Georgia Charter Schools Association is offering implicit bias training to teachers, leaders and boards of member schools. The training is intended to assist participants with identifying their hidden biases and develop strategies to ensure there are true equity and inclusion in our schools.
GCSA Vice President of School Services, Elisa Falco, and GCSA Program Specialist, Ayana Clarke, are leading the training. You can read more about implicit bias training in the interview with Falco and Clarke below along with GCSA Director of Communications, Michelle Wirth. Those interested in the training can contact Elisa Falco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the book “Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, implicit biases can “without our awareness or conscious control – shape our likes and dislikes, our judgments about people’s character, abilities, and potential.”
These biases are based on life experiences, training, belief systems, values, what we receive from family and education, and what we’re exposed to as children create biases that we are often unaware of in everyday life.
Q: Michelle: What does Georgia Charter School Association’s implicit bias training consist of?
A: Ayana: The training explores the theory of implicit bias as it’s grounded in the book “Blind Spot.”
So far, we have conducted this training with two different audiences. The first was geared toward teachers and looks at how implicit bias can find itself in instructional delivery. It examined how biases impact school culture, because everyone carries bias.
The second training was geared toward charter leaders. In that training, we focused the lens around how implicit bias affects hiring. We looked at equitable practices around hiring such as who is on your selection committee and how you review resumes. We also look at the selection process and consider whether it is equitable in every step of the process in terms of having multiple voices at the table and standardized features of evaluation to ensure all candidates are on a level playing field when being compared for hiring.
A: Elisa: The training gets at not only understanding what implicit bias is and being able to define it, but also being able to measure how our biases can automatically come into play when we’re making decisions, and how many decisions impact student learning and overall educational equality. That’s why it’s important to put the lens on this issue in this way.
Q: Michelle: Are most people that you’ve worked with in this training aware that they have biases?
A: Elisa: Some people are. After we went through the definition, the teachers we worked with were forthcoming about things like, ‘I think I’m easier on girls, or I’m harder on boys.’ It depended on the individual, which is what the training examines. All of our life experiences, training, belief systems, values, what we receive from family and education, and what we’re exposed to as children create biases that we are often unaware of in everyday life. That really came out in the discussion.
People identified that they had biases and talked about ways to eliminate that. What came out of the teacher training was a tool that allows teachers to examine their own instructional delivery to make sure that they are progressively minimizing biases that could marginalize students and prevent them from having the same opportunity as everybody else. For instance, it could keep differentiation from happening because certain teachers might have a bias against certain students. It really helps to build equity in the classroom.
Q: Michelle: Why should schools participate in this training?
A: Elisa: Charter school stakeholders should participate in this training because we should all strive to have the most equitable and inclusive school environments because the outcomes will be better. It’s better for students and school culture. At Georgia Charter Schools Association, our focus is on quality education and building and increasing the quality overtime in our member schools. This is a key way to get at what is sometimes the root cause of what keeps some schools from being as high quality as we would like to see them be and what students deserve. It’s a topic that can be uncomfortable to discuss, but we need to be a guiding light so people can get in a safe space to talk about equity, inclusion and bias.
A: Ayana: It impacts the experience that students, staff members and parents have within the building. For example, even though a school discipline system may be set up in an equitable way, people are using and enforcing the system, and so if there is implicit bias it can play out in a certain racial makeup of children who receive suspensions at a greater level versus an in-school restorative practice.
Most schools say they value diversity. However, while having different groups of people in the same building is “diverse,” it’s only diversity at the most basic level. For instance, you could have multiple kinds of students in a building, but as a result of biases by teachers or whomever, English Language Learners, African American students or students of different genders might be having a different experience than other students. You have to look at implicit bias to drive diversity even further and to further entrench it into the equitable practices of the school.
Q: Michelle: How is this training different than diversity training?
A: Elisa: When schools want to focus on diversity training, they want to find ways to get more different types of people together in one school. My challenge to that is once you get more people of different types in one school, what are you doing to build actual inclusion? What are you doing to ensure all children are supported in their learning?
Research tells us the greatest impact is on teacher development, so our focus is on working with teachers directly to impact and eliminate their implicit biases. If we can do that, it will be a more inclusive environment for students. We help leaders focus on how they hire and coach teachers. If they can focus on their own biases and the biases of their staff, when we get all types of different students together it will an environment where all students feel like they can access any kind of opportunity within a school.
Q: Michelle: What do you hope is the biggest takeaway?
A: Elisa: What I hope is the biggest takeaway and what we challenge participants to do at the end of the training is to really do something about it. We ask teachers to go back and look at the tool we developed in the training and look at their lessons, look at their delivery and videotape themselves teaching. I think when people take ownership over the fact that they do have biases, it will stay with them and they will use these tools to do something about it, because that’s what we can ultimately control, ourselves. For leaders, we hope this will impact their hiring and coaching practices and that they will vastly minimize any biases that are playing out on their campus.
At the board level, you want it to have the most robust group of problem solvers possible. To me, what it means to get that robust group is that you have the most different group of individuals possible. You manage that by having each person being able to identify their biases and using that information to work better together and work more effectively as problem solvers.
A: Ayana: We ultimately want this training to impact students. Students spend so many hours in a school building, so the perceptions and experiences they have stay with them for life. These are implicit bias forming experiences for them. If they are in an environment where they feel they have access to opportunities, they have support from everyone who encounters them and they are perceived as able and rightfully deserving of a quality education, then they will carry that with them. It will allow them to go out into the world and say, ‘through the experiences I had through my learning, my extracurricular activities and the way I was coached when I made a mistake, I am worthy…despite what negative perceptions others may carry about me in the world around me.’