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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Professor Dennis Shirley
Lynch School of Education
Boston College

Elementary Team Leaders
Garfield Elementary Teacher Collaborator Liz MacDonald
Boston College Teaching Assistant Maite Sanchez

Secondary Team Leaders
Brighton High School Teacher Collaborator Patrick Tutwiler
Boston College Teaching Assistant Afra Hersi

Teacher Education Themes

Programs in Teacher Education at Boston College (BC) have five unifying themes. Although no single course addresses all five themes in depth and every course has goals and objectives beyond these, each course is in keeping with the themes and addresses some of the five.

  1. Promoting social justice: At Boston College, we see teaching as an activity with political dimensions, and we see all educators as responsible for challenging inequities in the social order and working with others to establish a more just society.
  2. Constructing knowledge: At Boston College, we regard all teachers and students as active agents in their own learning, who draw on prior knowledge and experience to construct new knowledge in interaction with texts, materials, and other learners.
  3. Inquiring into practice: At Boston College, the curriculum is intended to bridge the gap between research and practice by fostering critical reflection and by treating classrooms and schools as sites for teacher research and other forms of practitioner inquiry.
  4. Accommodating diversity: At Boston College, we believe that one of central challenges of teaching is meeting the needs of all learners, especially as the school population becomes more diverse in race, culture, ethnicity, language background, and ability/disability.
  5. Collaborating with others: At Boston College, prospective teachers are encouraged to collaborate with each of the stakeholders in the educational process (other teachers, administrators, human services professionals, parents, community members) and with fellow students and professors.

Course Themes

This class has an experimental design. It has been planned in collaboration with the leaders from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) in general and Brighton High School faculty and Garfield Elementary School faculty in particular. If successful, the course will advance students' knowledge about effective strategies for working with parents and communities and develop more effective forms of parent engagement at Brighton High and Garfield Elementary. In other words, in this class we will endeavor not only to understand specific social contexts of education, but also to play a proactive role in improving communication between two schools and the communities they serve. To this end, the course will engage BPS faculty, BPS parents, and BPS students as we seek to strengthen the fabric between schools, homes, and communities.

The course will familiarize students with major research findings on school and community relationships, and will ask those students to connect those findings with activities undertaken by BPS pupils. Liz MacDonald, a fourth grade teacher at Garfield Elementary School, will work with BC doctoral student Maite Sanchez to form an Elementary Leadership Team. Patrick Tutwiler, a ninth grade Brighton High School history teacher and BC doctoral student, will join with BC doctoral student Afra Hersi to form a Secondary Leadership Team. These Team Leaders will enable you to gain access to their classrooms in Garfield Elementary and Brighton High School respectively. When appropriate, students will also have access to other classrooms and colleagues in their schools. Students are requested to follow appropriate professional etiquette and to remember that urban classrooms are busy, engaging, and occasionally unpredictable environments.

This course has been planned collaboratively with faculty from Garfield Elementary and Brighton High School. These faculties are eager to improve communications and collaborative activities with parents. Part of this course will involve working with teachers, parents, and BPS students to reach those goals and to increase participation at Parents' Night events (scheduled for November 20th). Students in the Social Contexts class will be asked to study research on school and community relations and to engage in independent research and action projects which will improve school and community relationships between the community and Garfield and Brighton High School. The Leadership Teams will coach students in specific activities they can undertake in these domains.

This course meets certification requirements for students who are pursuing licensure in various areas. It is designed to meet the standards of the Massachusetts Department of Education and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Samples of student work will be collected by the instructors and used as part of our ongoing accreditation processes, research, and program development.

Assignments and Assessment of Student Work

  1. One five-page paper, due October 16th, in which you present your philosophy of family and community engagement with reference to class activities and research on social contexts of education (20% of final grade).
  2. One five-page paper, due November 13th. This paper will be based on child study of a Garfield Elementary or Brighton High School pupil and his or her social contexts of education (25% of final grade).
  3. One eight-page research paper, due December 11th. In this paper you will describe your work on a community organizing project at Garfield Elementary or Brighton High School. The paper should describe an incipient community organizing activity you engaged in and refer to at least three pieces of research studied in the course. You will give an oral presentation of the paper at the final class meeting (35% of the final grade).
  4. Journals and class participation are crucial parts of this course. The instructors will assume that students have studied all required readings prior to each class. Students should be prepared at any point to be called on and to provide an independent interpretation of class activities and the readings. Students should be prepared to share their journal entries; please note that these are not private journals, but are intended to be shared with the instructors and with other students in the course. Nota bene: journals provide an excellent opportunity for students to explore themes and receive feedback on topics that will later evolve into one of their papers. (20% of the final grade).

All papers should be submitted electronically to either Afra Hersi or Maite Sanchez. Unless there are unusual extenuating circumstances, all assignments should be turned in punctually. Late papers will be penalized at the discretion of the instructors. Each student will have permission to rewrite either the first or the second paper once.

Please notify an instructor if you have any learning disabilities or other circumstances for which we can arrange special conditions to ensure your optimal participation in this class.

Small Groups

To take maximum advantage of the cooperative instructional model used in this class, small group discussions will be held throughout the semester. Each student will join a heterogeneously composed “Home Group” with one of the instructors. These Home Groups will meet regularly throughout the semester and will provide an important venue for small group discussions, critical thinking, and synthesis. Other group structures will involve groups of those students who are primarily interested in teaching at the early childhood or elementary level versus students who are interested in teaching at the middle or high school level. All student papers will be read both by the instructor of your Home Group and Professor Shirley.

Office Hours

The professor and collaborating instructors will be happy to meet with students individually and in small groups outside of class sessions throughout the semester. Professor Shirley's hours are on Monday from 1:30 to 4:30. For optimal access to the instructors, please email them in advance.


WebCT is a new technological resource which allows students to receive updated material about the course during the week, to have threaded discussions online, and to use chat rooms to explore course topics. To use WebCT, note the following steps:

From any web browser:

  1. Go to (Note: the :8900 must be present).
  2. Click on Log on to myWebCT.
  3. Enter BC ID and password.
  4. This will bring up a list of your classes that have WebCT.
  5. Click on our course.

From Agora:

  1. From the drop-down menu, choose WebCT. (There is no WebCT login screen with this option.)
    (The direct URL for this is

For more information about using WebCT, go to


Required Readings

In hopes of saving you money and increasing your access to materials, we have placed all of the readings for this class on electronic reserve. To access electronic reserves through O'Neill Library, use the following steps:

  1. Go to the O'Neill Library home page (
  2. Click on “BC Catalogs.” It's a drop-down menu on the right.
  3. Click on “Course Reserves.”
  4. A log-in menu will pop up. Enter your user ID and password.
  5. Under Search, enter the instructor name, last name first, and begin the search.
  6. Once the search is complete, the instructor's name will appear with the number of articles on reserve.
  7. Click on the instructor's name. This will bring up all of the articles.
  8. Click on the number of the article on the left hand side.

We encourage you to print out the entire article or chapter and to bring the readings to class in the event that we wish to discuss specific passages. Please note: you can print out the electronic reserve materials without cost in O'Neill Library.

You can also access course readings through WebCT, if you encounter any difficulties with the O'Neill website.

The following books are required reading and are available in the Boston College bookstore:

  • Ballenger, C. (1998). Teaching other people's children: Literacy and learning in a bilingual classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Chall, J. (2000). The academic achievement challenge. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Shirley, D. (1997).Community organizing for urban school reform. Austin: University of Texas Press.


Class Schedule

I. Introduction

September 4
Introduction to Class and Its Experimental Design. Presentations by Collaborating Instructors. Formation of Home Groups. Film Viewing: High School II.

II. Historical Contexts of Education I

September 11
Overview of Major Themes in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American Educational History

Required Readings: Michael Katz, “Alternative Models for American Education,” chapter 2 of Reconstructing American Education; Thad Sitton and Milam C. Rowold, “Reading, Spelling, and Ciphering,” chapter 5 of Ringing the Children In: Texas Country Schools; W.E.B. DuBois, “Of the Meaning of Progress,” chapter 4 of The Souls of Black Folk; John Dewey, “The School and Social Progress” in John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899–1924.

Recommended Readings: Lawrence Cremin, American Education: The Colonial Experience; Lawrence Cremin, American Education, The National Experience; Michael Katz, The Irony of Early School Reform; Herbert Bowles and Samuel Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America; Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic; Carl Kaestle, The Evolution of an Urban School System: New York City, 1750–1850.

III. Historical Contexts of Education II

September 18
Themes in Twentieth Century American Educational History

Required Readings: David Tyack, “Americanization: Match and Mismatch,” section 4 of chapter 5 of The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education; Jean Anyon, “Social Class and School Knowledge,” in Curriculum Inquiry.

Recommended Readings: Lawrence Cremin, American Education: The Metropolitan Experience; Diane Ravitch, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms.

IV. Teachers' Perspectives on Working with Families and Communities

September 25
Teacher Panel: Nuts and Bolts. Strategies for Working With Parents. Please note: this class will meet at Garfield Elementary School. Liz MacDonald and Pat Tutwiler (moderators) Connie Scandone, Louise Kuhlman, and Kerry Richter, Karen Coyle, Kenny Salim, and Jacqueline Brown.

Required Readings: Joyce Epstein and Mavis Sanders, “Connecting Home, School, and Community,” chapter 12 of Handbook of the Sociology of Education; Laurence Steinberg, “The Power of Authoritative Parenting,” chapter 6 of Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do; Rebecca Huss-Keeler, “Teacher Perception of Ethnic and Linguistic Minority Parental Involvement and Its Relationship to Children's Language and Literacy Learning: A Case Study,” in Teaching and Teacher Education.

Recommended Readings: Joyce Epstein, School, Family, and Community Partnerships.

Assignment: For the class on October 2nd, write a two-page journal entry responding to some of the key challenges raised by the Teacher Panel in relationship to establishing optimal relations with parents.

V. Family and Community Perspectives on Working with Teachers

October 2
Parent Panel at the Commonwealth Tenant Association (CTA) Community Center

Required Readings: Guadalupe Valdez, “The School Context,” chapter 7 of Con Respeto: Bridging the Distances Between Culturally Diverse Families and Schools; Luis Moll and James Greenberg, “Creating Zones of Possibilities: Combining Social Contexts for Instruction,” chapter 14 from Vygotsky and Education: Instructional Implications and Applications of Sociohistorical Psychology.

Recommended Readings: Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot, Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools.

Assignment: For the class on October 9th, write a two-page journal entry responding to some of the issues raised by the Parent Panel. What steps can schools take to help parents to better understand their modes of instruction, their curricula, and their forms of assessment?

VI. Child Study I

October 9
Learning About Students and Their Family and Community Cultures

Required Readings: Sonia Nieto, “Lessons From Students on Creating a Chance to Dream,” chapter 5 of Language, Culture, and Teaching; Marcelo and Carola Suarez-Orozco, “The Children of Immigration in School,” chapter 5 of The Children of Immigration; Alejandro Portes and Ruben Rumbaut, “Not Everyone Is Chosen,” chapter 3 of Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation.

Recommended Readings: Annette Lareau, Home Advantage: Social Class and Parental Intervention in Elementary Education.

First paper due October 16.

VII. Child Study II

October 16
Student Panel From Brighton High School

Required Readings: Patrick McQuillan, “One Student's World at Russell High. A (School) Day in the Life of Rafael Jackson,” chapter 4 of Educational Opportunity in an Urban American High School: A Cultural Analysis.

Recommended Readings: Miles Corwin, And Still We Rise; Samuel Freedman, Small Victories.

Assignment: For the class on October 23rd, write a two-page journal entry responding to some of the major issues raised by the Student Panel. Did some of the opinions of the students surprise you? How might you seek to engage them to help them to reach their educational goals?

VIII. Child Study III

October 23
Using Standards and Assessment to Develop Differentiated Instruction. Teacher presentations: Liz MacDonald and Jacquie Doyle.

Required Readings: Jeanne Chall, Academic Achievement Challenge: What Really Works in the Classroom?

Recommended Readings: Roland G. Tharp, Peggy Estrada, Stephanie Stoll Dalton, and Lois A. Yamauchi, Teaching Transformed: Achieving Excellence, Fairness, Inclusion, and Harmony.

IX. Child Study IV

October 30
Child Study and Culturally Responsive Teaching. Guest Speakers: Cindy Ballenger and Josiane Hudicourt-Barnes.

Required Readings: Cynthia Ballenger, Teaching Other People's Children: Literacy and Learning in a Bilingual Classroom, pp. 1–81.

Recommended Readings: Peter Murrell, The Community Teacher: A New Framework for Effective Urban Teaching.

Assignment: For the class on November 6th, write a journal entry responding to key issues raised by the Guest Speakers. Do Ballenger and Hudicourt-Barnes provide a model of culturally responsive pedagogy that you find attractive, or do you detect shortcomings you would rather avoid in your teaching? What strengths and weaknesses do you find in their approach to literacy? Could their approach work in a public school setting?

X. Community Organizing I

November 6
Community Organizing and Schools

Required Readings: Dennis Shirley, Community Organizing for Urban School Reform, pp. 1–116.

Recommended Readings: Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Second paper due November 13.

XI. Community Organizing II

November 13
Community Organizing and Schools

Required Readings: Dennis Shirley, Community Organizing for Urban School Reform, pp. 147–220.

Recommended Readings: Mark Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy.

XII. Community Organizing III

November 20
Parents' Night at Brighton High School and Garfield Elementary, 6–8pm (class meets at 5:30)

Required Readings: Dennis Shirley, “Transforming Sam Houston Elementary School,” chapter 4 of Valley Interfaith and School Reform: Organizing for Power in South Texas.

Recommended Readings: Howell Baum, Community Action for School Reform.

Assignment: For the class on December 4th, write a journal entry responding to the Parents' Night activities at Brighton High and Garfield. Do you have suggestions for activities that could be done to improve Parents' Night at the schools, or the schools' relationships with parents in general? Did you have conversations with parents that changed your thoughts about parent engagement in schools? Did you identify any exchanges which you think will contribute towards improved academic achievement by the students?

November 27
Thanksgiving holiday


XIII. The Role of Technology in the Social Contexts of Education

December 4
Who Uses Computers? The Digital Divide in School and Society

Required Readings: Henry J. Becker, “Who's Wired and Who's Not?” at

Recommend Readings: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, “Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion” at

XIV. Synthesis

December 11
Round Table Presentations of Student Papers With Parents and Brighton High School Students at Commonwealth Tenants Association (CTA) Community Center

Final paper due December 11.

Conceptualizing the Three Papers

  1. For the first paper, you are asked to develop your philosophy of family and community engagement with schools. This is a traditional academic paper which should draw on class lectures, discussions, and readings to explain your conception of optimal relationships between a school and community.
  2. For the second paper, conduct a Child Study of a pupil at Garfield Elementary School or Brighton High School. Use research which we have studied in class to help you to frame your questions, but also feel free to criticize that research if you believe that it misrepresents some important facets of pupil learning.
  3. For the third paper, you are asked to engage in a community organizing intervention of your own design. As the class evolves, you will become familiar with opportunities for learning more about the relationship between a school and its community. You will be asked to become engaged with an ongoing issue in a school and to contribute to improving school and community relations. Examples of such activities could include telephoning parents to encourage them to come to a Parents' Night; producing brochures for students to take home to inform their parents of a Parents' Night; or collaborating with a teacher who is working with a parent around a complex issue of school and community relations.

Given the unique nature of this research assignment, we suggest that you use your journals over the course of the semester to explore possible research questions and community organizing interventions. You will present the findings of your research, as well as any recommendations you may have, to a panel made up of parents and Brighton High School students. These round table discussions will be held at the Commonwealth Tenants Association Community Center.

Writing Papers: Some Guidelines and Suggestions

Every instructor has his or her own preferences in terms of student writing. The following are some suggestions to guide your thinking regarding papers for this class.

  1. Choose a topic that is interesting and manageable within the scope of the paper. For a Child Study paper of five pages, for example, you would be well advised to focus on one particular learning issue faced by a child and providing some analysis and interpretation of that issue, rather than describing the child's learning in several different subject areas.
  2. Choose a thesis or ask a question which you are genuinely curious about. We are especially interested in topics where you have not yet consolidated your point of view and where the paper can provide a forum for clarifying your thinking. We encourage you to write papers which engage in the “collision of ideas,” where received orthodoxies are challenged through countervailing evidence.
  3. Refer to the research which informs your paper with some precision. If you wish to write about a topic such as Jeanne Chall's endorsement of teacher-centered classrooms, take the time to make sure that you understand her point of view thoroughly and present it accurately. We advise that you take a paragraph or two to lay out the argument as you understand it. A few well selected quotes can help to assure the reader that you have really understood the author's position. Footnote the quotes in standard academic format.
  4. Present your line of reasoning clearly and logically. If there are several reasons why you (for example) think that Cindy Ballenger's approach to teaching her Haitian-American students is problematic, give clear-cut examples which run counter to her line of reasoning.
  5. Assume a well intentioned, but skeptical reader. What objections might a reader raise to your presentation? In general, every philosophy has some weaknesses. Make sure that you acknowledge those and address them to the best of your ability before the paper is brought to a close.
  6. Summarize. Reiterate the main points of your paper and summarize the evidence in a final paragraph.
  7. Include footnotes and a bibliography, with all materials properly organized and cited. Bibliographies, for example, should be formatted in the style of hanging indents, which can easily be done through the paragraph settings on your computer. Follow the guidelines of the American Psychological Association, the Chicago Manual of Style, or the Modern Language Association.
  8. Proofread carefully. Spellcheck is a useful resource, but will not pick up grammatical errors or misuses of language (such as placing an apostrophe in “its” when using the possessive). Read your paper aloud, or have a friend read it to you, to make sure that the final arguments are coherent and persuasive.

Scoring Rubric for Class Papers

A – The research question is clearly stated and fully developed. The paper reflects insight on the topic, creative thought, and significant exploration of ideas. The study links observations on teaching and learning with a research base. The paper uses original research and the research of others to inform ideas and conclusions. The author explains the implications of the research on the social contexts of education. There is evidence of thoughtful integration of class readings, class discussion, and research. The language of the paper clarifies the writer's point of view. Relationships between ideas, observations, and data are explored. Analogies and metaphors are appropriate. The body of the paper is clearly developed and employs appropriate transitions. The paper is well written, coherent, and reflects correct grammar and punctuation. Citations are given and formatted according to established scholarly conventions.

B – The research question is clearly stated, but not fully developed. The personal reflection is serious and honest, but lacks intellectual depth and creative thought. While the research topic is connected to observations in teaching and learning the connection could be further developed. The implications of the research for teaching and learning are not fully explained. Class readings, class discussion, and research references are not clearly integrated. The body of the paper is adequately developed. Relationships between ideas, observations, and data are adequately treated. There are a few errors in grammar and punctuation. Citations are given, but are erratic in format.

C – The paper reflects some insight on and some exploration of the research question. The focus is not clear and there is insufficient integration of the class readings, class discussion, and research. Implications for teaching and learning are vague. The data are insufficient and the writer's point of view lacks clarity. The writer is imprecise in the use of language. The body of the paper needs more thoughtful development. There are several errors in grammar and punctuation which impede the reader's understanding of the author's point of view. Citations are lacking.

D – There is little or no insight on the research question. The paper lacks focus. There is little or no integration of the journal entries, class readings, and class discussion. Little or no data is used to support ideas and conclusions. Major concerns regarding the paper include: no introduction, no development of topic, no discussion of implications for practice, and no summary or conclusions. There are significant grammatical and punctuation errors throughout so that the reader can only follow the author's contentions with difficulty. No scholarly citations are given.

F – No paper is handed in; the author plagiarizes from others' work; or the paper handed in is unintelligible. Please note: every student is responsible for knowing Boston College's standards for academic integrity. If you have any questions about cheating or plagiarism, go to:

Required Readings

Anyon, J. (1981). Social class and school knowledge. Curriculum Inquiry, 11(1), 3–42.

Ballenger, C. (1999). Teaching other people's children: Literacy and learning in a bilingual classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Becker, H. J. (2000, March 1). Who's Wired and Who's Not. Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations. I.T. in Education. Paper 104. Retrieved from

Chall, J. S. (2000). The academic achievement challenge: What really works in the classroom? New York: Guilford Press.

Dewey, J. (1976). The school and social progress. In Boydston, J. A. (Ed.), John Dewey: The middle works, 1899–1924, pp. 5–20. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1973). Of the meaning of progress. In The souls of black folk, pp. 60–74. Boston: Bedford Books.

Epstein, J. L., & Sanders, M. G. Connecting home, school, and community. In Hallinan, M. T. (Ed.), Handbook of the sociology of education, pp. 285–306. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

Huss-Keeler, R. (1997). Teacher perception of ethnic and linguistic minority parental involvement and its relationship to children's language and literacy learning: A case study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 13(2) 171–182.

Katz, M. B. (1987). Alternative models for American education. In Reconstructing American education, pp. 24–57. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

McQuillan, P. J. (1998). One student's world at Russell High. A (school) day in the life of Rafael Jackson. In Educational opportunity in an urban American high school: A cultural analysis, pp. 83–98. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Moll, L. C., & Greenberg, J. B. (1990). Creating zones of possibilities: Combining social contexts for instruction. In Moll, L. C. (Ed.), Vygotsky and education: Instructional implications and applications of sociohistorical psychology, pp. 319–348. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Nieto, S. (2002). Lessons from students on creating a chance to dream. In Language, culture, and teaching: Critical perspectives for a new century, pp. 119–161. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2001). Not everybody is chosen. In Legacies: The story of the immigrant second generation, pp. 44–69. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Shirley, D. (2002). Transforming San Houston elementary school. In Valley Interfaith and school reform: Organizing for power in South Texas, pp. 63–82. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Shirley, D. (1997). Community organizing for urban school reform. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Sitton, T., & Rowold, M. C. (1987). Reading, spelling, and ciphering. In Ringing the children in: Texas country schools, pp. 70–97. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Steinberg, L. (1997). The power of authoritative parenting. In Beyond the classroom: Why school reform has failed and what parents need to do, pp. 101–121. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Suárez-Orozco, C., & Suárez-Orozco, M. M. (2001). The children of immigration in school. In Children of immigration, pp.124–153. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tyack, D. B. (1974). Americanization: Match and mismatch. In The one best system: A history of American urban education, pp. 177–268. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Valdés, G. (1996). The school context. In Con respeto: Bridging the distances between culturally diverse families and schools: An ethnographic portrait, pp. 140–168. New York: Teachers College.

Recommended Readings

Alinsky, S. D. (1946). Reveille for radicals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Alinsky, S. D. (1971). Rules for radicals: A practical primer for realistic radicals. New York: Vintage.

Baum, H. (2003). Community action for school reform. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Bryk, A. S., Lee, V. E., & Holland, P. B. (1993). Catholic schools and the common good. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cremin, L. A. (1980). American education, the national experience, 1783–1876. New York: Harper and Row.

Cremin, L. A. (1970). American education, the colonial experience, 1607–1783. New York: Harper and Row.

Crowin, M. (2000). And still we rise: The trials and triumphs of twelve gifted inner-city students. New York: HarperCollins.

Crowson, R. L. (Ed). (2001). Community development and school reform. New York: Elsevier.

Epstein, J. L. (2001). School, family, and community partnerships. Boulder: Westview.

Freedman, S. G. (1991). Small victories: The real world of a teacher, her students, and their high school. New York: HarperPerennial.

Jencks, C. & Phillips, M. (1998). The black-white test score gap. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Kaestle, C. F. (1973). The evolution of an urban school system: New York City, 1750–1850. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kaestle, C. F. (1983). Pillars of the republic : common schools and American society, 1780–1860. New York : Hill and Wang.

Katz, M. (1968). The irony of early school reform; Educational innovation in mid-nineteenth century Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lareau, A. (1989). Home advantage: Social class and parental intervention in elementary education. Philadelphia: Falmer.

Lawrence Lightfoot, S. (1978). Worlds apart: Relationships between families and schools. New York: Basic.

Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-level bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the individual in public services. New York: Russell Sage.

Murnane, R. J., & Levy, F. (1996). Teaching the new basic skills: Principles for education children to thrive in a changing economy. New York: Free Press.

Murrell, P. C. (2001). The community teacher: A new framework for effective urban teaching. New York: Teachers College.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (1999). Falling through the net: Toward digital inclusion. Retrieved from

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Ravitch, D. (2000). Left back: A century of failed reforms. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Sarason, S. B. (1995). Parental involvement and the political principle: Why the existing governance structure of schools should be abolished. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shirley, D. (2002). Valley Interfaith and school reform: Organizing for power in South Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Stone, C. N. (Ed). (1998). Changing urban education. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.

Stotsky, S. (1999). Losing our language: How multicultural classroom instruction is undermining our children's ability to read, write, and reason. New York: Free Press.

Tharp, R. G., Estrada, P., Dalton, S. S., & Yamauchi, L. A. (2000). Teaching transformed: Achieving excellence, fairness, inclusion, and harmony. Boulder: Westview.

Warren, M. (2001). Dry bones rattling: Community building to revitalize American democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Wasley, P. A., Hampel, R. L. & Clark, R. W. (1997). Kids and school reform. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Recommended Websites

Boston Public Schools home page

Boston Teachers Union (BTU) is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

American Federation of Teachers, representing one million teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, health care professionals, and state and municipal employees

Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) represents 98,000 members in more than 400 local associations throughout Massachusetts—the vast majority of educators, administrators, and educational support professionals in public education—kindergarten through higher education. The MTA is an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA).

National Education Association has 2.7 million members who work at every level of education, from preschool to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliates in every state, as well as in more than 13,000 local communities across the United States.

Phi Delta Kappa is an international association for professional educators. The organization's mission is to promote quality education as essential to the development and maintenance of a democratic way of life by providing innovative programs, relevant research, visionary leadership, and dedicated service.

Education Week is an excellent publication that covers a range of education issues, including school reform, teaching and learning, legal issues, and the teaching profession.

Selected Documentary Films About Education

The Battle Over School Choice: The Debate over What's Needed to Improve America's Schools explores the heated political debate over reforming public schools and investigates the spectrum of school choice options in education—from vouchers to charter schools to for-profit academies. For more information, visit

Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary examines the impact of California's Proposition 187, which was intended to eliminate education and health benefits for the state's illegal immigrants. Director Laura Angelica Simón was a fourth-grade teacher at Hoover. For more information, visit

The First Year is an emotional journey of five beginning teachers in the Los Angeles public school system. The camera goes inside the classroom and uncovers the passion, frustration, determination, and triumphs of America's real heroes—our teachers. For more information, visit

OT: Our Town takes place in notorious Compton, California. It recounts the story of two teachers who decide to mount Dominguez High School's first theatrical production in 20 years, even though they have no stage, no lights, no costumes, and no budget. Scott Hamilton Kennedy directs this 2002 film that examines not only the urban students' reality, but also with the question, “what does an all-white, turn-of-the-century town have to do with Compton in 2001?” For more information, visit

Public Schools, Inc. investigates the intertwined fortunes of Edison Schools and its charismatic yet controversial leader, and examine whether it's possible to create world-class schools that turn a profit. For more information, visit

School: The Story of American Public Education, is a dramatic four-part documentary series that chronicles the development of our nation's public education system from the late 1770s to the 21st century. For episode descriptions or other information, visit

Spellbound is an Academy Award-nominated documentary that follows the trials and tribulations of contestants in the National Spelling Bee, a nail-biting face-off among hundreds of teens who train as rigorously as any Olympic athlete on their heroic quest for glory. For more information, visit

Selected Feature Films

Directed by John Stockwell (2000). A scandal erupts when it is revealed that the winners of an academic contest had obtained the questions in advance.

Dangerous Minds
Directed by John N. Smith (1995). Former Marine LouAnne Johnson leaves a nine-year military career to pursue her dream of becoming an English teacher. Frustrated that her inner-city students have come to accept failure as a way of life, she works hard at helping them to realize their hidden potential.

Dead Poets Society
Directed by Peter Weir (1989). Set in an exclusive boys preparatory school in 1959, a newly appointed English teacher uses unconventional techniques to inspire his students to love poetry.

The Emperors Club
Directed by Michael Hoffman (2002). This film tells the story of a dedicated Classics teacher at a prep school who seeks not only to teach his students the content, but also to mold their characters.

Finding Forrester
Directed by Gus Van Sant (2000). An African-American teen writing prodigy finds a mentor in a reclusive author.

Lean on Me
Directed by John G. Avildsen (1989). The story of controversial New Jersey high school principal Joe Clark, who brought discipline and order to a previously chaotic school.

Music of the Heart
Directed by Wes Craven (1999). Based on the true story of Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras. Despite her success, after 10 years of teaching, the Board of Education eliminates her position due to budget cuts, Roberta fights back and refuses to stop. Instead she starts her own nonprofit organization to fund a violin program for three East Harlem public schools.

Pay It Forward
Directed by Mimi Leder (2000). A young boy attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that chance.

Stand and Deliver
Directed by Ramon Menendez (1988). A story of a dedicated East Los Angeles high school teacher, Jaime Escalante, who develops some of his Latino students into math scholars.

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project