1st Edition

Transformative Schooling Towards Racial Equity in Education

By Vajra M. Watson Copyright 2018
    188 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    188 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Discussions of achievement gaps are commonplace in education reform, but they are rarely interrogated as a symptom of white supremacy. As an act of disruption, award-winning scholar Vajra Watson pierces through the rhetoric and provides a provocative analysis of the ways schools can become more racially inclusive. Her research is grounded in Oakland where longitudinal data demonstrated that Black families were sending their children to school, but the ideals of an oasis of learning were being met with the realities of racism, low expectations, and marginalization. As a response to this intergenerational crisis of miseducation, in 2010, the school district joined forces with community organizers, religious leaders, neighborhood elders, teachers, parents, and students to address institutionalized racism.

    Seven years later, Watson shares findings from her investigation into the school district’s journey towards justice. What she creates is a wholly original work, filled with penetrating portraits that illuminate the intense and intimate complexities of working towards racial equity in education. As a formidable case study, this research scrutinizes how to reconfigure organizational ecosystems as spaces that humanize, heal, and harmonize. Emerging from her scholarship is a bold, timely, and hopeful vision that paves the way for transformative schooling.

    Table of Contents

    Preface: The Person Behind the Pen

    1.The Research Journey

    2. Remember, Reclaim, Reimagine

    3. Rituals of Resistance

    4. An Ontological Fight for Freedom

    5. Institutionalized Racism in Oakland Unified School District

    6. Christopher P. Chatmon: In Service of Our Sons

    7. Unapologetically Black

    8. Pedagogy of Patience

    9. Elevating Empowerment

    10. Charles Wilson: Reflective Resistance

    11.: Superintendent Antwan Wilson: Learning Leadership

    12.Obasi Davis: New Generation of Education

    13. Engage, Encourage, & Empower School Districts to Transform

    14. Closing: Bold Horizons






    Vajra M. Watson is the Director of Research and Policy for Equity at UC Davis and the founder of Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS). As a scholar-activist, Dr. Watson seeks innovative ways to align people and systems that advance social justice. Watson received her B.A. from UC Berkeley, and holds her doctorate from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.

    ‘A bold call to action, a passionate plea for justice, a discerning document of wise witness, Transformative Schooling tells the inspirational story of an inner city school district that resists the ravages and legacy of institutional racism and begins to reimagine and construct an educational community based on trust, respect, and accountability among all the stakeholders, paving the way for student empowerment and achievement. Educators will find compelling insights, challenging truths, practical lessons, and reasons for hope in this work.’

    Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education, Harvard University, Author of The Good High School, I’ve Known Rivers, and Respect

    ‘This book reminds us that we must fight for and demand ecosystems of racial justice during these heightened times of white supremacy, xenophobia, and racism.  A vividly powerful, multi-layered analysis of people, places, policies, and practices of hope and resistance, this book is a must read for anyone interested in and committed to challenging normative structures that perpetuate the status quo.’

    H. Richard Milner IV, Helen Faison Professor of Urban Education, University of Pittsburgh, Author of Rac(e)ing to Class, Handbook of Urban Education, and Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There

    'Transformative Schooling' is that all-too-rare example and substance needed in education: analysis intertwined with context. Throughout this person-ful and human-filled narrative, Watson lifts up and maintains the entangled complexities of white supremacy, masculinity, Black empowerment, and education as a practice of freedom. With a straightforward transparency about her own learning and priorities, Watson paints a rich portrait of the complicated and multi-faceted work of reconnecting a community with its own sovereign power. 

    Leigh Patel, Professor, University of California at Riverside, Author of Decolonizing Educational Research and Youth Held at the Border.