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There Are No Deficits Here
Disrupting Anti-Blackness in Education

Foreword by Yvette Jackson, Afterword by Ras Baraka

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August 2023 | 208 pages | Corwin

Disrupt the deficit beliefs that steal belonging, purpose, pride, and joy from Black students

School reform efforts have long dominated the educational landscape, but the fixes that characterize many school improvement initiatives swing on the hinges of deficit beliefs about Black students. This book calls for a disruption in these models and urges educators to take seriously the significance of beliefs and cultures within schools.

Focused on racial equity from an ecological perspective and designed to propel readers to examine individual and systemic beliefs operating in their ecosystems, this book provides

  • Details on emancipatory educational ecosystems governed by beliefs that affirm Black children and immerse them in learning where their identities matter
  • A set of beliefs that work together to create collective mindsets needed to power change
  • A counternarrative of how interrelationships and interdependence govern healthy systems by challenging the meritocracy, competition, and individualism.

Grounded in extensive research and personal experience showcasing large-scale change efforts in major urban areas, Wells’ approach toward emancipatory educational ecosystems enables affirming beliefs to guide the work.

 
Dedication
 
Foreword
 
Acknowledgments
 
About the Author
 
Introduction
 
Part I
 
Chapter 1: We Need New Educational Paradigm: Here’s Why
 
Chapter 2: Disrupting the Norm: Central High School and The Newark Global Village School Zone
 
Chapter 3: Conscious Collectivism: The Power of the Collective
 
Part II: Collective Context
 
Chapter 4: The Nature of Ecosystems
 
Chapter 5: There’s Race in Our Educational Ecosystems
 
Chapter 6: Culture, Beliefs, and Emotions in Our Educational Ecosystems
 
Chapter 7: Beliefs and Biology: Subconscious and Conscious Thinking
 
Part III: Collective Purpose
 
Chapter 8: Affirming Beliefs that Transform Learning
 
Chapter 9: By Design: Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Educational Transformation (CRSET)
 
Epilogue
 
Appendix
 
References
 
Afterword

Supplements

"There is such a wide diversity of thought in education circles relative to what equity is and what equity is not. Much of this thought is so disjointed that it leaves the teacher who wants to be a true equity practitioner completely confused. Dr. Wells’ new book, There Are No Deficits Here: Disrupting Anti-Blackness in Education brings it all together. I consider this book an important must read for anyone in education working with Black children."

Principal Baruti Kafele, Author and Creator
Virtual Assistant Principal Leadership Academy

"This book is a rally call for all who know that Black student genius is alive, active, and well. Dr. Wells' work challenges the deficit, inequitable, spirit-murdering, and warehousing structure that we call school and calls for an Emancipatory Educational Ecosystem to take its place, which consciously connects every entity of the community in service of every Black student. In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Carter G. Woodson, James Baldwin and other historic and modern liberators, this concept is bold and doable. As the founding Executive Director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, an organization which advances the affirmative social, emotional, cultural, and academic development of boys and young men of color, this book resonates with our mission. It is the blueprint for sincere educational transformation and the gateway for Black student genius to grow and proliferate in schools and community. I encourage all who believe and support this same belief to add this book to your strategic action tool chest immediately Onward and upward!"

Ron Walker, Executive Director
Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color

"Dr. Lauren Wells challenges readers to take our conversations about equity to the next level. Well-intentioned leaders and policymakers can maintain practices and policies that undermine student achievement and ruin our aspirations for equity.  The good news is that the author provides practical advice for every teacher, leader, and policymaker. Good intentions, Dr. Wells demonstrates, are not enough. We need concrete actions to match our rhetoric. This powerful book will make readers confront the difference between their espoused beliefs and their continued tolerance of white supremacy and anti-Black practices. Don’t just read this book – study it, reflect on it, and join a community-wide conversation that will make all of us reflect on the difference between our intentions and our actions."

Douglas Reeves, Author
Fearless Schools

“In this age of responding to the effects of two enduring pandemics: COVID and racism, this book is a must-read. Dr. Wells gives educators a long overdue charge: STOP using deficit ideology to educate Black youth. She weaves large-scale research, historical events, ecological theory, and human experiences into a book of answers to fix racial inequities in schooling. I applaud her commitment to shifting to an ‘emancipatory’ and systemic paradigm for school reform. Brava!”

Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Education
American University, School of Education

"If what we do says more about what we believe than what we say we believe… then this book must serve as an essential guide to help us reimagine how our schools can fearlessly pursue high intellectual performance, joy, freedom, and a sense of connection and meaningful relationships for our Black and Brown students. We must, as Dr. Wells asks, look in the mirror, both individually and collectively, and fiercely reimagine and rewire communities, schools, and classrooms to be the ecosystems of equity and justice our children deserve."

Risa Sackman, Director, US Education
FHI 360

There Are No Deficits Here is a call to interrupt the beliefs and dismantle the practices and policies that prevent Black children from thriving in schools. Simultaneously an honest indictment of the education system as well as an invitation to correct it, Dr. Wells calls on all of us who claim to be invested in the education of Black children to step up individually and collectively and dream the change we know is possible. She makes plain her own story and mission to improve education and encourages all of us to do the same.”

Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Professor
Teachers College, Columbia University

“What was most striking about my first reading of There are No Deficits Here was the earnestness by which Dr. Lauren Wells exposes and confronts anti-Blackness in schools. In this instructive text, readers will learn from the many named and unnamed Black students, educators, activists, and intellectuals Dr. Wells invokes in her writing. Despite delineating the multiplicative ways schooling reinforces white supremacy, each chapter emanates hope. The narratives, theories, and empirical evidence presented highlight how everyone benefits from Black people’s brilliance. Rooted in praxis, Dr. Wells offers guidance to those committed to disrupting the pernicious effects of racism—in all its mutations—on our children.”

Mildred Boveda, Associate Professor
Penn State, College of Education

“Since the construction of race and race-based ‘science,’ anti-blackness has insidiously permeated every aspect of our society, institutions, structures, and systems, ultimately resulting in individual, collective, and structural life-altering impacts; the education system is no exception. In There Are No Deficits Here: Disrupting Anti-Blackness in Schools, Dr. Lauren Wells expertly lays out the ways U.S. schools have proven to be bastions of anti-blackness and ecosystems that reinforce, maintain, and feed the structure of racial capitalism and anti-blackness. Well’s weaving of personal narratives, coupled with the structural analysis, helps us understand the ways individual experience and connect the dots. In a world where Black children, their communities, and their families are seen as deficits and inconveniences, schools become concentrated places where this messaging can either reinforce these deficit perspectives of Black children and their families or affirm their humanity. There Are No Deficits Here compels us to confront the ways anti-blackness permeates while providing a possible solution to how we may interrupt anti-blackness in schools using a systems-based analysis and approach. There Are No Deficits Here is a challenge to us all–to get it right, to take a more critical and deeper look at the root causes that limit Black students in schools and beyond while asking us to build new systems that affirm them.”

Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, Executive Director
Education for Liberation Network

"Dr. Lauren Wells takes on a topic of profound importance to all of us: 'How can we as educators purposefully and intentionally contribute to activating the limitless potential in Black students?' Setting forth a framework of analysis to explain how we came to be where we are, and what we need to do to 'ignite the genius already within our students,' Dr. Wells issues a clarion call for us to believe in (and act to support) the innate intellect and talent of Black students as evidenced by their creativity and resilience. Affirming beliefs become policy, systems and practice, which create educational ecosystems designed for Black children to thrive. Providing both history, analysis, concrete steps for action, and a deep love of and appreciation for the Black students she works with, Dr. Wells has written a heartfelt book for constructive change."

Pam Allyn, Founder and CEO
Dewey

“Dr. Wells highlights the inequities Black children face in the American educational system. She provides opportunities for reflection throughout the book, and the examples shared are thought-provoking and relevant to the current climate in this country. Wells challenges educators to not simply acknowledge the disparities in education but to reflect on our bias and take action to move the educational system forward. All educators should read this book; this would be an excellent resource for a graduate-level course on social justice.”

Edith C. Banks, Assistant Vice President of Student Engagement and FYE
Monroe College

Lauren M. Wells

Lauren Wells, Ph.D. is an educator, researcher, and community organizer whose work centers on comprehensive, systemic, culturally responsive, and collaborative approaches to educational and social change. She began her work in education over twenty years ago while an undergraduate student at Temple University. Her experiences as high school teacher led her on a quest to create schools that are designed to work for and elevate Black and Brown students and their communities. Lauren is trained in qualitative research and uses an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the social problems confronting communities and schools. She applies... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781071855898
$39.95