book cover 03 06 18 version (1).jpg

Parents, young people, community organizers, and educators describe how they are fighting systemic racism in schools by building a new intersectional educational justice movement. Illuminating the struggles and triumphs of the emerging educational justice movement, this anthology tells the stories of how black and brown parents, students, educators, and their allies are fighting back against systemic inequities and the mistreatment of children of color in low-income communities. It offers a social justice alternative to the corporate reform movement that seeks to privatize public education through expanding charter schools and voucher programs. To address the systemic racism in our education system and in the broader society, the contributors argue that what is needed is a movement led by those most affected by injustice–students of color and their parents–that builds alliances across sectors and with other social justice movements addressing immigration, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform


Many school reformers recognize that poverty, racism, and a lack of power held by these communities undermine children’s education and development, but few know what to do about it. A Match on Dry Grass argues that community organizing represents a fresh and promising approach to school reform as part of a broader agenda to build power for low-income communities and address the profound social inequalities that affect the education of children. Based on a comprehensive national study, the book presents rich and compelling case studies of prominent organizing efforts in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, San Jose, and the Mississippi Delta. The authors show how organizing groups build the participation and leadership of parents and students so they can become powerful actors in school improvement efforts. They also identify promising ways to overcome divisions and create the collaborations between educators and community residents required for deep and sustainable school reform.

Fire in the Heart: How White Activists Embrace Racial Justice

By Mark Warren, Oxford University Press, 2010


Fire in the Heart uncovers the dynamic processes through which some white Americans become activists for racial justice. The book reports powerful accounts of the development of racial awareness drawn from in-depth interviews with fifty white activists in the fields of community organizing, education, and criminal justice reform.

The first study of its kind, Fire in the Heart brings to light the perspectives of white people who are working day-to-day to build not a post-racial America but the foundations for a truly multiracial America rooted in a caring, human community with equity and justice at its core.

Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy

By Mark Warren, Princeton University Press, 2001


Dry Bones Rattling offers the first in-depth treatment of how to rebuild the social capital of America’s communities while promoting racially inclusive, democratic participation. The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network in Texas and the Southwest is gaining national attention as a model for reviving democratic life in the inner city–and beyond. This richly drawn study shows how the IAF network works with religious congregations and other community-based institutions to cultivate the participation and leadership of Americans most left out of our elite-centered politics. Interfaith leaders from poor communities of color collaborate with those from more affluent communities to build organizations with the power to construct affordable housing, create job-training programs, improve schools, expand public services, and increase neighborhood safety.

Social Capital and Poor Communities

Susan Saegert, J. Phillip Thompson, and Mark R. Warren (Editors), Russel Sage Foundation, 2005


Social Capital and Poor Communities convincingly demonstrates why building social capital is so important in enabling the poor to seek greater access to financial resources and public services. As the contributors make clear, this task is neither automatic nor easy. The book’s frank discussions of both successes and failures illustrate the pitfalls — conflicts of interest, resistance from power elites, and racial exclusion — that can threaten even the most promising initiatives. The impressive evidence in this volume offers valuable insights into how goal formation, leadership, and cooperation can be effectively cultivated, resulting in a remarkable force for change and a rich public life even for those communities mired in seemingly hopeless poverty.


This special issue includes a set of articles designed to advance the theory and practice of CCES in education research and related fields. CCES has emerged across a range of disciplines and research domains, relying upon different methodologies and ethical frameworks, including participatory action research, youth participatory action research, action research, community-based research, and other forms of engaged scholarship like community-based participatory research.

Fighting for the Souls of Our Schools: Understanding Youth Leadership in the 2016 Boston Student Walkout Movement


This report is the result of a collaborative research project undertaken by students in the Practicum in Community Based Research under the direction of Professor Mark R. Warren at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The purpose of this research project was to study how Boston youth emerged as leaders of the Spring 2016 BPS student walkout and how these young people understand and experience their leadership roles in the broader movement for educational justice during and since the walkout.

The Formation of Community-engaged Scholars- A Collaborative Approach to Doctoral Training in Educational Research

Community-engaged scholars working in the field of education collaborate with families, teachers, and communities to support their efforts to address educational inequities, marking an important way that researchers can promote social justice in public education. Yet these collaborations require particular skills and orientations of researchers, which traditional models of doctoral education are not designed to develop. One of the few in-depth investigations of doctoral practices that support community-engaged scholarship, this study offers critical lessons for those who care about the development of a new generation of education researchers committed to working with communities to transform schools and society.

Collaborative Research and Multi-issue Movement Building for Educational Justice: Reflections on the Urban Research Based Action Network (URBAN)

Two long-time scholar-activists reflect on a distinctive approach to research that they call collaborative research for justice, research that is conducted with community leaders and education activists to advance equity and social justice. They argue that by linking research directly with action this kind of research has the power to speak directly to the current crises not only in education, but also in the other institutions of civil society. Drawing on decades of experience in public research universities, local community based organizations, inter/national disciplinary research organizations, and distributed informal networks of engaged scholars, social justice activists, and community leaders, they reflect specifically on the more recent formation of the Urban Research Based Action Network (URBAN), a national network of people enacting a variety of forms of collaborative research for justice, now with more than 1500 members. They outline lessons that might contribute to building the multi-issue movement for educational justice that they believe is required to transform public schools to make them serve the needs of the most disadvantaged, aggrieved, and inequitably treated communities. In its short history URBAN has already impacted the academy through the gatherings and meetings it has hosted as well as through a rigorous publishing agenda, including a special issue of EPAA in which this article appears. 

Transforming Public Education: The Need for an Educational Justice Movement


Nearly fifteen years after the passage of No Child Left Behind, the failures of our educational system with regard to low-income children of color remain profound. Traditional reform efforts have sought improvements solely within the confines of the school system, failing to realize how deeply educational failure is part of and linked to broader structures of poverty and racism. A social movement that creates political and cultural change is necessary to transform the racial inequities in public education itself and to connect this transformational effort to a larger movement to combat poverty and racism. The seeds of a new educational justice movement can be found in the rise of community and youth organizing efforts, in the development of teacher activism, and in the recent creation of new alliances at local, state, and national levels like those combating the school-to-prison pipeline. Many activists and educators have begun to offer a program for school transformation that connects to a broad agenda to combat racial segregation and economic insecurity, to improve housing, public health, and safety, and to reform immigration laws.

Download a free copy from the New England Journal of Public Policy here.

Organizing for School Reform and Educational Justice

“A Movement’s Legacy: Southern Echo and the Continued Struggle for Racial Justice in the Delta,”with Mara Tieken, Sociological Focus 49, No. 1 (January, 2016): 84-101

The Emergence of a Youth Justice Movement in the United States,” with Luke Kupscznk, forthcoming in Contemporary Youth Activism: Advancing Social Justice in the United States, edited by Jerusha Conner and Sonia M. Rosen, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO/Praeger, 2016.

“Community Organizing, School Improvement and Educational Justice,” in Learning from the Federal Market Based Reforms: Lessons for Every Student Succeeds Act, edited by William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo, Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2016.

Review of “Turning lightning into electricity: Organizing parents for education reform,” for the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, January 2015, available to read here.

“Transforming Public Education: The Need for an Educational Justice Movement,” New England Journal of Public Policy, Volume 26 (2014). Free download here.

“Youth Organizing: From Youth Development to School Reform,” with Meredith Mira & Thomas Nikundiwe. New Directions for Youth Development, Volume 117 (Spring, 2008): pp. 27-42

“Beyond the Bake Sale: A Community-Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools,” With Soo Hong, Carolyn Leung Rubin & Phitsamay Sychitkokhong Uy. Teachers College Record 111 (9): pp. 2209–2254. (2009) Download PDF

“Communities and Schools: A New View of Urban Education Reform,” Harvard Educational Review, 75 (Summer): 133-173. (2005). Read Online

“Community Schools and Community Building,” Our Children: Magazine of the National PTA,February/March 2007. Read Online

Community Organizing and Social Capital

Community Organizing in Britain: The Political Engagement of Faith-based Social Capital,” City & Community 8, No. 2 (2009): 99-127. Read Online

“The Role of Social Capital in Combating Poverty,” first author, with J. Phillip Thompson and Susan Saegert, in Social Capital and Poor Communities, edited by Susan Saegert, J. Phillip Thompson and Mark R. Warren, New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press. (2001) Download PDF

“Building Democracy,” Shelterforce: The Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Building 23 (January/February): 17-19. (2001) Read Online

“Power and Conflict in Social Capital: Community Organizing and Urban Policy,” in Beyond Tocqueville, edited by Bob Edwards, Michael W. Foley and Mario Diani, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. (2001)

“Community Building and Political Power: A Community Organizing Approach to Democratic Renewal,” American Behavioral Scientist 41 (September): 78-92. (1998).

Community Engaged Scholarship

“Creating an Academic Culture that Supports Community-Engaged Scholarship,” with John Saltmarsh, Patricia Krueger-Henney, Lorna Rivera, Richard K. Fleming, Donna Haig Friedman and Miren Uriarte, Democracy & Diversity, 18(1), Winter 2015. Read Online

“Knowledgeable Power and Powerful Knowledge: Research and Organizing for Educational and Social Justice,” in Sociologists in Action on Inequalities: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality, edited by Kathleen Odell Korgen, Jonathan White, and Shelley White. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2014.

Faith and Democracy

Faith-based Community Organizing: The State of the Field, with Richard L. Wood, report of the findings of a national survey of faith-based community organizing, Jericho, NY: Interfaith Funders, January 2001. Read Online

“Faith Communities and American Democracy,” in One Electorate under God? A Dialogue on Religion and American Politics, edited by E.J. Dionne, Jr., Jean Bethke Elshtain and Kayla M. Drogosz, Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. (2004)

“Faith and Leadership in the Inner City,” in Religion as Social Capital, edited by Corwin Smidt, Waco: Baylor University Press. (2003)

“A Different Face of Faith-based Politics: Social Capital and Community Organizing in the Public Arena” with Richard L. Wood, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 22 (No. 9/10): 6-54. (2002). Read Online

Policy Briefs, Magazine & Newspaper Articles

“Parents Must Shut Down the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” The American Prospect online, January 22, 2019.

“How activists are fighting racial disparities in school discipline,” The Conversation Blog, December 2018.

The power of educational justice movements,” Leaning Policy Institute’s Education and the Path to Equity Blog, October 2018.

“Lessons from the 2016 Boston Public School Walkouts,” co-author, policy brief for the Scholars Strategy Network, 2018

The Promise of Community Organizing for School Reform, policy brief for the Scholars Strategy Network, May 2012. Read Online

“Race in America,” review essay on Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics, by Cathy Cohen, in Perspective on Politics 10 (September 2012): 763-766.

“Sociologists Help Establish Network to Promote Community Engaged Scholarship,” with Jose Calderon, ASA Footnotes, 41(2):1, February 2013. Read Online

“National Growth of Community Organizing: Essential to School Transformation,” with Keith Catone, AISR Speaks Out: Commentary on Urban Education, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, April 3, 2012.
“No Parent Left Behind,” Washington Post Bookworm, November 16, 2011. Read Online

“Parent Trigger or Parent Power?” with Karen L. Mapp, San Jose Mercury News, October 21, 2011. Read Online

“How White Americans Embrace Diversity,” Fair Housing Focus (April 2011): 1.

“The White Fight,” American Prospect (April 2011): A20-21. Read Online

“How White Activists Embrace Racial Justice,” Poverty & Race Research Action Council Newsletter, 19 (November/December, 2010): 1-2, 10-13.

“Partners for Change: Public Schools and Community-based Organizations,” Voices in Urban Education, 14 (Fall, 2007): 44-52.From Private Citizens to Public Actors: The Development of Parent Leaders Through Community Organizing