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Research Questions

  1. Which teachers engaged in anti-bias education?
  2. What types of instructional materials did teachers use to provide anti-bias education?
  3. How could anti-bias education be better supported?

In the wake of the protests against and attention to racial injustice sparked by the murders of George Floyd and others, there has been a renewed call for the education system to address systemic racism and racial inequities. At the same time, many states have started passing or considering laws limiting discussions of racism, sexism, and bias within their classrooms. However, a large body of research demonstrates that teaching students explicitly about issues of identity, diversity, equity, and bias—sometimes referred to as anti-bias education—can lead to positive academic, attitudinal, and behavioral outcomes. RAND researchers leverage nationally representative survey data of kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12) public school teachers to examine whether teachers report providing anti-bias education and what anti-bias education looks like in K–12 schools.

Anti-bias education was defined in the survey as "an approach to education that emphasizes the development of students' positive social identities and fosters their comfort and respect for all dimensions of diversity … it is also intended to raise their awareness of and promote their capacity to act against bias and injustice." The researchers examine which teachers engage in anti-bias education, the types of instructional materials that teachers use for anti-bias education, and the various factors that might be related to teachers' provision of anti-bias education, including their beliefs, feelings of preparedness, professional learning opportunities, and teacher preparation experiences.

Key Findings

  • Nearly three in four of the K–12 English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science teachers surveyed, including elementary teachers of multiple subjects, reported that they provide anti-bias instruction.
  • Teachers with fewer years of experience, Black or African American teachers, female teachers, elementary teachers, and ELA teachers were more likely than their counterparts to provide anti-bias education.
  • Teachers used a wide variety of materials to provide anti-bias education, from materials they found or created themselves to those provided by their school or district. Teachers did not appear to widely use existing instructional materials that are designed specifically to address anti-bias topics.
  • More than half of teachers reported that their school- or district-required or -recommended curriculum materials did not adequately address anti-bias topics. That said, greater percentages of teachers reported that their materials helped students develop positive social identities and respect diversity compared with the percentages of teachers who felt that their materials helped students understand bias and systemic injustice and how to take action against bias and injustice. A majority of teachers preferred more support from their school or district to address these inadequacies in their curriculum materials.
  • Teachers' beliefs and feelings of preparedness were associated with their provision of anti-bias education, but many teachers did not have professional learning opportunities that prepared them to address anti-bias topics.

Recommendations

  • Develop a shared definition of anti-bias education and a clear framework for implementation.
  • Identify and encourage the use of evidence-based instructional materials and instructional practices for anti-bias education.
  • Understand the barriers that teachers face in providing anti-bias education.
  • Incorporate anti-bias concepts, particularly those around justice and action, into curriculum development and selection processes.
  • Invest in efforts to increase the diversity of the educator workforce and provide opportunities for Black or African American educators and educators of color to lead anti-bias initiatives.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Overdeck Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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