Equity in Education and Lessons from Philly with Camika Royal | The LP: EP 6

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Inequities in public schools today didn’t start during the pandemic. Until we understand the complex legacy of people, perspectives, policies, and practices that inform today's people, perspectives, policies, and practices, it will be challenging to understand inequities in our systems and expand opportunities for educational justice. Dr. Camika Royal’s book Not Paved For Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia is based in Philly, but it tells a widely-relatable story about public school system dysfunction, backlash, justice-seeking, and its impact on the students it is supposed to serve. 

Key Takeaways

  • James Clear said, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” Not only do I see that truth in what Dr. Royal has shared, but I also see how expectations about people inform the creation of systems, so it’s best to have the most equity-focused minds creating and remixing systems to the point that even the lowest level of our systems still promote consistently equitable teaching practices.
  • We often talk about individuals having stories. A system’s story, our own system or another’s, helps us understand the co-dependent nature between people and policy and how that impacts our present and future.
  • Anti-racist Black educators who want to educate their students often have to contend with the melodies of madness that exist in their systems and have to choose whether to nod, dance, or reject those melodies in their daily instruction and interaction with their students and colleagues.
  • This allegorical history of Black Educators in the Philly School District prompts reflection on what kind of “fixing” is taking place when union and district leadership make policy decisions. Because the word “fix” has two definitions.” Is it a “repair and remedy” fix, or a “lock-in and make permanent” fix? Sometimes a decision is presented like a “repair and remedy” fix, but when you look at its impact, it only works to “lock in and make permanent” the inequities that have long existed in that system. Dr. Royal’s work helps us thread the needle in seeing where and how these systems “fix” themselves, but also creates the opportunity for us to use that same needle to prick our own conscience, so we can  examine what our own roles are in that “fix.”
Camika Royal - Not Paved For Us
Dr. Camika Royal
Dr. Camika Royal
Associate Professor of Urban Education at Loyola University and Author of Not Paved for Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia

About Camika Royal

Camika Royal, Ph.D., is an associate professor of urban education at Loyola, where she focuses on the intersections of race, politics, history, and urban school reform. Dr. Royal began her career as an urban education professional in the public schools of Baltimore City and Washington, D.C., teaching, coaching teachers, and helping to lead a charter high school before transitioning to higher education in 2006. She joined Loyola's School of Education faculty in 2014, helped to launch the school’s urban education minor and, for two years, led the Center for Innovation in Urban Education. She is a highly requested speaker, consultant, and professional developer on issues of school context-based racism and other forms of oppression through ideologies, policies, and practices. Her book, Not Paved For Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia, was released in May 2022 from Harvard Education Press. Dr. Royal received her B.A. in English Literature with a Political Science minor from North Carolina Central University, her M.A.T. in English Education from Johns Hopkins University, and her Ph.D. in Urban Education from Temple University.

About The LP: Literature in Practice

UnboundEd's goal is to instill the GLEAM™ (Grade-Level, Engaging, Affirming, and Meaningful) instructional framework into classrooms across the nation with professional development, curated programs, and now with a brand new podcast series, The LP: Literature in Practice. Host Brandon White interviews the authors of today’s thought-provoking educational literature and connects the text to GLEAM.

About Brandon White

Brandon White is a former middle school ELA teacher and Restorative Practices educator for the Rochester City School District. He has worked for seven years as a servant leader intern and site coordinator for Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Summer Literacy Programs in Rochester. He has also advocated for these practices through his participation in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Teacher Advisory Council and through providing professional development at BMGF-sponsored Elevate and Celebrate Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) Conferences.


Episode Extras

Purchase the book



Book: Walking in Circles: The Black Struggle for School Reform by Barbara Sizemore
Tool: Reflecting on Your System's Starting Point by TNTP
Article: They Schools: Culturally Relevant Pedagogy under Siege by Camika Royal and Simone Gibson
Video: Not Paved For Us Booktalk by The Free Library of Philadelphia
Book: So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools by Charles M. Payne