As a member of the RCCW (Race, Community & Child Welfare) Fayette County group, I have been attending a series of webinars offered by the Public Policy Associates, Inc.: “Using a Racial Equity Lens to Guide Program Evaluation: Racism and Evaluation.” Some of the concepts presented are just plain ol’ common sense for good educators – and some of the ideas match well with the principles of mutuality to which we aspire in our Carnegie Foundation classification for Community Engagement. What I’ve learned, basically, is that we need to ask our programming and evaluating teams on a regular basis to be ever vigilant in self-assessing their individual and collective cultural competencies.
Cultural Competence: “A skill set that comes from personal experiences within a given community and/or from structured learning experiences that ensures acceptance, appreciation, understanding, and responsiveness by evaluators regarding value, practices, attitudes, and behavior of this community; and that inform the entire evaluation process. (Public Policy Associates, Inc., webinar slide 10, August 10, 2015)
In order to use a diversity-inclusion-equity lens, these two issues must be intentionally included as part of the evaluation of each program design and evaluation team:
- acknowledge the persistence of inequities in the US (and abroad) due to historical institutional racism and discrimination
- strategically account for these inequities in project/program design, implementation and evaluation.
Who was engaged and empowered in the decision-making process during the evaluation project?
As we bring ourselves to think more intentionally about the impact of structural racism in our local, regional and global contexts, we have to remember to look around the table and notice who is NOT there. We owe it to ourselves and our students to then ask — openly, publicly — how can we be more inclusive here and in the future? What strategies can we employ to make sure we can overcome unconscious, hidden or overt biases?
Do you typically consider race/ethnicity when conducting an analysis of your student success programming?
As educators we are also evaluators, and so we have the obligation to assure that there is a cultural competence training in place whenever we launch a project or program. We need to be aware of cultural differences among the priority population targeted for student success – and not assume that any one individual or small group speaks for the whole. We should assure diversity among the evaluation team, asking about and acknowledging when someone has shared background/life experiences with the priority population. Nevertheless, just because a evaluation team has achieved an ethnic/racial diversity among its membership, evaluators should not assume the team is de facto going to act in culturally responsive ways. See more on this in the booklet “Considerations for Conducting Evaluations Using a Culturally Responsive and Racial Equity Lens” (PPA, 2015).
Who and what was changed or affected by your programming, and how? What were the unintended consequences given the racial/cultural context?
Self-assessment checks need to happen on a regular basis, both for personal awareness of cultural frameworks, assumptions, and biases as well as the team’s collective actions over time. This includes an awareness of the complexities surrounding the continuing legacy of historical events of racism in the institution and/or the community. Some tools for conducting evaluation using a racial equity lens that Dr. Paul Elam and Willard Walker of the Public Policy Associates recommend are:
- For Evaluators:
- Assessment tools – download Self-Assessment inventories to use/adapt (Public Policy Associates, Inc., webinar, October 5, 2015).
- For the Evaluation Process Overall:
- Institutional analysis
- Quality service review
- Rates and relative rates
- For Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Measures:
- Data disaggregation
- Assessing volume, statistical significance, and magnitude
In other words, we must all continually work on our own understandings of cultural competencies, structural racism and its impact on ourselves and the priority populations. I look forward to seeing your responses to what I am learning, and I would be very honored to be a part of any conversations you might want to have about these issues.