Culturally Responsive Practices, Equity & Disproportionality

  • Research Project

What We Do

We seek to (1) understand the effects of equity-focused and culturally responsive practices for students and staff in schools and (2) reduce the disproportionate representation of youth of color in office disciplinary, suspension, and special education referrals.

Extensive research shows that exclusionary discipline for youth of color alters their developmental trajectories, contributing to health disparities over the life course. The available research suggests that a school-wide system of support, which includes data-based decision-making, professional development for school staff on culturally responsive and sustaining classroom practices, including culturally and racially sensitive classroom discipline, holds promise as an effective strategy for reducing disproportionality.

We are also involved in a number of school-based studies which seek to improve opportunities and equity for students and reduce the disproportionate representation of youth of color in office disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and special education referrals. Many of these projects leverage administrative data and school climate data, as well as our deep interest in the collection and analysis of observational and multi-informant data related to classroom climate and culturally-responsive practices.

Project Team

External Partners: Keith Herman (Missouri)Elise Pas (JHU), Sandy Rouiller (SPHS/JHU)

Jessika Bottiani

Jessika H. Bottiani

  • Research Associate Professor
Katrina Debnam

Katrina Debnam

  • Associate Professor
Lora Henderson Smith

Lora Henderson Smith

  • Assistant Professor

Related Project

R-CITY: Reducing Racism and Violence through Collaborative Intervention with Teachers and Youth. 
(National Institutes of Health, 1R01MDO13808-01; 7/1/19-6/30/24; PI: Catherine Bradshaw)

The aim of this study is to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the R-CITY model for preventing and eliminating racism and bias in 40 middle schools. The study will assess the model’s impact on youth violence and risk factors for co-occurring mental health concerns.

Open for Business - The R-City Project

On this episode of Open for Business, host Louis Nesbitt talks with Sandy Rouiller and Sharon Pendergrass of the R-City Project.

More Related Projects

Identifying discrete and malleable indicators of culturally responsive instruction and discipline
(Institute of Education Sciences, R305A180111; 07/01/2018-06/30/2022; PI: Keith Herman)

This project builds on the Double Check framework of culturally responsive practices (CRPs) to a) define and specify discrete indicators of CRPs using an iterative, mixed methods approach; confirm and refine teacher and student surveys and classroom direct observation tools to measure these discrete indicators; and c) develop, refine, and evaluate a theory of change linking these malleable indicators of CRPs with student academic and behavioral outcomes.

Testing the Efficacy of Double Check: A Cultural Proficiency Professional Development Model in Middle Schools
(Institute of Education Sciences, R305A150221; 7/1/15-6/30/22; PI: Catherine Bradshaw)

The Double Check framework is a professional development and coaching intervention provided to school personnel. The aim of this grant is to determine the efficacy of an integrated model of data-based decision-making, cultural proficiency, and coaching to support student engagement and classroom management, in order to reduce disproportionality in special education referrals and other discipline data. The Double Check model holds promise as an effective strategy for reducing disproportionality in special education and disciplinary actions for students of color.

Implementing state-level policy reform to eliminate school discipline disparities: A mixed methods examination of effectiveness and lessons learned.
(William T. Grant Foundation, PI: Bottiani, 4/1/18-3/31/23).

To evaluate the effectiveness of a state-level policy to reduce discipline disparities for Black youth.

Select Publications

  • Bottiani, J. H., McDaniel,H., Henderson, L., Castillo, J., & Bradshaw, C.P. (2020). Buffering effects of racial discrimination on school engagement: The role of culturally responsive teachers and caring school police. Journal of School Health, 1019-1029.
  • Bottiani, J. H., Bradshaw, C. P., & Gregory, A. (2018). Nudging the gap: Introduction to the special issue “Closing in on Discipline Disproportionality.” School Psychology Review, 47(2), 109–117.
  • Bottiani, J.H., Larson, K. E., Debnam, K., Bischoff, C., & Bradshaw, C.P.(2017).Promoting educators’ use of culturally responsive practices: A systematic review of in-service interventions. Journal of Teacher Education, 69(4), 1–19.
  • Bottiani,J.H., Bradshaw, C.P., & Mendelson, T.M. (2017). A multilevel examination of racial disparities in high school discipline: Black and White adolescents' perceived equity, school belonging, and adjustment problems.Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(4),532-545.
  • Bottiani, J.H., Bradshaw, C.P., & Mendelson, T.M. (2016). Racial inequality in Black and White high school students’ perceptions of school support: An examination of race in context. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(6), 1176-1191.
  • Bottiani, J.H., Bradshaw, C.P., & Mendelson, T. (2014). Promoting an equitable and supportive school climate in high schools: The role of school organizational health and staff burnout. Journal of School Psychology, 52, 567-582.
  • Bradshaw, C. P., Mitchell, M. M., O’Brennan, L. M., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Multilevel exploration of factors contributing to the overrepresentation of Black students in office disciplinary referrals.Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(2), 508-520. doi:10.1037/a00184508.
  • Bradshaw, C. P, Pas, E. T., Bottiani, J. H., Debnam, K. J., Reinke, W., Herman, K., & Rosenberg, M. (2018). Promoting Cultural Responsivity and Student Engagement through Double Check Coaching of Classroom Teachers: An Efficacy Study. School Psychology Review, 47(2), 118-134. doi: 10.17105/SPR-2017-0119.V47-2.9.
  • Debnam, K. J., Bottiani, J. H., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2017). Promoting culturally responsive practice to reduce disparities in school discipline among African American students. In N. Finigan-Carr (Ed.), Linking health and education for African American students' success. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis Press.
  • Debnam, K. J., Johnson, S. L., Waasdorp, T., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2014). Equity, Connection, and Engagement in the School Context to Promote Positive Youth Development.Journal of Research on on Adolescence, 24, 447-459. DOI: 10.1111/jora.1208311.
  • Debnam, K. J., Pas, E. T., *Bottiani, J. H., Cash, A., & Bradshaw, C. P.(2015). An examination of the association between observed and self-reported culturally responsive teaching practices.Psychology in the Schools, 52, 533-548. DOI: 10.1002/pits.2184512.
  • Debnam, K. J., Milam, A.,Bottiani, J. H., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2021). Teacher-student incongruence in perceptions of school equity: Associations with student perceived connectedness in middle and high school.Journal of School Health,91(9), 706-713.

Translation of Research for Practitioners

Contact Us

Mailing Address

  • 405 Emmet Street S
    PO Box 400281
    Charlottesville, VA 22903