Diversity, equity and inclusion: does it help?


Controversy rages over critical race theory and other leftist doctrines in public schools. Liberals say they don’t teach CRT, they only teach diversity, equity and inclusion. But a fundamental question is: why? Why has “fairness,” as the left understood it, come to dominate public education?

Presumably liberals would respond that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives benefit black students, especially black students. If not, then it is difficult to see what rationality these ubiquitous initiatives might have. But is it true that the emphasis on diversity benefits students of color?

Jay Greene and James Paul sought an empirical answer to this question on behalf of the Heritage Foundation. Their relationship specifically looked at the impact on student performance of having a Chief Diversity Officer in K-12 school districts. They concluded that hiring a CDO tends to have a negative impact on the academic performance of minority students.

By combining the Stanford data with information about whether school districts have CDOs, it is possible to examine whether a district that has a CDO is indeed associated with closing performance gaps. The analyzes presented here suggest that the existence of CDOs in school districts may actually exacerbate performance gaps. In other words, CDOs can implement counterproductive educational interventions.

A simple comparison of the performance gaps in districts with and without CDO shows that the gaps are greatest in districts that employ CDOs. In districts without a CDO, the average black student is 1.9 levels lower than the average white student on standardized test results. In districts with CDOs, the achievement gap is half a level larger, with the average black student being 2.4 levels behind the average white student.

Of course, it could be assumed that this discrepancy is due to the fact that schools with higher performance gaps are more likely to hire Chief Diversity Officers and that the hiring of such officers and the equity initiatives that such hiring implies will reduce the gaps in performance. performance over time. But that doesn’t seem to be true either:

Perhaps districts create CDO positions because they have larger performance gaps that they want to fill. To address this concern, it is possible to look at the development of performance gaps, over time, rather than the static magnitude of those gaps, to see if districts with CDO are making progress in closing those gaps.

Standardized test results show that performance gaps are growing over time in districts with CDOs. From 2009 to 2018, the performance gap between whites and blacks grew by 0.03 grade levels each year in districts with CDO compared to districts without that position. The gap between whites and Hispanics grew 0.02 more education levels per year over this time period in districts with CDOs than in those without. And the gap between poor and non-poor students has grown by 0.01 degrees in districts with CDOs compared to those without.

Even when other characteristics observed on school districts are statistically controlled, the negative relationship between a CDO position and performance gaps remains.

While further research could help demonstrate whether a school district’s focus on diversity initiatives helps or harms minority student performance, it’s easy to see why such an emphasis would be detrimental rather than beneficial. Equity initiatives generally involve a constant reference to race, combined with a lowering of standards for minority students (grades are a manifestation of white supremacy, etc.). It’s easy to imagine that schools that don’t continually focus on race and that keep all students to the same standards will produce better outcomes for minority students, and likely white students as well.

Of course, the burden of proof rests with advocates of diversity, equity and inclusion. Where is the empirical evidence that this approach to education produces better outcomes for minority students or for a student body as a whole? In the absence of such evidence, the initiatives of the DEI should be dismantled and the Diversity Officers should be grazed.


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