Tag Archives: Educational Equity

I recently had the opportunity to attend Harvard’s institute on Race, Equity, and Leadership in Schools along with a substantial portion of my district’s leadership. The group included my superintendent, members of cabinet, and a building leader from each school. While there were some logistical challenges inherent to running anything for the first time, I must say, the Harvard Graduate School of Education puts on a good show.

There were 12 90-minute sessions across 4 days with a continuous stream of HGSE’s heavy hitters. There were too many different threats to try and bring together any sort of holistic summary beyond the obvious: equity work is difficult work that requires continuous attention and a coordinated approach. Equity work is also absolutely critical to the success of our public schools and our fundamental tenets of democracy and justice.

What follows below are 4 daily summaries that I originally sent as emails to my team at the end of each day. They are somewhat informal and written while in the flow of the institute so they have an immediacy that I think is valuable. I’ve edited some of them for length.

Day 1 – 21, March, 2017
I’m writing this at 2:45 AM because I’m so excited that I can’t sleep and I process things through writing. If I write a bunch of it down now then I can go into the next day confident that I won’t forget as much of what I already learned.

(Please don’t send me a stack of messages about sleep and self care. I’m typically pretty good about sleep. My wife is also away so there’s no one to kick me back to bed.)

We’ve only scratched the surface of what this week has to offer and I’m already spinning with ideas about what we can do in the district to move our equity work. I hope you’re all taking good notes because we’re getting gems by the second and I know it will take a long time to process all of this material.

What a way to begin. Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot is absolutely the national treasure that Dr. Jewell-Sherman said she is. Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s frame using View, Voices, and Visibility immediately landed with me and I think we can learn a lot from her encouragement to proactively find examples of positivity while still remaining honest and critical. She also took a very powerful both/and approach to her work encouraging us to look at cases for their ugliness alongside their beauty and how we can be analytical while we build solidarity. Avoiding either/or thinking is revolutionary in itself because of how directly it pushes back against a dominant narrative of scarcity and otherness.

In the second session, Dr. Jewell-Sherman echoed this both/and thinking by encouraging us to think of our work as containing challenges and opportunities together. That we can be busy and excited. Her sentiment that we need to find individual measures of success in addition to the measures we can’t control was also particularly resonant for me as professional learning can often be very intangible.

As I expected, Dr. Tatum was remarkable. She is a legendary name for good reason. I appreciated hearing her confirm many of the messages she spoke about when she was with us back in November. It was helpful to hear her reiterate the ABC of Affirming Identity, Building Community, and Cultivating Leadership. As always, Dr. Tatum’s metaphors are spot on and this time around the antibiotics metaphor really struck home. I think our district is still early in the course of antibiotics and we’re seeing some of what she described. Some people are starting to feel better and it could be easy to stop taking the medicine, others have backed away and are feeling uncomfortable and need to press on, while still others perhaps haven’t really begun to take the medicine.

This is lifelong work in many ways while at the same time balanced by great urgency to serve our students in a way that supports each and every one of them.

If I take a pile of notes they will be there for me six months from now when I’ve forgotten 80% of what I’ve heard. I’m excited to be a nerd with all of you this week so we can learn some things to help every one of our students get the kind of school experience we would want for our own children.

I hope Wednesday has just as much material. I hope that I end the day feeling just as full with a burning desire to write down every single phrase, idea, possibility, and metaphor.

I hope my hand hurts from taking another pile of notes. That’s what we’re here for.

See you all in a few hours.



Day 2 – 22, March, 2017
Figured I may as well do this again after the positive response from so many of you. Here goes:

Day 2 left me wanting more time to talk with all of you about how to take this massive amount of new learning and turn (some of) it into action and opportunity for our students. It will be critical for us to make sure that this week doesn’t die on Friday afternoon in the same way we had to be vigilant after the PD day back in November. The continuation of this work lives in our daily actions and our ordinary choices. I expect many conversations with all of you to unpack your ideas and contextualize them for your place in the district.

More intellectual heavyweights today. I expect nothing less from Harvard.

I really appreciated Dr. Murnane’s economic perspective and it aligns with a lot of other things I’ve been reading lately, though from another perspective. In particular I’ve been thinking about which knowledge/skills/behaviors schools reward and which knowledge/skills/behaviors we punish. I think schools disproportionately punish social behaviors and reward them inadequately. I think the claim that “social skills aren’t on the test” is a red herring. As schools, and leaders, we can create ways to recognize and values social skills. If we let ourselves get beholden to the MCAS, or SAT, or College Board exams I think that’s like the carpenter who blames their tools. While those external measures are important and cannot be ignored, they are only one aspect of what we can assess. We still choose how grades work in our schools and I think Dr. Murnane made a strong economic case for developing our students social abilities.

Dr. Allen was incredible. I find her argument for a more connected society to be deceptively simple and I still haven’t spent enough time marinating on the idea to really know what to do with it. At the same time, I find that the concept aligns effectively with my lived experience. I am a better, more ethical, and more knowledgeable person for the combined bonding and bridging ties that I hold.

I’m a fan of metaphors so here’s a picture from my notes. You have the assimilationist melting pot, the multicultural tossed salad, and then the connected society woven tapestry in the middle. We know the melting pot and in the salad each ingredient retains its structure and can be pulled apart. In the tapestry the different threads retain their color, but you can’t pull one out without destroying the tapestry. Enjoy:

Dr. Lahey – good lord. I had a powerful experience with my partner and I definitely got to a place I wasn’t originally expecting to get to. I was struck by how complex and highly individual transformative work is and it made me think that we can only tolerate so much change at once without completely freaking out. I can’t imagine processing more than one or two items in this fashion and this experience is helping me realize the importance of doing a smaller number of changes and taking the time to process those changes deeply. My initial goal is tied to an extremely powerful piece of my identity  and it will take a great deal of thought, reflection, and energy for me to unpack whether I’m up for making that kind of change.

I think it will be important to figure out how we dedicate the time and space necessary for thinking through the complexity of the kinds of adaptive changes necessary to make the institutional changes required to ensure that our most vulnerable students are getting the experience they need to achieve excellence.



Day 3 – 23, March, 2017
I imagine you’re expecting this by now. Here’s day 3:

If you’re planning a conference and you know it’ll be seriously content heavy how do you ensure that your participants will stay with you on the third day? You lead off the day with Karen Mapp.

Dr. Mapp is not here to play around and I deeply respect that of her. I think more than anything she made the work to engage families so completely tangible and accessible. Take the time you already have and repurpose it. Stop vaguely encouraging teachers to connect with families – teach them how to actually do the work. Throughout her session Dr. Mapp took a straightforward approach and operated from a clear position that this is work to be done. She didn’t get overly technical or bogged down in unnecessary details. I also appreciated her reliance on family and teacher voice to make her points in a way that only those doing the work can really do. I ended that session thinking that her premise is just so obvious that I can’t imagine not making some changes in our approach to family engagement.

The Panel impressed me and while the panelists had a host of powerful advice and information I was particularly impressed by Dr. Mason the moderator. Moderation has an enormous influence on a panel’s usefulness and Dr. Mason balanced expertly crafted questions with her own input and levity to great effect. I appreciated each panelist’s immediate honesty and willingness to speak from their lived experiences. I was particularly struck by Dr. Gutierrez’s story of returning to her own community and still needing to earn family trust, acknowledging that by taking a job within the system she became representative of the system.

I was (over?) hyped for Dr. Lee’s session on the legal history of integrated/segregated schooling. As an undergraduate history major and an educator this is 100% my jam and Lee did not let me down. From the beginning I appreciated Lee’s stance that combined a powerful and righteous outrage at injustice with a deep critical hope that there is opportunity for progress. I knew some of the history (see bonus section below) and he also introduced me to some new cases like Rodriguez (1973) and Millken (1974). Overall I think it’s critical that educators have this historical knowledge of how schooling is structured and I’m thinking about how to develop a PD series for our educators on this topic. I also LOVED the question about how we might intentionally create areas of convergence in order to facilitate civil rights improvements. There’s so much here to unpack.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Irvin Scott as his session title was released late and there was no pre-reading for the session. In general I think it was a solid introduction to the concept of using stories to open dialogue. I definitely appreciated the that he built in a good amount of discussion, though it left me wondering if the structure was more suited to a smaller group or a longer session with more opportunity for depth. I was fully engaged throughout the session, but my notes are very sparse being mostly limited to my own story notes and the 7 points from Denning’s Telling Tales article that Scott referenced.  For now I’m thinking that the session might inform my stance and how I open dialogue but I don’t have anything terribly specific to point to just yet. That may change with time and processing.

(Tangentially related: the poem “Opportunity” that Scott read made me think of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” or “My Shot” from Hamilton which could be more relevant if you wanted to use them with students.)



Day 3 Bonus Section:
Lee’s recommended reading included Ian Haney-Lopez’s White By Law and I can also recommend it highly. (Dr. Tatum recommend another Haney-Lopez book Dog Whistle Politics.) The text is a brilliant history of the legal construction of race in the United States. My wife put it in front of me after she read it for a law school class and I fell in love with her all over again after I read it. (Yes – I am a colossal nerd.)

Day 4 – 24, March, 2017
A short day with only 2 sessions so I may as well finish the job:

Dr. Jewell-Sherman and Dr. Grassa-O’Neil kicked off the morning with a very tangible session that covered ways to open up a safe space. I was already familiar with the Courageous Conversations agreements and compass and I agree that they are extremely helpful tools. (That was my introductory book to equity work.) I hadn’t considered using the compass for a 4-corners activity and I think that could be interesting to help people think about the different ways we process using moralizing, feeling, action, and thinking. Race the Power of Illusion is a remarkable documentary. I’ve used it before and it’s also used in the IDEAS course to great effect.

In speaking with a couple other participants, we agreed that this could have been more useful at the beginning of the conference as a way to set the tone for other discussions and potentially limit the norm-setting time in the small-groups.

Dr. Barth’s session surprised me. I’ll be honest that I was a bit skeptical when he started and through the multiple small discussions I really learned a lot and I appreciated how he used the participants’ words to make his points. I’m definitely curious about unpacking methods of school governance and working more to increase opportunities for student talk – especially in the upper grades. In addition, I was struck by how forcefully he made the argument for removing tracking systems that gate entry into the most rigorous high school classes by naming tracking as the most important lever toward equity. I also think that in many ways it’s one of the easiest. (I use easy with a giant grain of salt because I know the many implications for students, educators, and families involved with AP access and how it relates to personal identity. I do think that AP access is easy relative to some other variations of systematic oppression.) I thought it was a good choice to bring Dr. Barth in to the conversation and I always make a point of listening closely to elders so that I can learn from their many years of experience before me.

General Summary:
Overall I am so appreciative that all of you took four days away from your buildings and other work to step into this space together. And I am thankful that I work for a senior leadership team who is willing to commit that kind of time, attention, and money to this work.

I have 46 pages of notes and I know that it’s going to take me some time to sift through out and figure out my next steps. I am hopeful that this shared experience can galvanize us toward making changes for the betterment of our most vulnerable students in our schools and the students we are currently underserving. The data that Dr. Scott shared Thursday afternoon isn’t all that far from our data.

No one should pretend that this work will be easy or that we will solve things quickly and I hope that despite these challenges you can all remain engaged and committed to the urgency required to help each student who comes through our doors.

See you on Monday to debrief and discuss,



In Yellow Frank Wu takes on the necessary task of expanding discussions of race beyond black and white by specifically investigating how Asians and Asian-Americans in the United States navigate the intricacies and contradictions of being caught in the middle.

fullsizerender-4The racialized Asian and Asian-American experiences are quite different from the black experience in the United States and from the introduction Wu expertly captures the nuances of anti-Asian discrimination while also building common ground. To do this Wu positions racism as a system of control. In describing his own experience Wu states: “In most instances, I am who others perceive me to be rather than how I perceive myself. [In the United States] the inability to define one’s self is the greatest loss of liberty possible.” (p.9) Wu then carries this theme of control throughout the text as he unpacks the contradictions, parallels, and distinctions between how Asians and Asian-Americans experience race in the united states in reference to the commonly discussed black/white dichotomy.

In a post-Obama election, late-2016 some of Wu’s assertions from 2002 read as naïve. Particularly when he makes broad generalizations about the state of racism in the United States. In the introduction Wu expands thoroughly on the concept of invisible racism or “aversive racists [who are] conditioned to regard racism as reprehensible but also reflexively following racial impulses.” (p.13) Prior to the 2016 presidential election I would have been inclined to agree with Wu here, yet is difficult to agree as the new reports Muslim women having their headscarves forcibly removed and increased frequency of white supremacist graffiti and other hate crimes reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Wu is clear throughout the text about what he does and does not cover and as one might expect LatinX and Native American experiences are largely absent. Discussions of intersectionality are also largely absent from the text and Wu acknowledges those limitations without perseverating on the issue. While the above are important issues that educators must discuss and develop their understanding of, Yellow’s value comes in its specificity. The text remains focused on positioning Asians and Asian-Americans within the dominant black/white dialogue on race and does so with great success.

These limitations, however, do not diminish the power or relevancy of the text.

Superb Argumentation
The highlight of the text comes in its argumentation. As one might expect from a lawyer and legal professor, Wu is an expert of supporting his claims with a bounty of evidence. He draws from a wide range of sources including case law, personal experience, mass media, literature, and popular culture. This diversity of sources increases the text’s accessibility and prevents Yellow from being limited to the academy or the legal field.

Additionally, and noticeably rare in discussions of race and racism, Wu is adept at trying on perspectives and following them to their logical conclusion. In his chapter on Affirmative Action Wu takes on whether colorblindness is a reasonable goal by assuming that it is reasonable and trying to follow the internal logic of colorblindness.

Imagine what their lives would be like if they censored race fastidiously. … [Proponents of colorblindness] could not decided that the Chinese restaurant with many Asian diners is “authentic.” They would have to refrain from telling two friends who w ere meeting one another for the first time beneath the clock tower at Grand Central Station that one should look for a white woman and the other should look for a black woman. … In each of these situations they could not use race to draw inferences about individuals, [or] to give complete identifications of them…. (p.151)

Under this type of scrutiny colorblindness immediately collapses under its own contradictions and impossibilities. This takedown of colorblindness is impeccably reasoned while  remaining fully comprehensible to a general reader. Wu repeats this method when arguing against improper use of statistics and how to balance assimilation with diversity. This persistent thoroughness is one of Yellow’s key strengths helping the text to stand apart from more superficially argued peers.

Yellow in Schools
Yellow is not a text aimed specifically at educators, nor does it purport to examine Asian and Asian-American experience in schools. As far as usability for professional development goes, I would likely subdivide Yellow and use it piecemeal due to the incredible depth in each chapter and the limited time that educators typically have in each discrete professional learning experience. (Most chapters also clock in between forty and fifty pages.) I can easily imagine running a single session using one or two individual chapters from the text.

For example the chapters on both the Model Minority and Perpetual Alien fallacies would be extremely beneficial when helping (overwhelmingly white) educators understand the lived experiences of Asians and Asian-Americans and the unique forms of racism they experience. Embedded throughout these chapters are key moments of U.S. History that are not commonly emphasized in the classroom, let alone emphasized with an Asian-American lens. These chapters would provide helpful perspectives for educators of all races when working with Asian and Asian-American students.

I particularly recommend using Yellow in schools and districts with substantial Asian and Asian-American populations. Too few texts on race, racism, or educational equity spend time examining Asians and Asian-Americans because these groups traditionally succeed at high levels (an overgeneralization that Wu investigates at length) therefore rendering Asian and Asian-American experiences largely unexplored by educators.  Even one or two chapters from Yellow would go a long way to filling that gap.


Pop quiz, hotshot.

There’s a conversational bomb in the classroom. You have  thirty students and they’re talking about racism. Things might get out of hand. Students might get angry. Students might get offended.

What do you do? What do you do?

Well, if you listen to Judith L. Pace then you lean right into that discomfort and let the students keep talking, providing some guidance here and there to address misconceptions. You let things get messy and difficult. In The Charged Classroom:  Predicaments and Possibilities for Democratic Teaching Pace covers how teachers can effectively let the classroom environment get tense (or charged) in order to promote student learning.

Structurally, Pace segments charged issues into four categories: communicating academic expectations, discussing provocative topics, competing curricular demands, and framing performance. In each chapter Pace summarizes relevant research, relates a series of classroom observations (including effective and ineffective examples) and then discusses the feasibility of moving forward in support of democratic education. This structure works well with Pace’s straightforward writing style and each chapter could also stand on it’s own if so desired. The text is quite slim and Pace doesn’t waste any words in getting her point across. Each section is valuable in its own right and the is very little of the repetition that can plague books about education.

In addition to the basic structure described above Pace also carries a thread of educational equity throughout the text highlighting how traditionally underserved populations (low income, urban, rural, racial minority) also typically experience reduced access to the highest levels of democratic education of which they are likely in the highest need of.  This allows the text to be used effectively alongside other works related to equity or antiracist education, even though from the cover the text is not obviously connected to those issues.

chargedclassroomPace’s background is in examining humanities education and that bias is present in The Charged Classroom. Despite this focus, the text is relevant to any level of education because of how Pace examines universal issues. Every educator has a responsibility to communicate academic expectations in a way that respects students’ emotional state while also communicating honesty. The math teacher handing back exams would benefit from this chapter and educators across all disciplines and grade levels would benefit from Pace’s descriptions of how educators effectively provide very difficult feedback to students while also helping those students save face in the classroom.

Additionally, the chapter on discussing provocative topics focuses on humanities classrooms, but no classroom is exempt from controversy or provocation. Pace’s example is same sex marriage, but could just as easily be evolution, racism, or whether girls can do math. In this chapter in particular Pace makes a strong argument that discussing controversial issues is critical for student learning and educators who take her advice on how to approach these issues will likely be more confident in both intentionally bringing up controversy and when issues arise unexpectedly.

The last two sections are similarly universal as all educators have to balance what they know about high quality education with the demands of standardized testing or curriculum. Pace provides no perfect answer here (spoilers: there isn’t one) but she lays out the challenges with enough clarity that a group of educators could discuss how they want to approach the issues given their specific contexts. I think these two chapters would be very effective if read and discuss with a department or grade level team at a school.

As with most texts about education that I read, the section on solutions is quite slim and offers little in the way of novel solutions. We need Better teacher preparation and more professional development. Conduct fewer initiatives, and give them more time.

One area of novelty though is that Pace acknowledges teaching as an inherently difficult undertaking that becomes even more difficult when we ask teachers to specifically address provocative and controversial issues. This is a fact well known to teachers, yet it is not part of the national dialogue about teaching. In fact in the United States teachers are often subject to shame and lower status.

And so while I long for different solutions, perhaps the solution really is as simple as acknowledging that teaching is difficult and training teachers as if that’s the case instead of pretending that we can create effective teachers in shorter and shorter licensure programs.



Re-visiting a classic is a challenge. I find myself wondering if it will still be relevant or if it will live up to the hype. How much of a universal theme will carry through to an audience many years removed from the original writing.

In education classics age particularly poorly given the rate of research distraction in the field. A ten year old text can feel antiquated and twenty years feels like a lifetime. Educational fads change quickly as the field shoots wildly in hops of finding a silver bullet for student achievement. I’m doubly hesitant when it comes to texts on educational equity. How could a text written before No Child Left Behind and the rise of the education reform movement accurately represent the pressures that teachers feel to educate each child to the highest levels? Equity feels even more tense in a post-Trayvon Martin, post-Michael Brown, post- Eric Garner, America. (And even more pressing in a post-2016 Election America.)

With these thoughts I began to read Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting in the Cafeteria?” an unquestioned classic that many educators read in preparation programs.“Why Are All the Black Kids…” is coming up on its twentieth year. Published in 1997, the text essentially covers the basics of racial identity development with a particular focus on Black people in the context of schools.
why_are_all_the_black_kidsThe text is still very strong and deserves its status as a classic. Tatum deftly describes and explores the institutional structures that maintain racism and the ways that people of color, specifically Black people, develop their own racial identities as they negotiate those structures throughout their lives. The chapters on youth and adolescence will be particularly salient for educators as they work to understand their students.

Tatum succeeds in creating a classic by focusing on timeless issues. While the title alludes to a text about schooling, and the text itself is routinely assigned in graduate schools of education, “Why Are All the Black Kids…” is not fundamentally about education or schools. The text is about racial identity development in the context of an institutionally racist society. The text covers schools and schooling because they are a fundamental player in a person’s identity development, but Tatum also addresses influences of community, peers, and the work world from birth through the entire life of a person.

“Why Are All the Black Kids…” most obviously shows its age in statistics and discussion of people of color other than Blacks. This makes sense. The book is a product of its time and Tatum can only use the existing 1997 statistics to make her points. If anything many of the statistics that she presents have only become more troubling in the subsequent nineteen years. Schools are increasingly segregated along racial lines despite rapidly growing Asian and LatinX populations across the country.

At the beginning of chapter 8 where Tatum addresses identity development in people of color who are not Black (or not solely Black) she acknowledges her limits wondering how she might “make the experiences of [her] Latino, Asian, and Native students visible without tokenizing them,” drawing the conclusion that she might not be able to but, ” a sincere, though imperfect, attempt to interrupt the oppression of others is usually better than no attempt at all.” To this end Tatum quickly exposes core issues of oppression that exist for LatinX, Asian, and Native communities without trying to claim expertise. When possible, Tatum also acknowledges other scholars who are more deeply involved with these communities. The ever growing Asian, LatinX, and Middle Eastern populations in the United States and the experiences of those populations in schools highlights the need to include races other than Black and white in conversations of educational equity and antiracist education.

The sentiment that a sincere attempt is better than no attempt is a valuable model. As a white educator focusing on anti-racism in schools I am often concerned with how I show up. I work hard to speak my own truth and avoid speaking for others while authentically working to interrupt oppression and I find myself at times second guessing whether I’m “doing it right.” Tatum’s comment frees me of that concern to some extent as long as I am still willing to hear when I make missteps so as to make continuous improvements.

As “Why Are All the Black Kids…” comes up on its twentieth year I hope that Tatum will revisit the text. In some ways Tatum could simply modernize the text with new statistics and new references. A reference to Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice instead of Rodney King. An explanation that the LatinX population is now 16% (up from 12.5% in 2000) and the Asian population continues to grow nationally. It would be fascinating to hear what Tatum has learned about racial identity development in the intervening years as it relates to races other than Blacks.

I wonder if Tatum’s readers would be best served by writing a follow up or companion text – something along the lines of “Why Are All the Black Kids Still Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” In the new context of officer involved shootings of Black youth, Black Lives Matter, Charter Schools, the Obama Presidency, and an upcoming Trump Presidency I imagine identity development is also changing and developing for youth of color.

“Why Are All the Black Kids…” leaves me with more questions than answers. I want to understand the extent to which LatinX, Asian, or Middle Eastern identity development aligns with what Tatum identifies for Black people. I want to understand the variety of ways in which people of color develop their racial identities and how schools support or hinder identity development. I also want to explore more deeply how schools might develop a positive white racial identity that is not rooted in supremacy or exploitation so that white youth can engage the world with an understanding of systematic oppression, a desire to dismantle those systems, and pride in their heritage.

“Let us begin by rethinking the position that urban schools are failing.”

(Not failing? Are these guys nuts? How can they possibly think that urban schools are successful?)

“On the one hand, urban schools are producing academic failure at alarming rates; at the same time, they are doing this inside a systematic structural design that essentially predetermines their failure. This is where the urban school reform rhetoric has missed the mark. It has presumed that urban schools are broken. Urban schools aren’t broken; they are doing exactly what they are designed to do.” (Duncan-Andrade and Morrell, 2008, p. 1)

art_of_critical_pedagogy_coverSo begins Jeffery Duncan-Andrade and Ernest Morrell’s book, The Art of Critical Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools. From this powerful opening their position is clear. Urban schools exist within a system of structural oppression and inequity, however, instead of telling the story we all know so well of failing students, underfunded schools, and frustrated adults, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell counter that narrative by providing examples of hope and success in the face of structural oppression. As the title suggests, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell examine how by using a combination of high quality pedagogy and critical theory (deemed critical pedagogy) we can change the dominant narrative and provide a humanizing education to urban youth.

The authors intentionally write directly to the practicing teacher yet acknowledging that while they “have written this text to appeal to practicing teachers as well as teacher educators, [they] recognize that it remains a text that will primarily be accessed by teacher educators and university-based scholars.” The authors also acknowledge the challenge  of writing texts that are theoretically sophisticated and immediately applicable for teachers. With The Art of Critical Pedagogy I think they got close to that mark. The text is definitely theoretically sophisticated and even if it is not immediately applicable to a teachers’ context, there is enough hear that a group of colleagues could draw the appropriate links from the structures Duncan-Andrade and Morrell present to their own curricula. A key component of this text’s accessibility is chapter 2 in which the authors provide a phenomenal summary of key components of critical pedagogy theory. Each pedagogue is presented with enough depth and enough clarity that the distinctions are easily understandable. Chapter 2 alone could be used very effectively as a primer on critical pedagogy before going on to read Freire, Darder, Giroux, or any of the others mentioned in more detail.

The authors place themselves firmly in Paulo Freire’s footsteps stating their book: “reports from a theoretically informed, inquiry-based practice that is a direct response to Freire’s (1997) call for critical and reflective journaling of the pedagogical process.” (preface) In doing this, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell solidify their theoretical roots while engaging in praxis to turn theory into practice. This is what makes The Art of Critical Pedagogy unique. This combined role of researcher and practitioner positions the authors to uniquely straddle academia and urban schools, allowing them to bring academia to the schools and to bring the schools to academia. The authors live and model the reality that they envision for their students.

Beyond the strong theoretical foundation, The Art of Critical Pedagogy is essentially an example of praxis and the heart of the book (chapters 3-6) comprises a series of case examples where the authors used critical pedagogy in order to improve academic outcomes for urban youth in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Each case example has unique characteristics, but in each case the authors are able to actualize their theory by combining access to the traditional academic curriculum while also helping students access culturally relevant content and skills. This allows students success by mainstream values (defined as white and middle class) while maintaining their cultural identities. This is the key of critical pedagogy, students see multiple forms of success and do not have to choose between them.

In addition to helping their students find success while maintaining their own identities, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell see to actively refute the narrative of the failing urban high school student. Throughout the text the authors describe intentionally teaching students to reflect on and understand the structures that act on them, explicitly teaching their students critical theory using Freire, Gramsci, and Solorzano & Delgado-Bernal with “underachieving” high school students. These readings alone would be a refutation of the narrative of failure and apathy that dominates discussions of urban youth.

Another example of how Duncan-Andrade and Morrell look to challenge dominant narratives, increase their students academic skills, and help them maintain their cultural identity is through the use of content relevant to urban youth culture. Thanks to voices like Chris Emdin and his #HipHopEd discussions, it is increasingly less controversial to use hip-hop in the classroom, however, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell situate hip-hop directly next to traditional poetry texts. In doing so they allowed the students to draw comparisons between the texts thus helping close the distance between the students’ culture and the culture of power; without abandoning either. Comparative analysis of Shakespeare, John Donne, The Fugees, and Tupac promotes border crossing and tolerance by “helping students arrive at an implicit understanding of what they have in common with those they have been taught to perceive as different.” (p. 52) By helping their students create connections to the traditional canon through hip-hop, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell provide them with authentic reasons to understand the work which will help them find academic success.

Duncan-Andrade and Morrell could have stopped with their class linking hip-hop and poetry. It had great success. However, they went beyond this by accessing students through sports and their local communities. Most compelling to me is the chapter on engaging students in participatory action research for social change through the Doc Ur Block project. All too often the standard narrative is that research is academically challenging and low performing students need to master the basics before they can do this more challenging work. Duncan-Andrade and Morrell explicitly refute this by engaging students as primary researchers. If our work is to develop a humanizing pedagogy that helps marginalized and oppressed people become knowledge producers (Freire), how better to do it than by putting them front and center in the research process? Instead of their traditional status as research subjects, the authors asked their students to be researchers. This is the same basic premise as gifted education looking for students to “own their learning” and create authentic intellectual work. By structuring the research project within students’ community Duncan-Andrade and Morrell engaged their students in very high levels of academic work in which they conducted community surveys, facilitated class discussions, and presented their work to authentic communities of their classmates, graduate students, practicing teachers, and community members.

Duncan-Andrade and Morrell’s claim is the same one John Dewey wrote one hundred years prior in 1907: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” Our most disenfranchised students need the most work with engagement. Remedial drills will not make up the gap. All of Duncan-Andrade and Morrell’s structures are paralleled by the Buck Institute’s structure for “Gold Standard Project Based Learning,” a structure often cited for increasing challenge for academically gifted students. Struggling students in urban schools are equally deserving of an academically rigorous, relevant, and authentic school environment.

The authors do not pretend that their work is a panacea to the challenges of urban education. In none of the cases did they fully redefine the schools they taught in. They do, however, have a proof of concept that needs to be taken to scale. Much like Freire’s request for additional work documenting critical pedagogy in action, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell make an explicit call for more work in the area with more writing on the practical components of conducting critical pedagogy that humanizes the oppressed. I wish I’d had this book during my second year of teaching. I had a group of students that I struggled to reach and I think the critical pedagogy described by Duncan-Andrade and Morrell would have served them well. I was experimenting at the edges, asking students to write their own poetry and including examples from hip-hop, but I did not have an awareness of the need to actively empower students and intentionally teach them about the hidden curriculum of schools. I used the techniques as a hook for engagement, but I did not go beyond that into more fundamental learning. Current school systems do not make critical pedagogy easy to implement, but the authors have proved it can be done.  Through collegial support and active coaching currently practicing teachers can make the necessary changes in order to support their students.