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International Journal of Qualitative Studies in EducationVol. 20, No. 6, November-December 2007, pp. 617–638

ISSN 0951-8398 (print)/ISSN 1366-5898 (online)/07/060617–22© 2007 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/09518390701630767

Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas: defining, developing, and supporting effective teachers in urban schoolsJeff Duncan-Andrade*San Francisco State University, USATaylor and Francis LtdTQSE_A_262930.sgm10.1080/09518390701630825International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education0951-8398 (print)/1366-5898 (online)Original Article2007Taylor & Francis206000000November–December

Drawing from three years of research in the classrooms of four highly effective elementary andsecondary teachers in South Los Angeles, this article considers theories of teaching in urbancontexts by examining effective practices in urban classrooms. It outlines an original framework offive indicators of effective teaching in urban schools and uses examples from practice to illustratethose indicators and their relationship to increased achievement. Finally, it discusses possibilities forbetter preparation and development of teachers in these areas of their practice.


In 2002, I was invited to Los Angeles to design, implement and study a three-yearprogram that would develop and support urban teachers committed to issues of socialjustice. Drawing from this project, this article considers theories of teaching in urbancontexts by examining the classrooms of four highly effective elementary and second-ary teachers in South Los Angeles. It outlines an original framework of five indicatorsof effective teaching in urban schools and uses examples from practice to illustratethose indicators and their relationship to increased achievement. Finally, it discussespossibilities for better preparation and development of teachers in these areas of theirpractice.

The invitation to conduct this study was extended to me, in part, because of myreputation as an urban high school teacher and athletic coach that had successfullyused principles of social justice in the Oakland (CA) public schools for over 10 years.My background as an urban educator guides the way I understand the state of urbanschooling, and the classrooms and conversations I shared with the four teachersdiscussed in this article. I mention this because the perspective of classroom teachers

* Cesar Chavez Institute, San Francisco State University, 2004 16th suite 301 San Francisco, CA94103-3462, USA. Email:

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is sorely absent from the educational research community, and other universityresearchers and classroom teachers should know it is possible and important to havethe voice of practitioners be heard in discussions about effective teaching.

This idea of social justice pedagogy is broad and sometimes vague. In this article,social justice pedagogy means a set of teaching practices that aim to create equitablesocial and academic outcomes for students in urban schools. The distinction betweenan equal education and an equitable education is an important one for social justiceeducators (Secada, 1989). An equal education implies that everyone gets the sameamount of the same thing and is often measured by things that can be counted (i.e.per pupil expenditures, class size, textbooks, percentage of credentialed teachers).Thus, an equal education attempts to provide the same education to everyone, whichis not equitable.

An equitable education suggests resource allocation based on context, which wouldinclude attention to funding and teachers but in a manner that pays closer attentionto the specific needs of a community. An equitable education is better defined as aculturally relevant education (Ladson-Billings, 1994) in that it is designed to addressthe material conditions of students’ lives while maintaining a high level of intellectualrigor. At the same time, an equitable education encourages students to embrace thesociocultural richness of the community as a resource, rather than as a barrier to beovercome. The measurement of an equitable education would require significantlygreater attention to qualitative assessments of schools and classrooms to determinethe specific needs of the community and how those are being met, or not. As it stands,we have an almost exclusive commitment to quantitative ‘equal’ assessments throughstate and national testing and measurement of the allocation of human and monetaryresources.

Project background

The project discussed here was designed to provide professional development andsupport to groups of 6–8 teachers committed to social justice pedagogy. The projectbegan in 2002 with the development of three critical inquiry groups in South CentralLos Angeles, two serving secondary (6–12) teachers, and one serving primary (K–5)teachers (see Duncan-Andrade, 2004, 2005, and 2007 for more detailed discussionof the critical inquiry groups). Two or three teachers at three different schools werechosen to participate based on recommendations made by local teacher educatorsand school leaders. I visited each of these teachers’ classrooms to observe their prac-tice and to discuss the possibility of their participation in the inquiry groups. All butone of the teachers agreed to participate. These teachers were then asked to invite 3–5 colleagues that they felt would contribute to and benefit from discussions of socialjustice pedagogy. Each of the critical inquiry group participants was asked to committo the group for three years and was given a stipend each year for participating. Twoof the three groups met weekly, and the third group met twice per month.

At the end of the second year, four of the participants had distinguished themselvesas exceptional urban educators in all the ways we might measure excellent teaching.

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Their students were high achievers by traditional standards (test scores, grades,college-going) and by the standards of critical pedagogy (critique of structuralinequality and oppression, critical reading of the word and their world, individual andcollective agency for social change). The classroom practice of each of these teacherswas unique to his/her personality, but in each of their classrooms I consistentlywitnessed five principles of pedagogy that are the focus of this article.

The study

During the first two years of the project, I observed the practice of the participantsthrough classroom visits, video lesson study, and group discussion. I videotaped andkept comprehensive field notes during inquiry group meetings and classroom visits.In the third year, I continued collecting data during inquiry group meetings and alsovisited classrooms of the focal teachers every week, kept field notes, collected lessonplans and student work samples, and facilitated debriefing discussions after the visits.Finally, each of the focal teachers participated in extensive formal interviews abouthis/her teaching practice. These interviews were transcribed and coded for their rela-tionship to the five pillars of effective pedagogy that emerged during my observationsof their teaching.

On the surface, these data-collection methods are traditional. However, it is impor-tant to note that they were connected to the larger project of supporting and develop-ing the individual practice of over 20 teachers, while also building the reflective andsupportive professional culture to sustain this improvement after the project ended(for more on the larger project, see Duncan-Andrade, 2005, 2007). This commit-ment to giving more to the research site than I took from it is fitting with my previouswork that argues for the development of research methodologies that foreground theconcept of cariño (Duncan-Andrade, 2006). Sadly, the concept of cariño (caring),which is articulated by Valenzuela (1999) as a central tenet of good teaching, seemsto have shot wide of many education researchers working in poor and non-Whiteurban schools. An approach to educational research that emphasizes cariño has alsobeen called action research and described as an intervention for ‘emancipatorychange’ (Kincheloe & McLaren, 1998). The value of this type of critical research isits focus on empowering individuals as agents of meaningful, sustainable change. Thedirect aim is to positively impact on the material conditions of those involved with thestudy. By focusing more directly on improving the immediate circumstances, it de-emphasizes the traditional method of searching for empirical truths that can be imple-mented on a large scale. Instead, it seeks to democratize the tools of research andknowledge creation. This way, when researchers leave, there remains left behind asense of hope and promise, one that is directly tied to the participants’ sense of them-selves as capable change agents. This kind of research also aims to leave behindresearch tools that can be used and reused to continually improve the conditions mostin need of attention. This is unique, because traditional research methods leave thesetools in the hands of the researchers; so when the researcher leaves, so do the tools toresearch and, to a large extent, so does the sense of agency.

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Theoretical framework

Numerous studies have documented urban educational inequality (Oakes, 1985;Anyon, 1997; NCES, 1998; Valenzuela, 1999; Kozol, 2005) to which elected officialshave responded with policies such as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2001).NCLB is yet another example of the unfulfilled promise that the public has the rightto expect every classroom to be staffed by a ‘highly qualified teacher’. Such an expec-tation is currently unattainable because of three major shortcomings in our dialoguesconcerning effective educators: (1) we have not clearly defined the core indicators ofa highly qualified teacher; (2) we have not clearly established the significance of theurban social context for this definition; and (3) we have failed to develop effectiveprofessional supports, school cultures, pre-service training, and educational policiesthat reflect knowledge of effective pedagogy in urban contexts. These shortcomingsoffer a challenge and an opportunity for educational researchers to answer longstand-ing questions about effective teaching. That is, how is it possible that a few teachersare successful in schools where most are failing to reach their students? What are theidentifiable strategies and conditions that make these teachers more highly qualifiedthan their counterparts? How can other teachers learn from these successes todevelop similarly effective practices?

Discussions concerning the type of pedagogy that will improve achievement forlow-income children of color have been on the rise. This attention to educationalreform began to gain momentum in teacher education programs and district-levelprofessional development in the 1980s and early 1990s with the multicultural educa-tion discussion (Gay, 1981; Nieto, 1992; Banks, 1994). That work spawned otherimportant investigations into effective teaching practices with poor and non-Whiteyouth (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Valdes, 1996; Valenzuela, 1999). Those efforts haveled to increased awareness about what it takes to be an effective educator and havehelped teachers and teacher-educators name specific pedagogical theories that are thefoundation of good teaching (authentic caring, critical pedagogy, culturally relevantpedagogy, social justice pedagogy).

Why do some teachers fail where others succeed?

As we begin looking more closely at effective practices in urban schools, we mustremember to pay more attention to the process and purpose behind a teacher’s peda-gogy than to the person carrying it out. An emphasis on people over process cancontribute to myths about effective work with urban youth such as we see in popularfilms like Freedom Writers, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, and Coach Carter.These films have many troubling elements of which I will mention only one—they allfeature a protagonist who is portrayed as accomplishing the impossible. Effectivework in urban communities requires tremendous commitment and effort, but wemust avoid notions that only exceptional people and circumstances allow for success.Rather than putting the work of highly effective urban educators on a pedestal, imply-ing through their stories that they have some mystical gift that allows them to reach

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the unreachable, we must work to understand their success. This happens by exam-ining what they do, why they do it, and how they do it (the purpose and the process).Then, we can better recruit, prepare, and support others with similar commitments.

The teacher-as-hero films and urban-student-up-from-the-ghetto narratives (seeSuskind, 1999; Corwin, 2000) rely on moving anecdotes to weave stories thatconfirm the existence of opportunity for those that have the least. However, theygive us little insight into the purpose, process, and pedagogy that drive effectiveteaching in urban classrooms. The field of urban education lacks sufficient studies ofeffective pedagogy and its relationship to increased engagement, achievement, andstudent transformative agency (Solórzano & Delgado-Bernal, 2001). The fieldbegan paying closer attention to this gap in the literature in the 1980s, when moreeducational researchers turned their attention to the impact of culture on the teach-ing and learning of students of color. While earlier thinkers had pointed out theimportance of cultural awareness (Woodson, 1933; Freire, 1970), the idea of amulticultural education movement has really only gained traction in schools ofeducation and teacher training programs in the last two decades. This awareness hasled to several in-depth research studies on the impact of the cultural disconnectbetween teachers and students in low-income and non-White communities (Akom,2003; Delpit, 1995; Valenzuela, 1999). These three studies are particularly valuablebecause, in addition to their analysis of reasons for pedagogical failure, they alsoprovide grounded examples of successful teaching practices.

In all of these studies, there are similarities between the teachers that are consis-tently effective. Likewise, there are similarities between the teachers that find them-selves regularly facing cultural conflicts with students. Each of the researchersprovides an important discussion of the reasons for these differentiated teacher–student relationships. Their work helps us to articulate more clearly a pedagogicaltheory for low-income youth of color.

Missing from this body of literature are comprehensive studies providing evidencethat this pedagogy increases achievement while at the same time providing studentswith the tools to effectively navigate in and transform the larger society. Akom’s(2003) study of the Nation of Islam’s cultural and academic support for the sevenstudents in his study provides some evidence of effective pedagogy, but would benefitfrom further examination of the process behind the effective pedagogy of the Nationof Islam. Delpit’s (1995) and Valenzuela’s (1999) studies of effective and ineffectiveteachers of students of color do better jobs of examining the process and applicationof effective pedagogy. However, they do not provide a clear set of principles acrosspractices that take us beyond descriptions of effective individual teachers.

This article attempts to advance the foundation laid by these types of studies byidentifying core principles across practices and linking them to individual studentnarratives as well as wider patterns of increased achievement. It endeavors to movebeyond anecdotal discussions of what works in urban schools by doing an in-depthexamination of those pedagogical strategies that work and documenting the social andacademic impact they have on students over time. This deeper examination of successis intended to give urban educators and urban teacher-educators more strategic

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assistance, as well as to respond to federal policy calling for a definitive position onhighly qualified teachers.

The Gangsta, Wanksta, Rida paradigm

Every year policy-makers, university theorists, and educational consultants generatenew programs and policies aimed at addressing the struggles of urban schools. Theyspan the spectrum of educational rhetoric from ‘back to basics’ to ‘empoweringeducation’. Many of them are theoretically profound and most of them are severelyunder-funded. To date, none of them has hit the bull’s-eye of educational equity thatthey set their sights on.

Operating inside of this milieu of urban school reform are three types of teachers:Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas. The presence of these three types of teachers main-tains a consistent balance in the adult culture of most urban schools. This balance iswhat I call the Gangsta, Wanksta, Rida paradigm and the maintenance of this para-digm is the reason that achievement results for virtually every urban school servingpoor and non-White children can be predicted even before the school year begins.There are rare exceptions to this paradigm, but they are far too rare.

This paradigm describes three types of teachers in schools where failure seemsintractable. If we picture school as a balance scale, then on one side of the scale sitthe Gangstas. These are teachers that have a deep resentment for most parents,students, and community members and are generally dissatisfied with their job, theschool, and the broader community. They aggressively advocate for ineffective andrepressive school policies such as sweeping remediation, zero-tolerance disciplinepolicies, and tracking. In staff meetings, these teachers deliberately sidetrack or bullyforthright discussions of racism, structural inequalities, and social and economicjustice. Gangstas are the worst of our time-honored profession and they are presentin virtually every school where students are suffering. Fortunately, they are not themajority of urban teachers.

The second group is the Wankstas. These are the majority of the teachers in urbanschools. The expression is a popular cultural reference to a term usually attributed tohip-hop artist 50 Cent. He describes the Wanksta as the person that is always talkingabout what he/she is going to do, but never delivers. In my paradigm the term is notas disparaging. Wankstas are the result of a natural human instinct: self-protection.Most teachers come to the urban classroom with the full intention of becoming aneffective educator. It does not take long before they realize they have been poorlyprepared and that they will be poorly supported as a professional if they continue towork in urban schools. This professional disrespect impacts on their belief that theywill improve as teachers. The little hope that they maintain resides in their relation-ships with students. When students are disinterested and sometimes blatantly disre-spectful, the majority of teachers begin to lose faith. They find it increasingly difficultto rationalize being hurt—and sometimes humiliated—by youth, while also enduringprofessional disrespect. They stop believing that they signed up for a lifelong missionto be an agent of change, and they start finding reasons to disinvest and excuses for

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their inability to create classrooms where every student learns. They are Wankstas,and not Gangstas, because they still talk about wanting to be able to educate all theirstudents. They are not emotionally invested like Gangstas who spend significantamounts of energy disliking students and the community. Wankstas sit on the middleof the metaphorical balance scale (the fence) and do not tip the school in either direc-tion. Rather than risk caring unconditionally for students who may not return thatcare, these teachers become emotionally detached from their calling and the outcomeof their work. They avoid the emotional risks accompanying the critical self-reflectionrequired of teachers who want to make a concerted effort to change their practice.Instead, they end up blindly following the latest curriculum reforms and studentdiscipline fads. Wankstas, although deeply troubling at one level, also hold promisebecause they can and will improve if the conditions that support that growth presentthemselves in a compelling and accessible way (Duncan-Andrade, 2004, 2005).

I refer to the third group of teachers in this paradigm as Ridas. ‘Rida’ is a popularcultural term that refers to people who can be counted on during times of extremeduress. The term is often referenced in hip-hop with the expression, ‘ride or die’,meaning that Ridas are people who would sooner die than let their people down.There are almost always a few Ridas in schools where students are suffering but, likeGangstas, they are the exception, not the rule. Ridas are consistently successful witha broad range of students. They risk deep emotional involvement with the greatmajority of their students and they are sometimes hurt because of those investments.The depth of their relationships with students allows them to challenge students andget notable effort and achievement. Ridas are often uncommitted to the larger schoolstructure because they perceive it as morally bankrupt and hesitate to take on anychallenge that would mean time away from their direct service to students. It is oftenthe case that Ridas remain at ‘failing’ schools because it is the only logical path thatthey see to work with the young people they care so deeply about while still being ableto pay their own bills. Given the right conditions, Ridas hold promise for improvingthe practice of Wankstas (Duncan-Andrade, 2004, 2005, 2007), and in so doing, fortipping the balance of a school by pulling others off the fence.

The Ridas

Steven Lapu.1 Lapu was kicked out of the Los Angeles public schools when he wasin high school. A Pilipino man, he grew up active in gang life and experienced manyof the social and economic challenges that confront his students. After several yearsas a teacher’s aide in urban elementary schools in Los Angeles, he found a programfor ex-gang members that allowed him to enroll as an undergraduate student atCalifornia State University, Los Angeles, which ultimately led him to pursue histeaching credential. He had been teaching for six years at Crenshaw High School inSouth Central Los Angeles when this study began.

Lisa Cross. Lisa grew up in an upper-middle class family on the East Coast. A Whitewoman from a well-educated family, Lisa had the benefit of a first rate education and

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is a graduate of Columbia University. She came to Los Angeles with the intention ofusing her privilege to disrupt racial and social inequality in the educational system.She had been teaching for four years as a high school English teacher in Lynwood (acity bordering Watts and Compton in South Central Los Angeles) when I asked herto participate in this study.

Erika Truth. Erika spent much of her childhood in East Palo Alto (EPA), California.During her time there, EPA was reputed to be the murder capital of the country.Erika, a Black woman, found her way into the classroom because of her commitmentto social change in Black and Latino communities. A single mother, with a son whpattended the school where she taught, she was acutely aware of the challenges facingchildren and parents in urban schools. She had been teaching for nine years, and wasa fourth-grade teacher at Power Elementary School in Watts (South Central LosAngeles) during this study.

Andre Veracruz. Andre grew up on the urban fringe of San Diego, attending schoolsthat were heavily populated by recent Mexican immigrants, Pilipinos, and Chicanos.The son of Pilipino immigrants, Andre is the middle child of three. He was a success-ful student but as a young person often found himself on the margins because he washeavily involved in graffiti art. His ongoing love of ‘graf-art’ and hip-hop were pointsof common interest with many of his students, and frequently endeared him to someof his most marginalized students. Andre had been teaching for six years, and duringthis study he was a fifth-grade teacher at Power Elementary School in Watts (SouthCentral Los Angeles).

Five pillars of effective practice in the Ridas’ classrooms

When I began this work, I had an archetypal image of the highly effective urbaneducator. That image was based largely on my own success as a teacher in urbanschools and the fact that many of my colleagues with similar success over the years fitthat model. To my great surprise and pleasure, my work with these four teachers inthe Los Angeles study expanded my understanding of what works in urban schoolsand refined my understanding of why it works. I now take the position that there area variety of people that can be and are effective in urban schools. I also believe thatdespite the fact that effective teachers can come from various backgrounds (racial,social, economic), they are bound by a set of common principles. In my three yearsworking with the teachers discussed here, I saw five characteristics that were presentin all their practices. I explain these characteristics as five core pillars of effective prac-tice. These pillars were in the ideologies and pedagogies of all four of these teachers,but manifested themselves somewhat differently in each person’s classroom practice.

What follows is a description of each of the five pillars of effective practice, anexample of each pillar from a teacher’s practice, and an explanation of the significanceof that pillar to the teacher’s effectiveness with students.

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Pillar No. 1: Critically conscious purpose

The first question I usually ask teachers that I am working with is: ‘Why do youteach?’ Most teachers respond in one of two ways: (1) I teach because I love kids, or(2) I teach because I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. In sepa-rate interviews, these four teachers all responded to this question differently thanmost teachers, yet their answers were remarkably similar to each other. They said thatthey teach because they believe their students, specifically low-income children ofcolor, are the group most likely to change the world. They explained this belief bysaying that the children most disenfranchised from society are the ones with the leastto lose, and thus are the most likely to be willing to take the risks necessary to changea society. This belief that they are teaching young people destined to change the worldis vital to the level of seriousness with which they approach their jobs.

I call this a critically conscious purpose because their perspectives were not guidedby some romantic vision of changing the world. Instead, they recognized that thestudents most likely to change the world were also the ones most likely to struggle ina typical classroom environment. They would not be the favorite student, but thebane of the teacher’s existence; the agent of change would not be prone to follow therules, but rather to test the boundaries. To prepare fertile ground for all their studentsto succeed, particularly the students that would be risk takers, these teachers workedat understanding the history of the communities where they worked and the peoplethat lived there. They had studied, and several had lived, various forms of oppressionthat helped them formulate critical awareness and analyses of structural and materialinequities. This understanding led them away from efforts to create a classroom thatmirrored middle-class education. Instead, they worked to develop teaching practicesthat responded to the needs of poor and working-class children of color. They did thisthrough specific curriculum choices, modes of delivery of that curriculum, and theunderlying messages they used to motivate students.

One example evident across their practices was their pedagogical strategy of rede-fining success for their students. They talked to students about using school as a wayto return to their communities, rather than as a strategy for escaping them. Theydeveloped curriculum that reflected this possibility. This strategy led to improvedlearning outcomes measured by traditional means (increased test scores and grades).It also led to student work (writing, presentations, projects) that reflected criticalthinking, and a sense of hope and purpose that they could be critical agents of changein their communities.

In Mr Veracruz’s fifth-grade class in Watts, he was mandated to use Open Court,a scripted literacy program. Many teachers feel trapped by scripted programs, arguingthat it stifles their ability to be creative with curriculum. Mr Veracruz was critical ofscripted programs, but felt that too many of his colleagues used them as an excuse tostop planning their lessons creatively. He said:

Scripted programs are a problem and they should be eliminated, but they are here and I’mtired of hearing teachers use them as an excuse for being uncreative in their lesson plan-ning. Scripted programs are like anything else in this culture of testing, they are either a

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crutch for not teaching or they are a set of rules and guidelines that you can manipulate.I don’t really have a problem with the key concepts that the scripted curriculum tells meto teach, just like I don’t really have a problem with most of the standards I’m supposedto teach. The problem comes when you stop coming up with ways to make those thingsrelevant to kids’ lives.

Mr Veracruz’s approach to scripted programs reflected his critically consciouspurpose for teaching. He expected his students to be able to read and write as well asany student in the country, but he recognized that scripted programs like Open Courtare often not designed to reflect the lived experiences of low-income students of color.His response was to remake the assignments so that they taught the same literacystandards while using activities that reflected the lives and needs of his students.

An example of this came when Mr Veracruz was teaching the Open Court unit onpersuasive letter writing. The prompt in the scripted program asked students to writea letter which convinced the reader that students should be allowed to pick their ownteams at recess. Although this might be an issue of immediate relevance to students,the prompt did not reflect the critical literacy skills that Mr Veracruz hoped todevelop in his students. He believed literacy training should prepare students tocombat the injustices of their present lives as school-aged children in Watts, and thelikely injustices they would confront as they grew older. In place of the Open Courtprompt, Mr Veracruz created an assignment that had students write a persuasiveletter to the principal. The project called for each student to identify an issue ofconcern at the school and to write a persuasive letter to the principal explaining theproblem and how fixing it would improve the quality of education at the school. Aspart of their letter, students were also required to provide possible solutions that theprincipal could pursue to solve the problem that the student had identified—some ofthe suggestions regarding school protocol for substitute teachers were implementedby the principal.

This may seem like a small modification to a very traditional writing assignment,but it is significant. Over time, these modifications set the tone for the classroomculture that Mr Veracruz was building, one which reflected a critically consciouspurpose for teaching. It developed a classroom culture that normalized attention tohistorical and persistent suffering and injustices in the lives of his students, the Wattscommunity, and other communities locally and around the world. Beyond that, itbuilt a culture of responsibility whereby students were prepared to understand thattheir education was training them to respond to injustice.

The impact of this training was revealed just a few days after students had turnedin final drafts of their persuasive letters to the principal. Mr Veracruz was pulled outof his class to do some Open Court training with other faculty members. A substituteteacher was assigned to his class and the experience was so negative for the studentsthat several of them reported back to Mr Veracruz that they intended to write lettersexpressing their displeasure with the substitutes at the school and the fact that theirteacher was pulled out during instructional time.

Mr Veracruz agreed to support their project and asked the students if they thoughtother students around the district experienced similar frustrations. Students concurred

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that the problem was bigger than just their school and decided to address their lettersto the superintendent, whom they called ‘the boss of the whole district’. Almost everymember of the entire class wrote letters to the superintendent. One student, Anna,2

was selected by the class to represent their interests at a statewide Californians ForJustice (CFJ) rally for educational justice that was held in Los Angeles. Speaking to arally of several hundred people, she read the following letter:

Good Morning. I am —, and I am from —. I am a student body Vice President, and todayI am going to stand up for my community. Today, I am here to talk about one of the issuesof not only my school but in other schools in my community where I live. I am from Wattslocated in South Central Los Angeles.

A major problem in our school is our substitutes. We have lots of bad subs in our class.Subs disrespect us students all the time. They have called us animals and shout at us. Theysay we don’t have privileges and make us write standards. I am sorry to use this as an exam-ple but one of the subs told us girls that if we behaved bad our dad would touch and hitour privates. Why is it that there aren’t any good subs at our school? I believe that theythink this is a bad area and that we don’t behave good. They always shout at us becausethey don’t have patience and respect for us. We always get subs because my teacher getspulled away every Tuesday and more. I think good subs are afraid to come to our school.

Finally, at our school the focus is on taking tests like the CAT6 and on Open Court.Programs like Open Court are boring, but the school makes us do it. We do not have othertypes of subjects like art, science, music, and dance. I think they should let us learn differ-ent things for example we should learn more arts. Without having good teachers, schoolwould not be fun to come to.

These are only a few of the problems that happen in our school and schools like us. Wekids deserve better and that’s why I am here today. Thank you for listening to me.

Perhaps the most important question students ask teachers is, ‘Why do I have to learnthis?’ Far too many of us fall back on stock responses like ‘Because I said so’ or‘Because it will give you a better future’. Over time, our inability to answer this ques-tion meaningfully must take its toll on the faith of most students that what they arelearning matters in the larger scheme of things. Ridas, such as Mr Veracruz, are ableto answer this question in more profound ways. They explain to students that whatthey offer is part of a path to freedom—if they learn the skills they are being taught,they will be in a better position to think and act critically for themselves and for theircommunity, two essential components of freedom. This does not mean that theteachers ignore the potential of these skills to provide access to college and otheropportunities in the future, but they do not rest the relevance of their lessons on thefalse rhetoric of the bootstrap theory. Neither do they pretend that their teaching ispolitically neutral, nor do they act as if they have a panacea for ending injustice.Instead, Ridas build intellectually rigorous lessons that are relevant to the real andimmediate conditions of their students’ lives so that students can think and respondcritically for themselves. They share with students their hope that they will becomethe agents of change that are too few today. This kind of teaching purpose, hopefulbut not naive, is likely to produce well-educated young people prepared to fight for amore just world.

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Pillar No. 2: Duty

The second trait I saw across the practices of these teachers was a distinctive senseof duty to students and the community. Their sense of duty reflected Carter G.Woodson’s (1933) distinction between persons that fashion themselves as leaders andpersons that perceive themselves as responsible for serving the community. Woodsonwrites:

You cannot serve people by giving them orders as to what to do. The real servant of thepeople must live among them, think with them, feel for them, and die for them…. Theservant of the people, unlike the leader, is not on a high horse trying to carry the people tosome designated point to which he would like to go for his own advantage. The servant ofthe people is down among them, living as they live, doing what they do and enjoying whatthey enjoy. He may be a little better informed than some of the other members of thegroup; it may be that he has had some experience they have not had, but in spite of thisadvantage he should have more humility than those whom he serves. (p. 131)

Similar to Woodson’s ‘servant of the people’ these teachers had a level of commit-ment to their teaching that reflected the fact that they saw themselves as members ofthe communities where they taught. This often led them to invest in students thatmany other teachers had already written off as hopeless because they saw thosestudents as members of their community that they could not simply disregard.

There was nothing extraordinary about how these teachers’ sense of duty playeditself out. These teachers were not miracle workers. Simply put, they found successwith a broad range of students because they were willing to grind it out with them.This was reflected in the following series of traits that I saw in each of one of them:

● They jumped at the chance to work with ‘challenging’ students.● They were risk-takers with students, with their curriculum, and with their pedagogy.● They described their access to students as a privilege, rather than as a ‘right’ of

their profession.● They genuinely wanted to be at the school and with students, even when their

school attacked them personally or the broader society belittled their profession.● They were not afraid of the community and consequently built relationships with

parents, siblings, families, and the broader community.● They described teaching in urban schools as ‘a way of life’ rather than as a job.● They associated their teaching with ‘the struggle’ for human dignity and justice.● They described being a teacher as ‘who I am, not what I do’.

In an interview about their experiences with teachers, John and Michelle, two ofMr Lapu’s twelfth-grade students, referenced his commitment to being a part of thecommunity. They contended that this gave him a level of understanding of hisstudents’ lives that differentiated him from most teachers. When these two studentswere asked what teachers should do to be more effective with students, they consis-tently referred to Mr. Lapu’s practice as a model:

John: I feel that teachers need to talk about more realistic things, rather than justgoing by what the book tells you to teach us. Because most of the time these

Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas 629

teachers are up there talking about all that other stuff … you’ll be in a zonethinking about your own problems that’s happening out in the streets whilethey’re talking about some stuff that doesn’t really concern you. But when ateacher hops on your level then you can really open up, like ‘dang’, like get stuffoff your chest. It might help solve problems that you’re going through.

Michelle: Yeah, like Mr Lapu, he asks us questions, like: ‘what’s going on in you guys’slife, or what happened to you guys, or do you have any experiences that canrelate to our lesson?’

J: But, most teachers don’t even try to do that though. Most of these teachers,they livin’ way out here in Beverly Hills and the Valley. Keep it real, Mr Lapuis the only person I know that stay in the ’hood, where I done been walkin’down the street and just seen Mr Lapu and it’s just like ‘hey, what’s up?’ So heknows what goes on around here.

M: Yeah, a lot of our other teachers teach us about out here through their stereo-types. So, it’s hard for us to respect them because they lookin’ at it negativelyand we lookin’ like well I live here and it’s not as bad as you think it is. And oncewe find out that they don’t live out here, or they live in a ‘better’ area, thenI can’t honor the things that you’re saying. Because number one you’re downtalkin’ me and you’re down talkin’ my environment, which means you’re basi-cally disrespecting my whole history because everybody that I know has beenliving out here. That causes a major problem as well.

Only Mr Lapu lived in the community where he taught. However, two of the otherteachers were saving money to purchase a home in the communities where theytaught, and the fourth lived in a community with a similar demographic to the onewhere she taught.

The choice to live in the community does not guarantee success for teachers but,as John noted, it does help teachers to ‘know what goes on’ and can create an addeddimension to their connection with the students and their families. Regardless ofwhether they lived in the community or not, all of these teachers were committed toa consistent presence in the school community and in the lives of the students andtheir families. They made deliberate efforts to stay late in the community on schoolnights, to attend community events on weekends and in the summers, to know wheretheir students lived, and to know the parents of their students. They described theirdecision to become members of the communities where they taught as part of acommitment to solidarity with their students, as opposed to empathy. In that sensethey reflected a sense of duty compatible with Woodson’s argument that to truly servepeople one must remain connected to them and humble among them.

Pillar No. 3: Preparation

The four teachers discussed here were always at, or near, the top of their schools intraditional measures of student success, despite having (and many times accepting inmid-year) students that their colleagues had forced out of their classrooms. Eventhough these achievement patterns suggest they were already excellent pedagogues,each of these teachers spent a tremendous amount of time preparing for their classes.I mention this because of the not-uncommon notion that good teachers can put it on

630 J. Duncan-Andrade

autopilot because they have their curriculum and classroom management mastered.These teachers dispelled that myth. They were constantly preparing for their practice.Their intense commitment to preparation gave them expectations of success that arerare in schools where achievement is so low. The time they spent preparing theirlessons and units fostered a contagious level of excitement, passion, and belief in thecurriculum when they delivered it to students.

When I asked them about the amount of time they spent preparing for their teach-ing, none of them could quantify it. They commented on the fact that they could notreally identify a time when they were not preparing for their teaching in some way oranother. They each recounted stories about stumbling upon a film, book, artifact, orteaching technique that they collected for later use, even during time they had markedout as ‘time away from teaching’. This constant preparation to improve their practiceharkens back to their comments about their sense of duty to the profession: ‘teacheris who I am, not what I do’.

When I asked from where their commitment had come, several of them referencedteachers in their past that had modeled this same professionalism. They noted howthose teachers stood out among their colleagues because of the quality of the materialthat they taught, the care with which they related it to the lives of their students, andthe passion with which they presented it. Ms Truth mentioned the fact that theseteachers had taught her that ‘the profession of teaching was an art, a time-honoredcraft that demanded the respect of the teacher and the students.’

After spending three years with these teachers, I came to realize that there wasvirtually no part of their teaching that was not subject to revision or total discard.Regardless of whether they were teaching the same grade or subject the next year,they would rethink curriculum units from top to bottom before re-teaching them.They also constantly sought professional development opportunities to expand theirknowledge, particularly in areas where they felt they were lacking, and regularly solic-ited new pedagogical tools from colleagues.

One example of the intensity with which even the most mundane elements drewtheir attention is the bookmark that Ms Cross developed for her ninth-grade Englishclass. Her class, labeled as a part of the ‘regular’ track, comprised nearly 60% second-language students, several of whom were new immigrants. Among a variety ofpedagogical strategies for teaching literacy, Ms Cross developed a bookmark thataccomplished three important things: (1) it permitted students to learn key literaryand analytical terms, (2) it allowed them to read at a pace that they could successfullymaintain, and (3) it allowed her to monitor each student’s progress and continuallyraise the bar on them. She had developed a literacy tool to address one of the mostfundamental and ignored principles of teaching and learning: students benefit mostfrom pedagogy that permits some level of an individualized educational plan (seeVygotsky, 1978).

Ms Cross’s approach should not be confused with remedial programming thatpermits success through the lowering of expectations. The bookmark she developedallowed each student to start from, and progress through, their actual ability levelrather than some predetermined age-based standard. To accompany the use of the

Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas 631

bookmark, Ms Cross developed what she called a ‘modified literature circle’ wherebystudents chose and purchased their own books (she paid for them herself when herstudents could not afford to do so). She made books with a range of difficulty avail-able for each theme they were studying. Each student was allowed to choose a bookhe/she deemed appropriate for his/her reading level (sometimes after some proddingto ‘choose more wisely’) and then students used the pacing section of their bookmarkto set reading goals for themselves. Some students would have to complete the entirebook by the end of the unit in order to receive an ‘A’, while other students might onlyneed to complete half their book to receive the same grade. She pulled this off withoutrebellion, in large part, because she paid special attention to developing a class culturethat challenged schooling norms that reward students for competing against theirfellow students. Instead, she fostered a culture that normalized education as a processwhereby you compete only against yourself. What remained the same for everystudent was the list of vocabulary and literary terms they were exposed to and wereexpected to connect to the reading and their lives.

The list of literary terms was extensive and could be found in any Advanced Place-ment preparation guide—terms like foreshadowing, protagonist and personification.

When I pressed Ms Cross on how she was able to get students to learn these termswhen so many of her colleagues, even those working with eleventh- and twelfth-gradestudents, argued that such terms were beyond the ability level of this group ofstudents, she replied:

Terms are not difficult to teach. The question, really, is will you take the time to make thethings you teach relevant to students? The terms I teach are present in students’ lives everyday. But, most people try to teach them strictly by using textbooks, worksheets, or the liter-ature. I teach them using life and then it’s much easier for students to connect them towhat they are reading.

In all, Ms Cross developed a four-panel (three-page) bookmark that included literaryterms (antagonist, setting), aesthetic criticism terms (simile, metaphor), social criti-cism terms (hegemony, exploitation), active reading guidelines (directions for high-lighting and using post-it notes) reader’s checklist (student’s pacing guide forreading), and self-evaluation (student’s reflection on his/her growth as a reader). Thebookmark worked for most of her students. All her students, even those who strug-gled mightily, left the class stronger as readers and writers, and well prepared fortenth-grade English. This was not the case in the majority of other ninth-gradeEnglish classes around the city. Still, each year Ms Cross modified the bookmark andthe literary circles based on student feedback, self-critique, and feedback fromcolleagues.

Pillar No. 4: Socratic sensibility

Socrates is often credited with having said that the wise person knows that he/sheknows nothing. What he meant, of course, is that the wise person recognizes that he/she always has more to learn. Cornel West (2001) has argued for the development ofthis lifelong commitment to learning through the development of what he calls a

632 J. Duncan-Andrade

‘Socratic sensibility’. West describes the person with this sensibility as someone thatunderstands both Socrates’ statement that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’(Plato, 1966, p. 38a) and Malcolm X’s statement that the ‘examined life is painful’(West, 2001).

The teachers in this study lived out this Socratic sensibility by striking a delicatebalance between confidence in their ability as teachers and frequent self-critique. Aswith Ms Cross and her bookmark, these teachers were constantly reflecting on theirdaily practice and their relationships with students in an effort to get a little bit bettereach day. To aid in this process, they encouraged all types of visitors (parents, teach-ers, future teachers, and university professors) to their classrooms. They were partic-ularly open to those that were willing to give them critical feedback about theirpractice. However, it is important to note that this self-critique did not come acrossas self-doubt. As Mr Veracruz put it, ‘most of the criticisms I get from observers inmy class are critiques I have already made of myself. So, I welcome that reminder thatalthough I’m good at what I do, I need to get better. That is what keeps me on top ofmy game.’

This self-analysis came about, in large part, due to their Socratic sensibility. Theyunderstood the challenge implicit in Socrates’ advice that ‘all great undertakings arerisky, and, as they say, what is worth while is always difficult’ (Plato, 2003, p. 220).They also understood that to truly embrace the great challenges of teaching in urbanschools they had to face the painful part of the examined life to which Malcolm Xrefers. That is, they understood their duty to connect their pedagogy to the harsh real-ities of poor, urban communities. An email to me from Ms Truth reveals the greatundertaking required of educators who aim to respond to the reality of the conditionsof urban life, and the pain that sometimes accompanies self-reflection on thatresponse. She wrote:

Today was an almost unbearably sad day at school … according to my students (all ofwhich were SOBBING) two young men (black) were sitting in a car yesterday afternoon… some men in a car rolled up, got out and shot one in the eye (his head exploded) therewas a 3-month old in the back seat (she was left ‘unharmed’) the other got out and ran(they call him ‘baby’ Marcus) the guys ran after him and shot him in the back and thenmore when he fell … both men dead, the perpetrators got away … the nephew of one is inmy class, the brother of the other is in Mr [Randall’s] class. This is a close community soword spread pretty rapidly yesterday. For an hour and a half [this morning] the kids all justtalked and cried. I felt ill-equipped to handle a crisis like this but, we got through it….I said as little as possible, I cried with the kids, we all consoled each other, and othersbegan sharing different stories of violence and loss … in the end, I did what I thought (andhope) was best … tried to empower them with the belief that they must work to becomethe warriors who combat the senseless violence and madness on the streets. I also gavethem some ‘street lessons’: walk against traffic, don’t sit in parked cars chillin’ with yourfriends, be vigilant, check your surroundings. We’re making cards, and going to send alittle money to the families … and the kids all seem to feel a little better … how would youhandle this? It looks as if many teachers didn’t say or do much … feeling a bit weary today.

Ms Truth’s class collected over one hundred dollars for the family. She delivered themoney along with several cards expressing their condolences at the funeral of one of

Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas 633

the murdered young men. In most urban schools, there is no formal structure toprepare or support teachers to handle such tragic events. The result is, as Ms Truthmentions, that most teachers avoid or ignore tragedies that go on in the community—these teachers did not.

Pillar No. 5: Trust

The fifth trait I saw while studying these teachers was a distinct commitment to build-ing trust with their students. The fact that trust is important in a teacher–student rela-tionship should not be surprising to anyone. However, it was the unique way thatthese teachers talked about trust that struck me. During interviews with me, they eachdescribed trust similarly to Mr Lapu, who said:

Many of the teachers I have been around can’t understand why students don’t trust them.They think of trust as something that is automatic for teachers, like students are just goingto trust them because they are in the position of teacher. But, it doesn’t work like that. Youhave to earn it [trust] every day out here. Just because you have a bond with a studenttoday doesn’t guarantee that that bond will be there tomorrow if you don’t keep workingon it. That’s just ahistorical. Let’s be real here. I represent an institution that representsthe state that represents a history of colonialism and repression. Why would [emphasis inspeech] students trust me? Every day I have to fight against that history. Sure I’m madabout that, but it’s not the students’ fault and it’s not my fault, so I don’t take it personally.But, I do recognize that trust is easier to lose than to get.

These teachers understood that government institutions, such as schools, have anegative history in poor and non-White communities. No matter how good theirintentions, they were aware that as ambassadors of the institution of school they wereconnected to that history. This awareness allowed them to be conscious of this obsta-cle to building trust with students and the community, and also helped them tounderstand the importance of standing in opposition to school policies that wereoppressive, racist, colonialist, and that perpetuate the cycles of inequality.

Evidence of their commitment to earn the trust of their students was clear in everyaspect of their teaching, from their curriculum, to their grading, to their classroommanagement policies, to their pedagogy. However, it is probably best explainedthrough the relationships that they built with their students. As with their sense ofduty, their activities were driven by a long-haul commitment to their students and thecommunity, one that did not permit them to give up on a student when his/her trans-formation was not as rapid as the teacher might like. Their perspective might best bedescribed using one of Lisa Delpit’s (1995) book titles; they saw their students astheir children, not ‘Other People’s Children’. Darnell, one of Mr Lapu’s students fortwo years, explained that this type of relationship was the result of pedagogy thatprioritized the humanization of students above all else. He said:

I want to refer to a text [that Mr Lapu had us read], Paulo Freire. I got the book in there[nods toward his bedroom]. I read it all the time. It’s basically telling me how you have toeducate yourself. A lot of teachers in the school system right now, they practice socialreproduction. They catch you off guard because you trust them to teach you. So, I started

634 J. Duncan-Andrade

teaching myself by reading texts and things like that. In [Mr Lapu’s] class we were bondedbecause we all gave each other a chance to humanize ourselves and let us know eachother’s stories. We were bonded because after that we looked at each other different.

[Frowning] When somebody looks at me, they say, ‘oh, he’s a gang-banger’. But, afterI told my narrative, I humanized myself and then they looked at me like, ‘oh, he’s morethan a gang-banger. [Darnell], yeah ’cuz smart on hood, but he’s smart.’ They stoppedlooking at me as just a gang-banger and they started looking at me as a smart Black man.Which is how I always wanted you to look at me. I don’t want you to acknowledge me asa gang-banger, which happened. I want you to acknowledge me as [Darnell].

He [Mr Lapu] helped us humanize each other, and that’s how it was. It was beautiful justknowing that my classmate that’s sitting right next to me is fighting the same fight that I’mfighting. So, I got his back. That was beautiful, just knowing that we’re going through thesame shit. From the ’hood to school. When we walk to school, we gotta dodge a bullet likeevery day. Oh, that’s your struggle? Oh, well that’s my struggle too. Well let’s just handlethis right here, so we don’t gotta go through this four years from now. We did this becausewe felt comfortable that he [Mr Lapu] had our back, and that’s just all it is.

The construction of a classroom culture that fostered this type of trust among thestudents and between the teacher and the students was the result of many nuancedparts of their practice. However, in their own ways, they all demonstrated and artic-ulated concrete understanding of two key factors that allowed trust to develop. First,they understood the distinction between being liked and being loved by theirstudents. They did not coddle students, particularly those with whom they had builtstrong relationships. As Ms Truth explained:

Many of these teachers are so afraid that students won’t like them if they discipline themthat they end up letting students do things that they would never permit from their ownchildren. They lower their standards and will take any old excuse from students for whythey did not do their homework, or why they cannot sit still in class or do their work. Notme. You gotta work in my class. I can be unrelenting at times, probably even overbearing.Oh, I might give a student slack here or there, but most of the time I’m like, ‘go tell it tosomeone else because I’m not trying to hear that from you right now. We’ve got work to do.’

The line between high expectations and unreasonable demands can be a slipperyslope for teachers. But, so is the line between people that we love and people that welike. The people that we love can demand levels of commitment from us that defyeven our own notions of what we are capable of. People that we like, but do not love,typically are not able to push the limits of our abilities. Nothing more clearly dividesthese two groups of people in our life than the level of trust we have in them.

In the case of these four teachers, the move from being liked to being loved did nothappen because of the demands they made of students. It happened because of thelove and support that accompanied those raised expectations. Sometimes this wassimple encouragement, but many times it meant amplifying the personal supportgiven to students. This support took many forms: after-school and weekend tutoring,countless meals, rides home, phone/text messaging/email/instant messaging sessions,and endless prodding, cajoling, and all-around positive harassment. These additionalinvestments of time and money clarified for students that these expectations camewith the teacher’s recognition that everyone needs help along the way. And when that

Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas 635

help is from someone that loves you, in spite of your shortcomings, you learn to trustthat person.

The development of these trusting relationships also resulted in these teachersbeing indignant about student failure. This was due largely to the fact that they sawthe failure of a student as their own failure. At the same time, they never excusedstudents from their responsibility. This seems to me much like the approach success-ful parents take with their children, and although the relationships will never quitemeasure up to those of strong parent–offspring bonds, they are remarkably similar.


The stories of these teachers are inspiring, but what about achievement? Do thesepillars actually increase the academic performance of students? The answer is aresounding ‘yes’. These teachers were at the top of their schools in many of the waysby which we traditionally measure success (test scores, literacy and mathematicsacquisition, grades, attendance, graduation, and college enrollment). However, forme perhaps the most important realization was that they reached this achievementbecause they focused on raising the human element of educational attainment thatmost schools pay little attention to measuring—positive self-identity, purpose, andhope.

While NCLB and local educational policy have turned their sights onto quantita-tive measures of achievement, these teachers focused on the humanizing element ofeducation. They recognized that of all the things we debate in education, there is onefact on which we have relative consensus. From child psychology to pedagogicaltheory to cognitive theory, our most basic understanding of the necessary conditionsfor learning suggest that positive self-identity, a sense of purpose, and hope are criticalprerequisites for achievement. The test score fetish of the high-stakes era has turnedus away from prioritizing these measures of effective teaching, even though gains inthese areas are the key to raising test scores.

To be sure, it is much easier to develop a test preparation program in a corporatelab than to pinpoint the elements of pedagogy that humanize students. Developingeffective urban educators is hard work and it is certainly not as cost-effective asscripted curriculums, test prep manuals and one-day trainings—as long as thestudents that have always failed under high-stakes testing continue to fail. The corre-lation between high parent income and success on achievement tests is well docu-mented, as are the seemingly intractable relationships between race and test scores.It seems a plausible conclusion that no small part of those gaps is the result of the factthat most successful students enter school with a positive self-identity, a clear purposefor attending school, and a justifiable hope that school success will be rewarded in thelarger society. For most low-income children, particularly low-income children ofcolor, there is little in the history of school or the broader society that wouldconcretely justify any of those three beliefs. There will always be exceptions, thatyoung person who finds cause for hope in the system, and that is sadly all we findtoday in urban schools—exceptions.

636 J. Duncan-Andrade

I am confident that this study could have been done in any successful teacher’sclassroom with similar results. I find myself concluding that I have discovered nothingparticularly groundbreaking about effective teaching in urban schools. It is hard workand there are no shortcuts. We will never develop some ideal instructional programthat can be exported from classroom to classroom. In the end, programs that comeout of boxes do not work. Great teaching will always be about relationships andprograms do not build relationships, people do. The truth of the matter is that we havethe know-how to make achievement in urban schools the norm, as it is in high-incomecommunities. There are successful teachers in every school, even where failure isrampant. We should be spending more time figuring out who they are, and studyingwhat they do and why it works. This research should guide teacher-credentialingprograms and school-based professional support structures so that more teachers candevelop those effective practices.

When I began this study I had been an urban classroom teacher for 10 years. At theoutset, I was deeply pessimistic about the future of the profession and our ability tomeet the challenges confronting us in urban schools. After this study, I am tentativelyhopeful. This hope comes from the fact that almost every teacher that I worked withover those three years (over 150 teachers in all) demonstrated most, if not all, of thesefive pillars. Given the right professional support, the majority of these urban teachershave the potential to develop into exceptional teachers.

The well-documented changing of the guard in teaching (NCTAF, 2003) willusher in upwards of one million new teachers, mostly into urban schools, withinthe current decade. This brings with it an unprecedented opportunity to swing thependulum toward educational equity. We can, if we so desire, invest heavily inrefocusing our efforts to recruit, train, and develop urban educators that arecommitted to being Ridas. Studies such as this one suggest that we can know whatmakes effective urban educators. We can name the characteristics of their prac-tices. We can link those characteristics to increases in engagement and achieve-ment. If we fail to significantly invest in the support and development of thesecharacteristics in this new wave of teachers, as we have with their predecessors, wewill almost certainly end up as the nation that James Baldwin foreshadowed over45 years ago:

What it comes to, finally, is that the nation has spent a large part of its time and energylooking away from one of the principal facts of its life…. Any honest examination of thenational life proves how far we are from the standard of human freedom with which webegan…. If we are not capable of this examination, we may yet become one of the mostdistinguished and monumental failures in the history of nations. (Baldwin, 1961, p. 99)

And if we fail, let us be clear that it will not be for lack of know-how, but for the lackof determination to provide a quality education for all our young people.


1. Pseudonyms are used for all participants.2. Pseudonyms are used for all students.

Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas 637

Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade, PhD, is Assistant Professor in Raza Studies and theCollege of Education, and Co-Director of the Educational Equity Initiative atSan Francisco State University’s Cesar Chavez Institute. He also teaches atwelfth-grade English literature course in East Oakland, California.


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Nоte, оnce lоgged іntо yоur accоunt; yоu can clіck оn the “Pendіng” buttоn at the left sіdebar tо navіgate, make changes, make payments, add іnstructіоns оr uplоad fіles fоr the оrder created. e.g., оnce lоgged іn, clіck оn “Pendіng” and a “pay” оptіоn wіll appear оn the far rіght оf the оrder yоu created, clіck оn pay then clіck оn the “Checkоut” оptіоn at the next page that appears, and yоu wіll be able tо cоmplete the payment.

Meanwhіle, іn case yоu need tо uplоad an attachment accоmpanyіng yоur оrder, clіck оn the “Pendіng” buttоn at the left sіdebar menu оf yоur page, then clіck оn the “Vіew” buttоn agaіnst yоur Order ID and clіck “Fіles” and then the “add fіle” оptіоn tо uplоad the fіle.

Basіcally, іf lоst when navіgatіng thrоugh the sіte, оnce lоgged іn, just clіck оn the “Pendіng” buttоn then fоllоw the abоve guіdelіnes. оtherwіse, cоntact suppоrt thrоugh оur chat at the bоttоm rіght cоrner


Payment Prоcess

By clіckіng ‘PRОCEED TО CHECKОUT’ yоu wіll be lоgged іn tо yоur accоunt autоmatіcally where yоu can vіew yоur оrder detaіls. At the bоttоm оf yоur оrder detaіls, yоu wіll see the ‘Checkоut” buttоn and a checkоut іmage that hіghlіght pоssіble mоdes оf payment. Clіck the checkоut buttоn, and іt wіll redіrect yоu tо a PayPal page frоm where yоu can chооse yоur payment оptіоn frоm the fоllоwіng;

  1. Pay wіth my PayPal accоunt‘– select thіs оptіоn іf yоu have a PayPal accоunt.
  2. Pay wіth a debіt оr credіt card’ or ‘Guest Checkout’ – select thіs оptіоn tо pay usіng yоur debіt оr credіt card іf yоu dоn’t have a PayPal accоunt.
  3. Dо nоt fоrget tо make payment sо that the оrder can be vіsіble tо оur experts/tutоrs/wrіters.


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