Cierra Kaler-Jones (she/her/hers) is a social justice educator, writer, scholar, and artist based in Washington, D.C. She serves as the Education Anew Fellow with Communities for Just Schools Fund and Teaching for Change, in which she works to help shift national narratives in education by centering youth, family, and educator organizers’ experiences and stories in education work. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at University of Maryland - College Park. Through her research, she explores how Black girls use arts-based practices (e.g. movement, music, hair) as mechanisms for identity construction, social-emotional wellness, and resistance.
As an educator, Cierra has worked with preschool students, K-12 students, and college students over the past 10 years. Cierra is also an arts education advocate, 200-hour trained yoga instructor, and meditation guide – she teaches dance and yoga classes for all ages, choreographs for local companies, and runs a program that offers culturally-sustaining arts-based programming and curriculum for Black girls.
Her writing has been featured in Education Post, Midnight and Indigo, Medium, and EBONY, to name a few. She also has book chapters in Strong Black Girls: Reclaiming Schools in Their Own Image, Black Girl Civics: Expanding and Navigating the Boundaries of Civic Engagement, and the forthcoming book, Teaching Brilliant, Beautiful Black Girls. Her academic work was most recently published in the Middle School Journal. In addition, she was contracted to write a white paper on the state of Black girls in education, commissioned by the federal government.
Cierra is a sought-after public speaker, moderator, and workshop facilitator. Her speaking credits include the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans under the Obama Administration, the United States Department of Education, SXSW Edu, and she gave a TEDx talk at TEDxFoggyBottom. She is also a guest host of the Zinn Education Project's Teach the Black Freedom Struggle online classes and co-host of the forthcoming Teaching for Black Lives podcast with Seattle educator and organizer, Jesse Hagopian. She's led professional development workshops and consulted schools across the country on culturally-affirming pedagogy, social-emotional learning, and anti-racist teaching.
In her work to facilitate narrative change, Cierra founded and directs Unlock Your Story, an organization that offers coaching, consulting, and community aimed at helping individuals and organizations tap into the stories that they are bravely meant to share with the world.
She is a proud graduate of Rutgers University and Douglass Residential College and has a master’s degree in curriculum & instruction from The George Washington University. She earned a certificate in women’s leadership from The Institute for Women’s Leadership and a certificate in global perspectives in education from The George Washington University.
H. Richard Milner IV is Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair and Professor of Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. He has secondary appointments in Peabody’s Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations and the Department of Sociology in Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science. Professor Milner is a researcher, scholar, and leader of urban education and teacher education. Centering equity and diversity, he has spent hundreds of hours observing teachers’ practices and interviewing educators and students in urban schools about micro-level policies that shape students’ opportunities to learn. He examines the social context of classrooms and schools and the ways in which teacher talk, particularly about race, influences student learning, identity, and development. His research in urban schools has influenced designs and practices of teacher education courses and programs. To improve relational, curricular, assessment, and instructional practices, school districts across the United States and beyond draw on his recommendations to support students of color, those who live below the poverty line, and those whose first language is not English (see, for instance, “These Kids are out of Control:” Why We Must Reimagine Classroom Management, Corwin Press, 2018).
To date, Professor Milner has contributed significantly to the field of education in four interconnected ways:
Professor Milner has advanced conceptual and empirical understandings of what he calls “opportunity gaps.” The term stands in contrast to the more generally used “achievement gap” as a means of explaining and disrupting disparities between students. Specifically, he has introduced an Opportunity Gap Framework as a tool to describe the ways in which Black students continue to experience individual, structural, and systemic inequity in classrooms and schools across the United States. Researchers have adopted the Opportunity Gap Framework as an analytic frame to explain aspects of their research. In addition, practitioners have drawn from the framework to develop and/or revise teacher education programs, courses, and professional development in schools and districts. The framework has been developed from empirical case studies he has conducted over the last 18-years. The Opportunity Gap Framework is described and explained in his award-winning book, Start Where You are, But Don’t Stay There (Harvard Education Press, 2010). The book represents years of research and development efforts and is widely read in teacher education programs and school districts across the United States.
In addition, Professor Milner has constructed a Researcher Positionality Framework to challenge and support researchers in designing and enacting studies and programs of research that recognize, name, and work through what he describes as dangers “seen, unseen, and unforeseen” in studying race and culture in education science. Published in the journal, Educational Researcher (2007), the framework has been adapted across disciplines including nursing and health sciences as an essential element to conducting research.
Professor Milner (with colleagues Lori Delale O’Connor, Adam Alvarez and Ira Murray) has developed a survey, the Teachers Race Talk Survey, one of the first survey instruments focused on teachers’ reported beliefs about race and discourse. The survey attempts to capture teachers’ reported beliefs about the role and importance of race in classroom talk and learning. Researchers interested in capturing the relationship between race and classroom talk, particularly focused on race, have found the survey useful as it is being adapted and adopted for studies across the field of education. Because the survey is designed for open- and well as closed-ended responses, researchers are able to triangulate, nuance, and disrupt participants’, pre- and in-serve teachers’ responses. Implications from his research about race and poverty in schools and classrooms are outlined in his book, Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms (Harvard Education Press, 2015).
In an effort to build synergy between and among empirical studies and conceptual arguments in and related to urban education, Professor Milner has called for and advanced stronger conceptual and definitional work of urban education as a unit of analysis. He described and conceptualized three sites of urban education that other researchers use to make sense of and describe urban contexts: urban characteristic, urban emergent and urban intensive. Bringing together leading scholars of urban education in the edited volume, Handbook of Urban Education, 2014, Professor Milner and Professor Kofi Lomotey (co-editor) have attempted to describe and discuss what urban education is, what we know about it (empirically and theoretically), how we know what we know about urban education, and what other knowledge, as a field, is important for us to study in order to advance policy, research, theory, and practice in urban education.
Prior to rejoining the Vanderbilt faculty in 2018, Professor Milner spent five years as Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education, professor of education, and by courtesy, professor of sociology, professor of social work, and professor of Africana studies at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, he directed the university’s Center for Urban Education. Professor Milner began his career at Vanderbilt where in 2008, he became the first Black faculty member at Peabody College to earn promotion and tenure from assistant to associate professor. He also was appointed Lois Autrey Betts Assistant (later Associate) Professor of Education. In addition to his service in the Department of Teaching and Learning, where he founded the graduate program in learning, diversity, and urban studies, he held a courtesy appointment in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations.
Professor Milner’s work has appeared in numerous journals, and he has published seven books. In 2017, he became the founding series editor of the Harvard Education Press Series on Race and Education. In 2017, he was also appointed inaugural contributor of the equity column for the journal, Educational Leadership, one of the most widely read outlets for practitioners in the world. Currently, he is editor-in-chief of Urban Education. In the fall of 2015, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education assigned his book, Rac(e)ing to Class, to all incoming graduate students and invited alumni across the world to read the book. He was then invited to deliver a prestigious Askwith Lecture at Harvard, where he discussed research and findings from his book.
Professor Milner has been widely recognized for his contributions to education scholarship. In October 2018, he delivered the prestigious annual Brown Lecture in Education Research of the American Educational Research Association, the world’s largest educational research association. Attendance at the lecture reached a record high 900 in addition to online viewers. In 2016, he was named an AERA Fellow. AERA has also honored him with Outstanding Reviewer awards (2017 and 2015) for his work on the Editorial Board of Educational Researcher, and the Division K (Teaching and Teacher Education) Award for Innovations in Research on Diversity in Teacher Education (2015). In 2006, he received AERA’s Early Career Award. In 2012, Professor Milner was honored with The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology Distinguished Alumnus Award. He was also awarded the John Dewey Society Outstanding Achievement Award (2016) for his scholarship bridging theory and practice in the spirit of John Dewey. Professor Milner has been ranked for seven years among the top 200 scholars nationally influencing public discussions of education in Education Week’s annual Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings.
The media frequently turn to Professor Milner as a resource. His work has been cited or featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Atlantic, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Huffington Post, National Public Radio (NPR), National Education Association Today, Educational Leadership, and Education Week.
Professor Milner is also much in demand by other educational institutions. He has served as a visiting professor at the University of Texas-Austin (2010, 2011, and 2013) and at York University in Toronto, Canada (2010). In 2012, he served as a visiting scholar in the Graduate School of Education’s Scholars of Color Symposium Series at the University of Pennsylvania. During summer 2016, Professor Milner taught a course on Race and Poverty in the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington.
Most importantly, Professor Milner has been married for 14 years, and he is the proud father of nine-year old twin daughters, Anna Grace and Elise Faith.