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Centering Young Black Women’s and Girls’ Voices in STEM Participation in the United States  

Kara Mitchell, Carla Wellborn, and Chezare Warren

There has been growing scholarly interest in Black girls’ and young women’s matriculation across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline. This interest is fueled by the STEM field’s maintenance of a largely White and male culture, despite the passage of Title IX laws in the 1970s. This exploration of Black women’s and girls’ STEM participation has been incredibly important for extending what is known about this group. Less discernible from the extant literature is Black women’s and girls’ first-person sensemaking about the moments, people, incidents, and environments that determine not just their participation but also their persistence into and through higher education to complete a STEM undergraduate degree. The language of trajectories implicates life course, growth, and development in ability over time with age and experience. The various environments influencing young Black women’s and girls’ learning about STEM, and their decisions about how or if to participate in STEM, are informed by constantly evolving understandings of their intersectional race–gender identity. This identity is changing over time as they grow older and come into contact with various STEM learning opportunities, people, and places. Young Black women and girls are keenly aware of race–gender limitations imposed on them by dominant cultural norms, institutional agents, and experiences with institutional policy and practice. Such perspectives are shaping how they come to view themselves aside from STEM and the decisions they make at each point on the STEM pipeline specific to their desire to own a STEM identity despite their subject position as a race–gender minoritized person in STEM subjects and majors.

Article

Black Women Superintendents  

Sonya Douglass Horsford, Dessynie D. Edwards, and Judy A. Alston

Research on Black women superintendents has focused largely on their racial and gendered identities and the challenges associated with negotiating the politics of race and gender while leading complex school systems. Regarding the underrepresentation of Black female superintendents, an examination of Black women’s experiences of preparing for, pursuing, attaining, and serving in the superintendency may provide insights regarding their unique ways of knowing and, leading that, inform their leadership praxis. Informed by research on K-12 school superintendency, race and gender in education leadership, and the lived experiences and knowledge claims of Black women superintendents, important implications for future research on the superintendency will be hold. There exists a small but growing body of scholarly research on Black women education leaders, even less on the Black woman school superintendent, who remains largely underrepresented in education leadership research and the field. Although key studies have played an important role in establishing historical records documenting the service and contributions of Black women educational leaders in the United States, the bulk of the research on Black women superintendents can be found in dissertation studies grounded largely in the works of Black women education leadership scholars and practitioners. As a growing number of aspiring and practicing leaders who identify as Black women enter graduate-level leadership preparation programs and join the ranks of educational administration, questions concerning race and gender in leadership are almost always present as the theories presented in leadership preparation programs often conflict with or represent set of perspectives, realities, and strategies that may not align with those experienced by leaders who identify as Black women. For these reasons, their leadership perspectives, epistemologies, and contributions are essential to our understanding of the superintendency and field of educational leadership.

Article

The Impact of Black Women Educational Leaders on Student Achievement  

Terri N. Watson and Patrice A. McClellan

What is the relationship between educational leadership, student achievement, and what we know about Black women? For one, while educational leadership is closely associated with student achievement, school leaders were found to have little, if any, direct effect on student achievement. Black women, on the other hand, are rarely mentioned in regard to student achievement, yet their efficacy is unparalleled. Black women should be listed alongside often-cited theorists, including John Dewey, James MacGregor Burns, Nel Noddings, and the Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire, as they have made significant contributions to the field of educational leadership. These trailblazers include Frances (Fanny) Jackson Coppin, Sarah J. Smith Tompkins Garnet, Mary Jane Patterson, and Anna Julia Cooper. As Black women and professors of educational leadership, we have an obligation to ourselves, our communities, and the next generation of school leaders to reframe and extend the narratives surrounding educational leadership, student achievement, and Black women. Most research focused on educational leadership and student achievement includes neither the perspectives nor contributions of Black women educational leaders. Extant educational leadership literatures largely chronicle the perspectives of White men and rely on theories established by other White men. Moreover, student achievement is most often attributed to teachers, roles primarily occupied by White women. These correlations negate and further marginalize Black women educational leaders, who, despite the fact they have successfully led schools and are effective instructional leaders, remain untapped resources. Black Feminist Theory provides a framework to explore the lived experiences and contributions of groundbreaking Black women educational leaders. The knowledge gleaned from these “firsts” will proffer invaluable lessons to the field of educational leadership.

Article

Womanist Inquiry for Social Justice in Curriculum  

Sabrina N. Ross

Womanism is a social justice-oriented standpoint perspective focusing on the unique lived experiences of Black women and other women of color and the strategies that they utilize to withstand and overcome racialized, gendered, class-based, and other intersecting forms of oppression for the betterment of all humankind. Much of Womanist inquiry conducted in the field of education focuses on mining history to illuminate the lives, activism, and scholarly traditions of well-known and lesser-known Black women educators. Womanist inquiry focusing on the lives and pedagogies of Black women educators serves as an important corrective, adding to official historical records the contributions that Black women and other women of color have made to their schools, communities, and society. By providing insight into the ways in which processes of teaching and learning are understood and enacted from the perspective of women navigating multiple systems of oppression, Womanist inquiry makes a significant contribution to studies of formal curricular processes. Womanist inquiry related to informal curriculum (i.e., educational processes understood broadly and occurring outside of formal educational settings) is equally important because it offers alternative interpretations of cultural productions and lived experiences that open up new spaces for the understanding of Black women’s lived experiences. A common theme of Womanist curriculum inquiry for social justice involves physical and geographic spaces of struggle and possibility. Indeed, many of the culturally derived survival strategies articulated by Womanist scholars focus on the possibilities of working within the blurred boundaries and hybridized spaces of the in-between to achieve social justice goals. In addition to the provision of culturally congruent survival strategies, Womanist inquiry also provides sources of inspiration for contemporary Black women and other women of color engaged in curriculum work for social justice. The diverse forms of and approaches to Womanist inquiry in curriculum point to the fruitfulness of using Womanism to understand the intersectional thoughts and experiences of Black women and other women of color in ways that further social justice goals.