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Sally Leiderman, President of the Center for Assessment and Policy Development, explains how evaluation can be a tool to help communities and their partners do work in racial equity.

For me, racial equity refers to a vision of communities in which one's race or ethnicity does not act as the most powerful predictor of how one fares. Race, along with socioeconomic status, is one of the strongest statistical predictors of outcomes such as life expectancy, student achievement, and wealth accumulation. Racism, oppression, privilege, and access to power always influence evaluation.

To help people think about this, one of the questions we ask in designing an evaluation is “what constitutes success—and who says so?” What constitutes effective parenting that supports the success of children in a racist world? What kinds of community processes support leaders who can challenge the policies and practices of institutions that maintain privilege? Does collaboration among existing systems ever lead to genuine change in the distribution of power or resources?

People's ideas about what outcomes matter in evaluation are part of their worldviews, which are shaped by White privilege and internalized superiority and racism, by training and life experiences, and by the credence they give to different ways of knowing. Evaluations only rarely attend to incorporating these different worldviews. As evaluators, we help maintain the status quo unless we take into account these different perspectives.

The Center for Assessment and Policy Development, along with Maggie Potapchuk of MP Associates, Inc., recently developed a website that collects in one place information about how to do evaluations that attend to these issues. We hope that community groups and others will use the website for many different kinds of evaluations but especially those aimed at reducing racism, privilege, or oppression.

The Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity website ( is organized around the typical stages that a community group or coalition working on racial justice issues might go through in planning, conducting, and using evaluation. Each stage of the tool offers guiding questions, tip sheets, checklists, worksheets, and examples of real-life ways groups have used evaluation in their racial equity and inclusion work.

The Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity website is a modest attempt to shift the power dynamics in evaluation from privileged institutions and “experts” in evaluation toward groups of color and individual communities. We have tried to offer specific ways to reduce the privilege and ra-cism in evaluation and to address the kinds of issues that communities often face with evaluation.

For example, to address the common situation where people see the evaluation findings' poor outcomes and “blame the victim” for these outcomes, one of the tip sheets offers ideas about how to present findings in ways that make institutional causes of individual outcomes very clear-such as including data about the distribution of resources among schools along with information about how children perform on standardized tests.

In order for evaluation to address racial equity on a wider scale, I suggest the following:

1. Diversify the evaluation field. We must work harder to bring people of color and people with different perspectives about the role of evaluation into the evaluation field at all levels. We need to value many different kinds of preparation for evaluation—academic, applied, and lived experience in communities.

2. Train evaluators in understanding racial equity. It is the responsibility of evaluators who work in communities to obtain training in and understanding of institutional structural racism, how this differs from bias and prejudice, and a clear understanding of White privilege.

3. Support retrospective work. We have not solved White privilege or racism in the United States and do not know what it will take to do that. Our ability to know what we need to do in the short-term to achieve certain results in the long term is therefore quite limited. We need to engage in much more retrospective work regarding specific past accomplishments toward creating racial equity to find out which indicators are likely to predict success.

4. Create opportunities for collegial conversations. I have learned some of my most important lessons from talking with people, mostly of color, who have had the patience to help me see what I have not been seeing. If evaluators and those who work in the name of racial equity could come together to talk in collegial environments about cultural racism and how it plays out, evaluations of racial equity might flourish.

5. Think about evaluation as a populist activity. We must find ways to shift the relationship from “professional evaluators” to a situation in which everyone in a community is an evaluator in his or her own right. This can be achieved as communities and evaluators share what they know and are open to what they do not know.

Sally Leiderman
Center for Assessment and Policy Development
268 Barren Hill Road
Conshohocken, PA 19428

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