From the presidential debate podiums to city streets across America, 2016 was a year of heated discussion and protest about race and culture and the disparities and policies that divide them. Schools, of course, were not immune to these conversations and tensions. As we consider how we can talk about and act on inequities in education in the New Year, we are grateful to have an extensive bank of resources to look to for learning and inspiration.

The following is a list of the books, articles, speeches and films about racial inequities that staff members at NYCLA have found compelling in 2016. The list spans two decades and has helped shape NYCLA coaches’ and administrators’ thinking and work around equity. Of course this list is by no means comprehensive, so please share the names of work that has inspired you either on Twitter using the hashtag #equityreads2016 or email them to so we can add them to this list. Thank you for contributing to this important conversation.


In My President Was Black, featured in the most recent issue of The Atlantic, best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates analyzes the history of the first African American White House and what might come next in America.

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith, a contributing writer for The Nation, chronicles the author’s personal and political education as both a black man and a millennial.

We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation is a collection of essays by Jeff Chang. It analyzes the recent strategies and widespread protests that have shaken the country and argues that undoing resegregation is the key to achieving social justice nationally.

What Does It Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy, by Robin DiAngelo, describes the factors that make “whiteness” so difficult to define. Speaking as a white person, DiAngelo takes readers through an analysis of white socialization.

In Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, author Ibram X. Kendi argues that anti-Black racist ideas are woven into the fabric of our nation’s history. Through the stories of five prominent intellectuals in American history, the book highlights the tensions between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists in different time periods.

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris chronicles the experiences of Black girls who have been failed by the education system. It investigates the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe lives.


Between the World and Me is a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, often called the best writer on race in the United States. This book is in the form of a letter to his son — a 15-year-old student trying to make sense of racial injustice and his place in a world of unequal treatment and opportunity.

Despite the Best Intentions by Amanda E. Lewis & John B. Diamond (2015) examines the racial inequities that exist in a seemingly post-racial school district through five years of interviews and data-gathering. Focusing on a diverse suburban school in a relatively wealth neighborhood, the authors look within the school for clues as to what might cause the racial achievement gap.

White America’s Racial Illiteracy: Why Our National Conversation is Poisoned from the Start is an article by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, the author of “What Does It Mean to Be White?” This book and article list examples of challenges that trigger racial stress for white people and why it is worth working through the discomfort these challenges present.

Race, Equity and Lessons at St. Paul’s Como Elementary is a MinnPost article by Beth Hawkins that examines the strategies used to increase racial equity in schools in St. Paul, Minnesota. It serves as an important example of an entire school using an equity lens for every decision and observation — big and small.

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue, an internationally recognized expert on multiculturalism, diversity, and microaggressions, explores the characteristics, dynamics, and meaning behind discussions about race. The book also examines the hidden “ground rules” that inhibit honest and productive dialogue, explains why conversations about race are so difficult, and provides guidelines, techniques, and advice for navigating and leading honest and forthright discussions about race.

In his Race(ing) to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms, Richard Milner examines the living situations of poor children of color and how they have profoundly affected their experiences in school. He also proposes a series of effective practices for district staff, principals and teachers that, he argues, can improve learning opportunities for all students.

Excellence Through Equity is a book by Alan Blankstein and Pedro Noguera, who challenge readers to create the conditions where race and class no longer predict student achievement. The anthology demonstrates how equity is the most powerful means available to lift all children to higher achievement in the most effective schools in the United States and worldwide.

How to Raise a Black Son in America is a featured TED Talks video by the poet and educator Clint Smith, who addresses how society often takes away the innocence of black children. Because of this, black parents and children make “profoundly unfair” sacrifices, he said. “I want to live in a world where my son will not be presumed guilty the moment he is born.”

1.5 Million Missing Black Men is an article in The New York Times by Justin Wolfers, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy. This article crunches some eye-opening numbers, highlighting that one out of every six black men between 25 and 54 years old (1.5 million) has disappeared from daily life through either incarceration or early death.

Lead With Love [Spring Valley High Is Your School Too] is an article by New York City teacher, writer and EduColor co-founder Jose Vilson, who challenges educators to recognize their role in protecting children and standing up against racism.

The Other Student Activists is an article in The Atlantic by reporter Melinda D. Anderson, who shows us why and how high school students are mobilizing to become active agents in their own destinies.

The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education report commissioned by AFT’s Albert Shanker Institute provides data and insights into the role educators play in reducing implicit bias. In The Shanker Blog, Burnie Bond puts the findings in perspective.


The Case for Reparations is a penetrating article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic about the historical implications of racial inequality and the systems and structures that perpetuate it.

Underwater Dreams, a documentary written and directed by Mary Mazzio and narrated by Michael Pena chronicles how two sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants learned how to build underwater robots, beat out MIT in a robotics challenge, and left a legacy of high aspirations and confidence in academic achievement among students that followed.


White Like Me is a documentary by Tim Wise that explores race and racism in the United States through the lens of whiteness and white privilege.

Every Kid Needs a Champion is a TED Talk by teacher Rita Pierson who shares a call to action for teachers to connect with students on a real, human, personal level for children to feel inspired and learn.

Teach Teachers How to Create Magic is a TED Talk by science and hip hop advocate Christopher Emdin, who creates a vision for classrooms that are alive with learning and leverage student interests for increased engagement.


Multiplication Is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children is a book by Lisa Delpit that reminds all educators that there is no achievement gap at birth for students of color. She discusses successful strategies for raising expectations for minority children and in particular black youth. She uses curriculum examples and stories from successful teachers to help guide thinking and change the mindset of her readers.

Slavery by Another Name is a documentary based on the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Douglas Blackmon book, which challenges one of American’s most cherished assumptions that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation.


Precious Knowledge is a powerful film that illustrates what motivates Tucson High School students and teachers to form the front line of an epic civil rights battle. While 48 percent of Mexican American students drop out of high school, Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program has become a national model of educational success, with 93 percent of enrolled students graduating from high school and 85 percent going on to attend college.


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is a book by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar. She writes that while Jim Crow laws are no longer valid, millions of blacks arrested for minor crimes remain marginalized and disfranchised, trapped by a criminal justice system and denied basic rights and opportunities that would allow them to become productive, law-abiding citizens.


Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders is a book — edited by Randall B. Lindsey, Kikanza J. Nuri Robins, Raymond D. (Dewey) Terrell — that gives readers a deeper understanding of the meaning of culture and cultural proficiency. The book includes many activities that surface insights into the perspectives of individual educator’s and their teams of colleagues bring to student learning.

Reading for Their Life: (Re)building the Textual Lineages of African American Adolescent Males is a book — by Alfred Tatum, PhD, chair and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education — that describes his research and advocacy on advancing the literacy development of adolescents, particularly African American boys in urban communities. Tatum, who grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing projects in Chicago, embraced literacy as a way out of violence and poverty.

Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing up to Old School Culture is a book by education researcher and writer Kirsten Olson, who identifies seven kinds of wounds inflicted on students by their school experiences and describes how caring parents, teachers, and students can help prevent and heal the wounds.

The Danger of a Single Story is a TED Talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.


The Data Coach’s Guide to Improving Learning for All Students: Unleashing the Power of Collaborative Inquiry is a book by Nancy Love who brings a cultural proficiency perspective to data use and teacher collaboration.

The Trouble With Black Boys… and Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education is a book by Pedro Noguera. It conveys a brutally honest message about the issues of racism and also offers ideas about how to improve outcomes for all students. NYCLA staff often pair this book with Noguera’s The Trouble With Black Boys: The Role and Influence of Environmental and Cultural Factors on the Academic Performance of African American Males, an article that explores how educators can effectively support black males in learning and achievement.


Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools — a book by Glenn Singleton and Curtis Linton — examines the achievement gap through the prism of race and lays out the need for candid, courageous conversations about race in order to understand why performance inequity persists. The book includes practical advice and activities to changing thinking and practice.


Race: The Power of an Illusion, a three-part video series produced by California Newsreel, questions the idea of race as biological, but rather insists it is a value that resides in politics, economics and culture.

Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African American Students is three separate essays by Theresa Perry, Claude Steele and Asa Hilliard III who explore how African American students experience school in a society that has historically devalued their intellectual abilities. They call for a new understanding of the unique obstacles black students face in American schools and point to a variety of education practices that support and promote academic excellence.


Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank Wu offers a unique perspective on how changing ideas of racial identity will affect race relations in the 21st Century. The author examines affirmative action, globalization, immigration, and other controversial contemporary issues through the lens of the Asian-American experience.


Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring is a book by University of Texas education professor Angela Valenzuela, who researched the relationships between teachers and students in a Houston high school serving a high concentration of Mexican immigrant and Mexican-American youth. She found that teachers and students often fail to understand one another’s orientations and values, resulting in a kind of mutual alienation.


Black is, Black Ain’t is a documentary that explores the full spectrum of expressions of African American identity and stereotypes. California Newsreel produced a facilitator’s guide to help educators navigate and constructively discuss and understand the painful reactions stirred by the film.

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom is a timeless classic by author Bell Hooks who argues that an educator’s most important goal is to teach students to “transgress” against racial, sexual, and economic boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom.


*** Following are some additions from equity and opportunity champions. Keep them coming! ***

In honor of Saturday’s @XQAmerica chat on student engagement and student voice, we have to add Melinda D. Anderson’s “From Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter: How Student Activism Spreads to High School Campuses.” This excellent Atlantic piece shows how teens throughout history have helped facilitate important change. When school leaders and other educators listen to students and empower student voices, profound advances can happen in equity and social justice.

The Stories Tamir Rice Makes Us Remember, a powerful New Yorker essay by Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII).

Lives in Limbo: Undocumented & Coming of Age in America, a book by Roberto G. Gonzales draws on a 12-year study of 150 undocumented young adults in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. “It’s the largest and longest study of this population, and could be the most comprehensive study of undocumented young adults in the United States.”

$2.00 a Day by Kathryn J. Edin (@KathrynEdin) and H. Luke Shaefer (@profshaefer) documents a troubling rise in the number of Americans — including as many as 3 million kids — who survive on almost nothing. Edin and Shaefer estimate that 1.5 million households scrape by on cash incomes of no more than $2 per person per day, up 130 percent in 15 years. “That’s about one of every 25 families with children living in a kind of poverty so deep that most Americans don’t think it even exists here.”

Restoring Justice: Repairing the Harm Punitive Discipline Has Brought Upon Our School Communities is a post on NYU ‘s Center for Strategic Solutions’ Everyday Race blog. NYU CSS aims to move conversations about race into productive action with training and support for fostering a culture of equity in the classroom and beyond.

The Consciousness Gap in Education — An Equity Imperative a TedxLansingEd Talk by Dorinda Carter Andrews, who “challenges us to consider how gaps in critical consciousness and mindsets for adults and students in schools prevent us from providing equitable schooling experiences for all students.”

The Profound Emptiness of ‘Resilience’— a piece by Parul Sehgal, a senior editor at The New York Times Book Review, describes how student protests are reframing resilience. “It’s not just the strength to stay the course but to question it and propose others, not just to survive but to thrive.”


Abbie Groff-Blaszak


Abbie Groff-Blaszak currently serves as a coach for The Leadership Academy. Abbie joined the organization in 2017 as the Director of the West Michigan Leadership Academy in Grand Rapids, a role in which she directed a program of support for five districts in Greater Grand Rapids that focuses on professional learning networks and individualized coaching for principals, personalized district leadership support, and the collaborative development of local capacity to support and sustain a strong principal pipeline. Abbie is passionate about building and supporting a healthy and diverse educator workforce as the foundation for achieving equitable student outcomes. She has a rich background and expertise in programs and policy to support the development, retention, and growth of strong educators at the local, state, and national levels. Prior to joining The Leadership Academy, Abbie served in various roles at the Michigan Department of Education, including Manager of Curriculum and Instruction, Senior Policy Advisor, and most recently, Director of the Office of Educator Talent. In her time at the MDE, Abbie led a number of major initiatives, including Michigan’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the development and implementation of Michigan’s ESEA Flexibility and State Equity Plans, implementation of Michigan’s educator evaluation law, and development of Michigan’s ESSA plan focusing on educator effectiveness. Abbie began her career in education as a Teach for America corps member, teaching third and fourth grades in the Greenville Public Schools in Greenville, Mississippi. Following her two-year commitment, Abbie remained in Greenville for several more years, serving as a teacher leader, curriculum coach, and assistant principal before heading back to the Midwest as founding principal of a start-up public charter school in Indianapolis, IN. Abbie holds a BA in History and Political Science from Indiana University and a Ed.M. from Harvard University in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy.