Doing Race Better: Race and the Reform of Urban Schools

School reform could succeed in the U.S. if the cultural paradigm is flipped and urban schools led by strong leadership among principals, community activists and students are acknowledged as leaders in promoting quality education. 

University of Chicago scholar Dr. Charles M. Payne talks with Steve Scher about real reform.

Dr.  Payne spoke in Seattle February 23rd, as part of the UW's campus-wide Race and Equity Initiative. His talk was titled “Doing Race Better: Race and the Reform of Urban Schools

Dr. Charles M. Payne

Dr. Charles M. Payne

America continues to grapple providing quality education for every child. There are great schools. There are failing schools. There are successful teachers and not so successful ones. There are effective principals, community activists, students and some that are not so effective. The United States spends millions on schools, invests millions of hours in efforts at school reform, all in search of some universal formula.

Since The Supreme court ruled in Brown vs. The Board of Education, the race of students and communities has gradually become secondary in these discussions of reform.  Instead, the focus has shifted broader social, economic and, political factors. But perhaps, scholar Charles M. Payne argues, the realities of race should return to the forefront of this discussion- not to be seen as a problem to overcome, but as a dynamic for empowerment.

Professor Payne spoke with me before his  talk

Dr. Charles M. Payne studies the failures and sometimes the successes of reform efforts in schools. One of his recent books, “So Much Reform, So Little Change,” looked at the history of American education reform efforts, arguing that policy rarely reflects the real attitudes of people in urban school districts.

Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, where he is also an affiliate of the Urban Education Institute.

His other books include “I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.”  That book has won awards from the Southern Regional Council, Choice Magazine, the Simon Wisenthal Center and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America


His upcoming book is “Schooling the Ghetto: Fifty Years of ‘Reforming’ Urban Schools.”


Professor Payne is among the founders of the Education for Liberation Network, encouraging young people to think critically about social issues and their capacity for addressing them.

Dr. Payne's  Seattle talk was sponsored by the UW Graduate School, the University Alumni Association, as well as a number of other departments and programs at the UW. 

The next talk in the Equity and Difference Public Lecture Series will be in Seattle April 5 at Kane Hall on the UW campus. Registration is open.

Toure is a Journalist and culture critic.  He is a contributor to Vice.  His book, “ Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now” was a 2011 Most notable book by the New York Times and the Washington Post.  He is working on books with the artists Nas & with Rakim. He also wrote “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became An Icon.”

 His talk will be about “Microaggression: Power Privilege and Everyday Life.”  Our conversation will also be available soon after his talk


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