Edina Schools’ Equity Trainer Says Whites Must Change “From the Cells Out”

The Center recently wrote about white privilege training Edina school bus drivers and custodians were forced to attend in 2012. The “training” program, led by Dr. Heather Hackman, focused on diversity, cultural competency, oppression, racism, and whiteness.

The Center’s post prompted a reader to confirm the district’s obsessive focus on racial equity is pushed on other Edina Public Schools (EPS) employees, as well:

Heather Hackman operates Hackman Consulting Group—a consulting agency in Minneapolis—and consults nationally on “issues of deep diversity, equity and social justice and has focused most of her recent training work on issues of racism and white privilege, gender oppression, heterosexism and homophobia, and classism.” Prior to founding Hackman Consulting Group, she was a professor in the Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education at St. Cloud State University where she taught future teachers.

Teachers in Edina—and other staff and administrators—attended Hackman’s racial equity trainings as part of the district’s Achievement and Integration Plan effective July 2014 through June 2017. (This plan is part of the Achievement and Integration for Minnesota program under Minnesota State Statutes and was adopted in addition to Edina’s 2013 “All for All” equity plan that my colleague Katherine Kersten wrote about in the Fall issue of Thinking Minnesota.)

The Achievement and Integration Plan’s goal was to increase student proficiency on all state reading accountability tests and decrease academic disparities between white and minority/low-income students’ test scores.

Goal Statement: The proficiency GAP between the white students enrolled the full academic year for all grades tested within Edina Public Schools on all state Reading accountability tests (MCA, MOD, MTAS) will DECREASE as follows within our District (see table B [not provided in document]), by INCREASING the proficiency of Black, Hispanic, and FRPM [Free and Reduced Price Meals] student groups as follows within our District (see table A):

Source: Edina School District Achievement and Integration Plan

To accomplish this objective, the plan laid out different strategies and activities to implement including providing “racial equity training for all staff and administrators through working with a national consultant and attending courses offered through WMEP [West Metro Education Program].” By the end of the 2014-15 school year, Edina wanted “70% of staff [to] attend racial equity baseline training… (e.g., Beyond Diversity through WMEP, Heather Hackman)” and wanted a 10 percent increase of this goal by the 2016-17 school year.

Heather Hackman’s P-12 education consulting services help “educators and administrators, schools and organizations move beyond basic diversity and inclusion efforts through her signature ‘lens shift’ trainings and coaching…”

Source: Hackman Consulting Group

Sample trainings listed on the consulting group’s flyer include: “Developing a Critical Racial Equity Lens: Addressing Race, Racism and Whiteness in Education” and “Teaching Climate Change Through a Social Justice Lens.”

In 2015, Hackman facilitated a workshop in Minneapolis called “More Than Skin Deep: Uprooting White Privilege and White Supremacy One Cell at a Time.”

What does it mean to be white and anti-racist at this particular moment in time? What does it mean to show up for racial justice in your classroom, your workplace, your family, your home? To show up in solidarity for and with #Black Lives Matter, @NotYourMascot? And what does it mean to work with other white people towards ending whiteness without falling back into the same old patterns of privilege and disconnection?

Skin Deep is for white people who already have an understanding of race, racism and, particularly, whiteness (RRW), and want to learn more about how to dismantle whiteness (White Privilege and White Supremacy) as it shows up within their bodies, their families and in the systems around them.

In order to end systems of racial dominance, we have to end whiteness. Period. Ending whiteness means changing the systems of perpetuation but ending whiteness demands more than that. Individuals, families and communities that have been socialized as white have been conditioned from birth to benefit from and support racial dominance. Changing these patterns demands education but information is not enough. White conditioning begins when white bodies are preverbal; when small children are being taught, directly and indirectly, by the adults around them. This work is about literally becoming a different kind of person from the cells out.

Hackman’s racial equity training was suggested under one of six strategies/activities mentioned in the district’s plan to close the achievement gap. However, the proficiency increase goals laid out in the table above were not met year one, year two, or year three as the table below shows—nor was there any growth when comparing the baseline data to 2017 test results (except for low income students who increased proficiency by one-tenth of a percent).

Sources: Edina School District Achievement and Integration Plan; Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Report Card

Correlation doesn’t imply causation, as there may be a variety of factors at work contributing to a lack of academic growth. But Edina’s insistence on racial equity training and instruction did not help students reach the district’s proficiency goals or even help several student groups maintain their baseline scores. If the district wants to preserve its history of “defining excellence,” it should heavily consider the impact race-based ideology is having on student success.