Empowering teachers, empowering students? Mathematics teacher collaboration and race in Chicago Public Schools
Nicole Louie

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Mathematics Education
The Chicago P12 Math Collaborative (“the Collaborative”) aims to transform mathematics instruction throughout the Chicago Public Schools. Student-centered, intellectually ambitious teaching that improves outcomes for students of color is at the heart of the Collaborative’s vision. Over the past 5 years, the Collaborative has developed an approach to professional development (PD) that simultaneously asserts this vision and nurtures professional communities in which teachers take the lead in finding ways to enact it.The purpose of this study is to examine the affordances of the Collaborative’s approach to large-scale, student- and teacher-centered PD, as well as its limitations. On the one hand, school cultures are shifting; as one principal described, “Our whole staff is coming kind of to a threshold where they’re becoming a collaborative staff. They are trusting each other to [give and] take criticism and also to do something positive with it.” Mathematics instruction is shifting as well; in the words of a teacher, “kids [are becoming] the agents of their learning, and kids [are] doing the major thinking.” On the other hand, teachers casually label children “high kids” and “low kids,” and both subtle and not-so-subtle linking of intelligence and race (as it intersects with class, gender, and other social categories) pepper teacher talk. In this project, I therefore investigate two major questions: (1) How do teachers negotiate a shared vision for mathematics instruction in the context of district-led efforts to support ambitious mathematics teaching and learning? and (2) How does educators’ work toward an ambitious vision of mathematics instruction disrupt racial hierarchies in mathematics education? How does it reproduce racial hierarchies?
About Nicole Louie
Nicole Louie is an assistant professor of teacher education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her doctorate in mathematics education from the University of California, Berkeley. The enduring concern behind her scholarship—fueled by her experiences as a teacher and learner in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and El Paso—is how people define what it means to be “smart,” and who is allowed to attain this status. She is especially interested in teachers’ efforts to challenge narrow, exclusionary discourses of intelligence, and to support students to relate to one another as intellectual equals. Her writing on the tensions teachers face and the supports they need as they engage in this work has appeared in Teachers College Record and Teaching and Teacher Education, and in Mathematics for Equity, a book she co-edited. Her current work explores the role of racial hierarchies (as they intersect with gender, class, and (dis)ability labels) in the reproduction and disruption of hierarchies of mathematical ability.

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