Racial tensions are a critical part of public discourse that cannot be ignored. Because schools are central to our communities, they can play an important role in grappling with and addressing the issues race relations bring. Educators can examine school data to understand which groups of students are being best served by our schools and which students are being left behind. Educators can lead conversations about race and weave it into their curriculum to support their students in grappling with issues they face in their communities.

None of this is easy. At the NYC Leadership Academy, we continuously seek to improve our work by learning from the experiences and insights of others.

#EquityReads 2017 offers a list of some of the books, articles, speeches, and films about racial equity that our staff members found compelling and useful in our work in 2017. Most of these works are new, some are not but are worth revisiting. We have recommended many of these to the school and school systems leaders we work with, and hope it will be useful to you as you plan your work for 2018.

This list is by no means comprehensive, and we would love to expand it. Please share with us resources you have found valuable this year by posting them on Twitter with the hashtag #EquityReads2017 and our handle @NYCLeadership, or email them to blog@leadershipacademy.org so we can add them to this list.


We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a collection of essays and personal reflections, best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates recounts the Obama Years. Coates offers his unique perspective on a time that has shifted both the cultural and the political landscape, and will be remembered as a defining moment in American history.

When Grit Isn’t Enough: A High School Principal Examines How Poverty and Inequality Thwart the College-for-All Promise by Linda F. Nathan

Nathan draws upon her years of experience as a principal and the stories of her former students to, as Leadership Academy Chief Strategy Officer Nancy Gutierrez says, defy the myth that all kids need is grit. The book takes the reader through five assumptions commonly made in education to show how those beliefs in fact hide inequities.

The Origin of Others (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) by Toni Morrison

In a collection of essays, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison tackles the issue of race, specifically how literature has informed our perceptions of it.

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson

Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson provides a sobering look at America’s racist history and implores us to fully acknowledge and face it as a crucial step to healing.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

New York Times best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi explores how anti-black racist ideology has permeated and influenced American history.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race (20th Anniversary edition) by Beverly Daniel Tatum

In a revised edition made more urgent by the hostile nature of contemporary race conversations, Beverly Daniel Tatum writes that open and honest talk about racial identities is essential for bridging racial and ethnic divides.

Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality (2nd edition) by Jeannie Oakes

Jeannie Oakes documents how tracking students into ability groups reflects and perpetuates racial and economic inequalities in America.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

In her seminal book, Michelle Alexander charges that the incarceration of black men through the War on Drugs has relegated millions to a permanent second-class status.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time by Claude M. Steele

In this classic piece, Claude M. Steele examines a range of phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and constructs a plan for mitigating stereotypes.

Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity: A Leader’s Guide to Using Data to Change Hearts and Minds by Edward A. Fergus

A “guidebook” for school leaders on revealing the root causes of, and developing thoughtful plans to solve problems related to race, inequity, and bias using data analysis and other means.


Teach Us All
Now streaming on Netflix, Teach Us All, written and directed by Sonia Lowman, was released to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine integrating Little Rock Central High School following Brown v. Board of Ed. The film looks at the pervasive inequalities in the American education system today and asks how much (or little) have things changed.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story, now available on Netflix, tells the story of a young man from the Bronx who spent years in jail despite never having been convicted of a crime.


Race/Related blog on the New York Times explores race “with provocative reporting and discussion.”

“Drowning in Whiteness” by Ijeoma Oluo

Oluo offers her experiences and perceptions as a mixed race black woman raised by a white mother in Seattle. Notes Leadership Academy Vice President for School Leadership Programs Marlene Filewich, “As a white woman reading this, I found her words to be provocative and challenged my thinking. I came to appreciate her words more fully and I have furthered my understanding of whiteness and how it lives in the middle-class.”

“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo

Written by a white woman, this piece explores some of the challenges involved with talking to white people about race.

“What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege” by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

A black woman’s response to her well-meaning white friend’s Facebook query regarding the existence of “White Privilege.”

“Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City” by Nikole Hannah-Jones

A firsthand account of rezoning, segregation, and other disparities affecting two New York City schools.

“Schools are segregated because white people want them that way” by Sean Illing

A conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer best known for her work covering segregation in American education.

“The Resegregation of Jefferson County” by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The battle against segregation continues as a majority white town in Alabama attempts to secede from the county’s majority black school district to form their own district.

“Prominent Scholar Calls Growth Mindset A ‘Cancerous’ Idea, In Isolation” by Adriel A. Hilton, Ph.D.
Dr. Luke Wood challenges the concept of growth mindset in the education of boys and men of color.


“Code Switch” (NPR)

Written and produced by journalists of color, the episodes in this podcast grapple with issues pertaining to education like school closure, grading policies, and social promotion. ”These issues are presented in a way that captures their complexity,” said Leadership Academy Vice President for Leadership Coaching Services Michelle Jarney. “In Code Switch, race is isolated and central to the discussion, and the perspectives offered are nuanced and authentic –  but they are not white. And that’s the best thing about it.”

Scholarly Articles

Blaisdell, B. (2016). Schools as racial spaces: understanding and resisting structural racism. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 29(2), 248-272.

Dee, T. & Penner, E. (2016) The causal effects of cultural relevance: Evidence from an ethnic studies curriculum. NBER Working Paper No. 21865. January 2016. JEL No. 10.

A study of the causal effects of introducing an ethnic studies curriculum on student attendance and academic performance.

Galloway, M. & Ishimaru, A. (2017) Equitable leadership on the ground: Converging on high-leverage practices.  Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25(2)

This study highlights the importance of leadership for countering systemic and structural barriers that maintain disparities, and examines the implications for leadership preparation, policy, and tools to support leading for equity.


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.