This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Teachers and school leaders’ deficit thinking and dysconsciousness as hindrances to educational equity: A multi-method exploration




Beall, Andrea L.

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Providing a high-quality rigorous educational experience for all students should be the goal of all schools. However, the determination of quality and rigor varies widely as it is interpreted and applied from school to school. Additionally, Schools are inequitable spaces. Tools to identify inequity and aid in the creation of action plans for school improvement are insufficiently utilized. Perceptions about the problem of inequity and the need for equity in schools vary greatly. The following dissertation examined the perceptions of educators in schools in the Deep South, seeking to better understand the ways in which teachers and school leaders perceive of equity and inequity in schools and create inequitable spaces where only some students thrive. The narratives and experiences of participants, including educators, educational leaders, and central office educational personnel, were analyzed and interpreted to inform recommendations for policy and praxis. Schools are as complex and multifaceted as the individuals within their walls. However, collective goals that all schools share, such as successful outcomes for all students, are frequently studied in the literature; measured by commonly used meritocratic means such as passing standardized test scores, high performance in grading outcomes, or graduation rates. Assessing equity though is less salient, likely because equity includes many aspects of schooling which are rarely measured in a standardized way. For example, equitable programming includes access to materials, curriculum, advanced coursework, and highly-qualified instructors; opportunities for growth and advancement beyond passing from one grade level to the next; instruction in first languages; diverse representation of the faculty and leadership as mirrored by the community of service; and other demonstrations of care for all persons as explored within this text. The following works are a compilation of three articles, complimentary to several aspects of schooling, serving as a lens for looking deeper into the ways in which some schools make claims for equity while simultaneously replicating inequity. Beginning with a first-person autoethnographic account of the routine injustices of inequity, deficit thinking, maintenance of the status quo, and racism, “Gross Moments in Public Education” critically examines the perspective of an educator in multiple elementary schools in the Deep South. Next, “Equity Audits as Tools for School Improvement: Educators' Experiences and Perceptions” is an exploration of equity audits as a potential tool for better identification of inequity in schools and a starting point for creating actionable plans for school change, as experienced by educators using equity audits within their schools and districts. Lastly, ““Eye-opening” Doesn’t Equate to Consciousness: A Case Study Exploring the Potential of Social Justice Programming for Equity Awareness in School Leadership” questions the impact of critical graduate coursework on an aspiring school leader and the potential continuing equity conscious practices. Finally, recommendations for further equity-minded policies and praxis for school improvement for all students are made.