Aspen Institute Releases Primer on the Research & Evidence Base for Addressing Race & Racism in U.S. Schools

October 22, 2021

New brief synthesizes empirical research on teaching about race and racism in schools to make it accessible and actionable for policymakers.

Press Contact: Paul Ferrari


October 22, 2021 — Today, The Aspen Institute Education & Society program releases a new policy brief, United We Learn, a primer on the research and evidence base for addressing race and racism in U.S. schools.

Authored in partnership with Dr. Francesca López, Professor & Waterbury Chair of Equity Pedagogy at Penn State University, the brief looks at empirical research on teaching about race and racism, across more than 40 studies on child development, beliefs about academic ability, positive ethnic-racial identity, and sense of belonging.

“There is a lot of empirical research about how to teach about race, including significant benefits for both White students and students of color,” said Ross Wiener, Executive Director of the Aspen Education and Society Program. “This research isn’t being applied as policymakers make consequential decisions about the treatment of race and racism in schools. It is crucial, right now, to slow down, consider the evidence from research and experience, and apply that knowledge to improve teaching about race and racism.”

The research is clear that it is essential to have related conversations in schools and engage in evidence-based practices that reduce bias and promote positive student identities and a strong sense of belonging for all students, of all races and ethnicities.

“Schools play an important role in preparing young people to live, work, and thrive in a diverse, pluralistic society,” continued Wiener. “We need adults to model serious and evidence-informed conversations about race and racism so young people have positive role models to emulate. This is a teachable moment for Americans to live into our shared values, seek common ground, and address contentious issues responsibly.”

The brief highlights:

  • Teachers need support to improve their practice in promoting positive identity and reducing prejudice, but avoiding teaching about race and racism is detrimental to students’ learning and healthy development.
  • More research into the effectiveness of anti-bias training for teachers is needed. Current research suggests that interventions focused on white privilege are related to unintended and undesirable results.

Download United We Learn here.


The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program (Aspen Education) improves public education by inspiring, informing, and influencing education leaders to take action across policy and practice, with an emphasis on achieving equity for students of color and children from low-income backgrounds. For more information, visit:

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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