Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2021 Issue »

    No Choice Is the “Right” Choice

    Black Parents’ Educational Decision-Making in Their Search for a “Good” School

    In this article, Linn Posey-Maddox, Maxine McKinney de Royston, Alea R. Holman, Raquel M. Rall, and Rachel A. Johnson examine Black parents’ educational decision-making in the racial and educational contexts of predominantly white suburban districts, majority-Black urban schools with an Afrocentric focus, and racially diverse urban public and private schools. Undertaking a qualitative meta-analysis, they ask, How and why is anti-Black racism salient in Black parents’ educational decision-making around schooling? Their findings reveal that race and anti-Black racism are central to Black parents’ school choice decisions. Specifically, they shape the trade-offs parents made in choosing a school for their child(ren), their ongoing risk assessments regarding the potential for racialized harm in their child(ren)’s schooling, and their continuous decision-making about whether to keep their child enrolled or move them to a different school. Regardless of geography, school type, grade level, and/or social class, race and anti-Black racism shape Black parents’ educational decision-making as they work to ensure that their child(ren) receive a high-quality education within highly racialized schooling contexts.

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    Linn Posey-Maddox (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9193-5930) is an associate professor of educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research and teaching interests are focused on urban and suburban education, education and urban policy, and family-school relationships. In her research she seeks to understand how social inequities linked to race, class, and place shape the school and community experiences of parents, students, and teachers and how individuals and groups contribute to the production, reproduction, or challenge of educational inequities in their choices and everyday actions. She is the author of When Middle-Class Parents Choose Urban Schools: Class, Race, and the Challenge of Equity in Public Education (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

    Maxine McKinney de Royston (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7046-800X) is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research analyzes the pedagogical and interactional characteristics of learning environments as they relate to larger discourses about race, identity, and power. Her work centers around two interrelated research strands: conceptualizing the multidimensional and politicized nature of learning and its implications for teaching and examining how learning environments operate as racialized learning spaces. She is co-editor, along with Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Carol D. Lee, and Roy Pea, of the Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning (Routledge, 2020).

    Alea R. Holman (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7519-0951) is an assistant professor of school psychology in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University. Her scholarship examines mothers’ gendered racial socialization beliefs and practices with their Black and mixed-race children. Additionally, she investigates best practices for providing culturally integrative, therapeutic, collaborative psychological assessment for children. Complementing her research program are Holman’s work as a licensed psychologist and her practice-based experience working in schools, community mental health clinics, and private practice.

    Raquel M. Rall (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2682-2016) is an assistant professor of higher education at the University of California, Riverside. Her research is concentrated in two major areas: leadership and governance of higher education and equity. Within these two areas she strives to identify best practices to increase access to and success in higher education for traditionally marginalized communities and to bridging research and practice. Prior to her appointment at UC Riverside, Rall was a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow.

    Rachel A. Johnson is a PhD candidate in the department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research interests center Black people and education. Her past research endeavors focused on understanding the various ways Black caregivers engage and advocate in schools for themselves, their children, and others’ children. She is currently studying Black homeschooling in the Midwest. Her experiences as a Black mother, coupled with her studies, have fostered her interest in out-of-school educational spaces and the reimagining of learning for young Black people. She acknowledges her research and work as part of a long tradition of Black peoples’ quest for education and liberation.