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Science Teachers Must Learn the Science of Racial Equity

The Commentary editors asked six education, business, and STEM leaders to respond to the following question: What is missing from the discussion around ensuring all students have access to well-trained and qualified science teachers? To read other responses, please visit OpEducation's Science Learning: Under the Microscope.

Exemplary science teachers know lots about science. They ignite and sustain students' enthusiasm for scientific discoveries and problem-solving. They foster conditions that compel kids to become lifelong appreciators of logic, evidence, and innovation; they even inspire some to become scientists. While these are important indicators of effectiveness, I wonder how and where teachers learned the science of racial equity.


Shaun Harper

In their teacher education programs, was sufficient emphasis placed on learning how to make science culturally relevant, useful, and exciting to racially and linguistically diverse learners? Did they learn the science of "race talk"?  Did they engage in productive conversations with colleagues about how implicit biases shape their teaching and assessment of student performance? Which populations they exclude from the curriculum? Who they disproportionately refer to principals' offices for disciplinary actions and for what reasons? How their labs may be sites of racial trauma? Why they place so few students of color in AP and other high-level science courses?

Schools of education and other places where teachers are prepared must become laboratories in which aspiring educators amass the racial literacy and skills required to consciously and equitably engage kids from all racial and ethnic groups in the joys of science.

Shaun R. Harper is a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education and the executive director of the school's Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education.

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