverse perspectives at the table in making those decisions is critical. When I say diverse, I mean diverse in terms of race, diverse in terms of economic background, diverse in terms of professional experiences. All of that will only help to strengthen the quality of the conversation that you’re having and the ability to be fair and equitable in the decision-making around limited resources.


Don’t forget to register for the final program in WRAG’s 2017 public education learning series on December 1. We will explore what it takes to ensure that all young people graduate on-time from high school, fully prepared with the skills they need for college and a meaningful career. Register here

Book deserts in the District’s wards 7 and 8

CHILDREN & FAMILIES | DC has a highly educated population with libraries in every ward, but not bookstores. According to a new analysis, there are no bookstores in wards 7 and 8, which is harmful to children’s development. Though the District has a program, Books From Birth, which sends one book a month to children who participate, experts say having an actual bookstore in a child’s neighborhood has a greater impact. (GGWash, 5/5)

Other urban communities, such as the Bronx, face deep book deserts, but DC’s desert stands out to [New York University Professor of Childhood and Literacy Education] Susan Neuman. “What was particularly concerning was the lack of access during the summer when schools are closed, and other resources such as child care was limited to enable children to have access to stimulating activities.”

To get books in front of the eyes of children and parents, Neuman says the effort needs to be robust. “Children need to see books, in grocery stores, dollar stores, barbershops and nail salons, because children learn to read by seeing their families read or by seeing it modeled on a regular basis. The libraries are doing a great job, but there is something special about owning a book and calling it your own.”

IMPLICIT BIAS | Are the tools we are currently employing to end implicit bias actually working? (Atlantic, 5/7)

Related: Tamara Lucas Copeland, WRAG’s president, urged us to examine the role of implicit bias in police shootings in the aftermath of Jordan Edwards’ death. For a deeper dive into implicit bias, check out (or revisit) Julie Nelson’s talk from the Putting Racism on the Table series last year.

ARLINGTON | A profile of Arlington, Virginia shows the growth of the county and characteristics of its population. (ArligtonVA, 5/5)

HOUSING | Loudoun County officials discuss how to address its future housing needs in a Loudoun Chamber of Commerce’s Policymakers event last week. (Loudoun Times, 5/4)

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY | Know of a company doing great work in the community? Nominate them for the U.S. Chamber’s 2017 Corporate Citizenship Awards! The deadline to submit is June 23.

ENVIRONMENT | In a few years, we might be able to swim in the Anacostia River. (WAMU, 5/5)


A new television show profiles DC restaurants.

– Kendra

Jordan Edwards

By Tamara Copeland
President
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

What is there to say?

Another unarmed, black child killed by the police. Another. Jordan was 15 years old, leaving a party in Dallas when a police officer, called to investigate underage drinking, shot him.

Either I have been in a black hole or this event that happened on Saturday night had not, as of yesterday anyway when I learned about it, received much national media attention. Have incidents like this become so routine that they’re not even news anymore? When comments started popping up in my Twitter feed, I was devastated. First, I thought, “Not again,” then I thought, “What can I do? What can I do to stop this stream of violence against black men and boys?”

Well, I’m not sure, but I know that my commitment to Putting Racism on the Table continues and is strengthened. When incident after incident like this occurs, I cannot dismiss either the unconscious bias that makes black males dangerous in the eyes of many or the overt racism that continues to plague our country. I cannot.

I also cannot write this without a comment about cameras and policing. Body cameras and dashboard cameras are often raised up as a response to these types of incidents. While they capture police shootings and other criminal actions, they don’t prevent them – and they don’t ensure justice. These incidents often occur in moments of intense emotion – fear, anger, perhaps even hatred. Decisions are made in the blink of an eye, decisions guided by racial messages received throughout a lifetime. Decisions that end lives. To prevent these shootings, we have to look deeper at structural racism and implicit bias. We have to examine ourselves, our own beliefs, and we have to examine those structures and systems that perpetuate racial inequity, even while, in the case of policing, the system is intended to protect.

Watch Julie Nelson talk about implicit bias. Watch Ava DuVernay’s masterful documentary “13th.” Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Try to understand how “black male” has become synonymous with “criminal.” Then do something to change this. Each of us has a platform for reform, be that our family, our neighborhood, our workplace, our house of worship, our sorority, whatever. We should be talking about what happened and why it happened.

We can make a difference. I have to believe that. What will you do?

Unpacking the carry-on bag of bias: My reflections on WRAG’s “Responding to Comments that are Implicitly Biased: Guidance for African-Americans” training

By Manon P. Matchett
Community Investment Officer, Strategic Initiatives
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region

I love curbside check-in at the airport. I welcome the opportunity to hand my luggage to someone else and not worry about it. I gladly tip the Skycap for the freedom to easily clear security and maneuver without the extra weight.

WRAG’s recent training, “Responding to Comments that are Implicitly/Unconsciously Biased: Guidance for African-Americans,” was a curbside check-in experience for me. When traveling into the unknown, it is comforting to travel with people you know and trust. The excitement is engaging with people you do not know.

Before we took off, our co-pilots, Robin Gerald, a consultant with White Men as Full Diversity Partners, and Pollie Massey, CEO of OMS Consulting and Training, provided us with an overview of the flight plan – a reminder of our rich history, significant contributions to building this great nation, and the struggles we continue to overcome. I was prepped for some turbulence but assured that in less than 180 minutes, I would land safely.

I booked a ticket on this flight because the title and narrative arrested a portion of my soul that is hurting. This session unpacked pains that I consciously wear and pains that are wearing me. They are my carry-on bag – sheltering my vulnerabilities and fears. I cope and survive by placing these pains in my own three-ounce containers. I left this session lighter because I can better trust myself to do what is best for me – not the situation or those involved.

When I deplane, I quickly descend to baggage claim to make sure no one walks away with my luggage. I wish it were that easy when discussing race and equity. I always feel like these are bags that never get lost. They belong to me. They have my name on it.

I can accept (even though I do not like) that racial insensitivity is luggage that may never get rerouted to another plane. It is the invisible noose that suffocates my very existence. It is a shadow on wheels that follows me even into the darkness. What I can do is choose not to let it weigh me down. I can choose not to internalize it to the point that it is detrimental to my own well-being. I have been challenged to fly higher with purpose and thoughtful intent.

Kudos to WRAG and other philanthropic entities who are making a conscientious effort to treat the causes and not just the symptoms of racial injustice.

The journey continues…


Responding to Comments that are Implicitly/Unconsciously Biased: Guidance for African-Americans was held as part of Putting Racism on the Table: The Training Series for the local philanthropic community. You can learn more about WRAG’s ongoing work around racism and racial equity at www.puttingracismonthetable.org.

What does Santa look like?

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Long ago, I started collecting Santas to decorate my Christmas tree. I would buy them whenever I traveled as a memento of the trip. My tree is adorned with a Santa on a bicycle, a Santa on an alligator, and one hugging a pink flamingo. I have Santa beside the Eiffel Tower and Santa on the beach in Virgin Gorda. There are white Santas and black Santas.

This year, the year when the largest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America, announced that it had hired its first African-American Santa, I’ve noticed something. As I look around in local shops to add to my collection, there are no black Santa Christmas tree ornaments anywhere. They aren’t in Target or Walmart, Pier One or World Market, in a specialty Christmas store, or even at my much beloved Eastern Market, a wonderful weekend open air flea market near my home.

I offer this as a small example of something that we have been looking at all year – unconscious/implicit bias. Have you always assumed that Santa was white? Does a jolly white man come down the chimney bringing gifts to your kids? What message does this send to your children? Who is bringing them joy on Christmas morning?

So as you go about during this holiday season, look around at the Christmas tree ornaments. How often do you see black Santas? Should you be seeing more?

Racial Profiling is Real. It Just Happened to my Son.

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Yesterday, my son was stopped by the police as he came out of our home at 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

“Hey, what are you doing?” asked the white police officer on a bicycle riding down our Capitol Hill street.

“Huh?” replied my 22-year-old, not fully understanding, or perhaps not processing the question.

“What are you doing?” he asked again as he stopped in front of our house.

“Leaving home,” said AJ, as he was about to go to a doctor’s appointment.

“You live there?” asked the officer.

“Yes, here’s my ID,” my son said, providing his driver’s license. “Didn’t you see me locking the front door?” continued my son.

“Okay,” said the officer after his partner had also examined AJ’s driver’s license and they both then rode away, probably feeling that they had appropriately protected the neighborhood.

My son didn’t feel well and he is a 22-year-old young man. What if he had been a bit cocky instead of providing the respectful response that he did? What if he had simply walked away and not responded at all? This incident could have had a much different ending. Trayvon Martin walking in his Dad’s neighborhood comes tragically to mind.

I have lived in the same house for 27 years. My son has lived here all his life. The literal complexion of our neighborhood has changed. Twenty-two-year-old African-American males used to be a primary demographic of this neighborhood and there weren’t many police officers riding down the streets to make sure that they were safe. Now, the neighborhood has changed. Young white families stroll the streets pushing baby carriers, and on one recent Sunday afternoon, I didn’t see a single black person in nearby Lincoln Park. My son is now the “other,” stopped to see if he belongs in the neighborhood.

Although this young man was casually coming out of the front entrance to his home, not juggling a stolen TV or running to hide a possible crime, he was still targeted. There was no indication that he was doing anything wrong, but still he was stopped and questioned by the police.

Implicit bias? Yes.

Shining a light on need in Loudoun County

Editor’s note: WRAG’s staff are heading next week to Indianapolis, to attend the Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers’ annual conference. The Daily will return on Tuesday, July 26. Stay cool!


COMMUNITY | Next year, the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties will launch a community awareness campaign to raise the profile of poverty in Loudoun and encourage residents to support local nonprofit organizations that serve their neighbors in need. (Loudoun Now, 7/14)

Leading up to the campaign’s launch in March of 2017, nonprofit leaders will hold focus groups to identify how best to let the public know what local charities exist and what services they provide.

America Gives’ most recent report shows that, in 2012, Loudoun County residents donated, on average, 1.98 percent of their discretionary income to charities. That’s well below neighboring jurisdictions.

“This is a chance to change people’s knowledge and behavior toward nonprofits in Loudoun County,” said Caroline Toye, associate director of Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties. “We want to empower residents to be engaged, however they want to, whether through volunteering, serving on a board or donating.”

The campaign grew out of WRAG’s 2015 Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference, and additional funding has been provided by the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Area, and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

Related: WRAG’s Katy Moore and Amy Owen, executive director of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, take a closer look at poverty in Loudoun County – a place typically portrayed as having great wealth –  and explain the need for this campaign. (Daily, 7/15)

LGBTQ | The Fairfax County School Board is considering regulations to safeguard the rights of transgender students that would ensure access to restrooms that align with their gender identity, and require teachers to use students’ preferred pronouns. (WaPo, 7/15)

HOUSING
– Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says he is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing for seniors in the county, a population that is growing rapidly. (Bethesda Beat, 7/13)

Nonprofit seeks to revitalize Anacostia one blighted house at a time (WaPo, 7/7)

RACISM | Scientists are trying many different experiments to try to counteract implicit bias. Most interventions, but not all, haven’t been shown to be very effective. (Atlantic, 7/14)

RFP | EventsDC is accepting grant proposals from nonprofits supporting children through sports, performing arts, or cultural arts in the District of Columbia. More information is available here.

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Think Giving to Groups That Support Nonprofits Is a Waste? You’re Wrong. (Chronicle, 7/6)


Jobs

Administrative Assistant | Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Philanthropic Services Associate | The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region
Grants Manager | The Norman & Ruth Rales Foundation
Senior Communication Consultant | Kaiser Permanente

Hiring? Post your job on WRAG’s job board and get it included in the Daily! Free for members; $60/60 days for non-members. Details here.


Community Calendar


Note to self: When in the woods, always look inside your car before opening the door.

– Rebekah