The Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute is a critical race theory-aligned consulting organization that specializes in providing consulting services and training programs to educational professionals. The firm’s “sister company” is Adjusted Equity Solutions, which specializes in conducting “equity audits” of schools.
The Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute is a for-profit educational consulting firm based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, founded and led by Muhammad Khalifa, an education academic, following the 2018 publication of his book, Culturally Responsive School Leadership. 1 Though the firm’s website notes that Culturally Responsive School Leadership does not have a “singular quantifiable definition” and that it cannot be “difinitively [sic] attained,” the firm’s “CRSL Framework” notes several critical race theory-aligned aims, such as challenging “Whiteness and hegemonic epistemologies” as well as “accepting indigenized, local identities.” 2
The main training service offered by Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute is its “Culturally Responsible School Leadership Academy,” which consists of training programming aligned with the organization’s values for educational professionals. In total, the academy consists of five modules for participants to complete either in person over the course of two and a half days or virtually over the course of five days. 3
Adjusted Equity Solutions
The Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute’s “sister company” is Adjusted Equity Solutions. Like the firm, it offers products to educational institutions generally aligned with critical race theory, particularly an “equity audit” questionnaire. After the schools complete the questionnaires, the company responds with a report providing assessments and suggestions. “Add-ons” to this report that the company offers at an additional charge include “demographic trend analysis” and “qualitative interviews.” 4 5
A scrolling bar of logos on the firm’s website features Vanderbilt University, St. Anthony New Brighton Independent School, Minnesota School District 197, Project Success, Oregon State University, Mounds View Public Schools, the Minneapolis Foundation, Milwaukee Public Schools, Minnesota Elementary School Principal’s Association, Minnesota School District 622, Holland County Public Schools, and Eastern Carver County Public Schools. 6
In 2018, six black students complained to their Minnesota school district about racist comments, violence, and death threats. According to a report in the Atlanta Black Star, following complaints to the Eastern Carver County Schools, the district was ignoring students’ racist death threats and instances of blackface, leading to some of the students suing the school district in 2019. The district responded in its own partial defense that it had already sent “equity leaders” to the Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute’s Culturally Responsive Leadership Academy. 7
Muhammad Khalifa is the president and CEO of the Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute, as well as a professor of educational administration and executive director for Urban Education Initiatives at the Ohio State University. Previously, Khalifa was the Robert Beck Endowed Professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a public-school teacher and administrator in Detroit. 8
Katie Pekel is the co-director of the Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute’s Culturally Responsive Leadership Academy. She is also the head of the Minnesota Principals Academy and co-director of the Urban Leadership Academy, and at the University of Minnesota, she is principal in residence; graduate coordinator of the educational policy and leadership track within the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development; instructor for courses for aspiring school principals and doctoral students; and coordinator of the university’s executive Ph.D. cohort for educational leaders. Previously, Pekel was a high-school English teacher, an elementary-school principal, and later a middle-school principal in Austin, Minnesota. 9
- “Muhammad Khalifa.” CSRLI. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.crsli.org/?bio=1.
- “What is Culturally Responsive School Leadership?” CRSLI. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.crsli.org/?about.
- “The CRSL Academy.” CSRLI. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.crsli.org/?academy.
- Homepage. Adjusted Equity Solutions. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.ajusted.org/.
- “Adjusted Equity Solutions.” CSRLI. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.crsli.org/?equityaudit.
- Homepage. CSRLI. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.crsli.org/?home.
- Floyd, Lauren. “Six Black Students Accuse Minnesota School District of Ignoring Racist Death Threats and Blackface.” Atlanta Black Star. September 8, 2019. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://atlantablackstar.com/2019/09/08/white-teachers-do-not-know-what-they-are-doing-six-black-students-accuse-minnesota-school-district-of-ignoring-racist-death-threats-and-blackface/.
- “Muhammad Khalifa.” CSRLI. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.crsli.org/?bio=1
- “Dr. Katie Pekel.” CSRLI. Accessed May 23, 2022. https://www.crsli.org/?bio=8.