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NEPC Talks Education: Discussing Racial Justice in K-12 Schools

BOULDER, CO (October 20, 2022) – In this month’s episode of NEPC Talks Education, University of Wisconsin‑Madison Assistant Professor Christopher Saldaña interviews Sonya Douglass about racial justice in K-12 public schools. Douglass is a professor of education leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University and the founding director of the Black Education Research Center (BERC). Her research examines the problem of racial inequality in K-12 schools and how race is conceptualized and understood by leaders for equity and social justice in the U.S.

Professor Douglass gives an overview of school efforts and school capacity to promote racial justice in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and explains that policymakers now have an opportunity to promote transformational change in schools. She describes how the pandemic and post-pandemic experiences have revealed both the technical and ideological challenges facing schools, from teacher shortages to racial strife at school board meetings.

Douglass argues that meeting the moment will require better informing ourselves about what schools need to succeed. She points to recent BERC research as one example of how this can be done. Professor Douglass led a team of researchers who surveyed Black community members, parents, and youth in six metropolitan areas in the United States. She explains that although the findings of the report echo findings found throughout educational research, the BERC’s research centers the voices of Black youth and community in particular.

According to Douglass, the BERC research findings outline an agenda for policymakers to consider immediately. The agenda includes providing better protections for Black students during school hours, making culturally relevant and responsive educators accessible, providing access to mental health services, and investing in a Black studies curriculum. While noting the challenges facing students, communities, schools, and school leaders, she says she is encouraged about positive educational change because of the role youth have and continue to take in BERC’s projects. She encourages policymakers to continue to draw on the expertise of youth as they consider how best to support students going forward.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode, hosted by Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May. 

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: