Books by UW–Madison’s Turner, Welton receive AESA Critics’ Choice Book Award


Books by UW–Madison’s Erica Turner and Anjalé Welton have been recognized by the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) as Critics’ Choice Book Award winners.

Headshots of Erica Turner and Anjale Welton
Turner (left) and Welton

Turner, an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies, is the author of the 2020 book, “Suddenly Diverse: How School Districts Manage Race and Inequality.” Welton, a professor with the School’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, is a co-author of “Anti-Racist Educational Leadership and Policy: Addressing Racism in Public Education,” also published in 2020.

Each year, a committee of AESA members selects a number of titles it regards as outstanding books that may be of interest to those in educational studies. These books are designated as AESA Critics’ Choice Book Award winners and are displayed prominently at the annual meeting.

The Critics’ Choice Book Award serves to recognize and increase awareness of recent scholarship deemed to be outstanding in its field and of potential interest to members of the Association.

Suddenly Diverse book coverTurner’s work notes that American public schools have been enrolling more students identified as black, Latinx, American Indian, and Asian than white students over the past five years. Additionally, more than half of U.S. students qualify for federally subsidized meals, a marker of poverty.

Indeed, the makeup of schools is changing quickly, and many districts and school boards are struggling with how best to effectively and equitably handle these shifts.

A preview of the book explains how “Suddenly Diverse” is an ethnographic account of two school districts in the Midwest — one predominantly working class and conservative, while the other is more affluent and liberal — responding to these rapidly changing demographics at their schools. Turner’s work is based on observations and in-depth interviews with school board members and superintendents, as well as staff, community members, and other stakeholders in each district.

Turner finds that, despite good intentions from district leaders, they often adopted policies and practices that perpetuated existing inequalities and advanced new forms of racism. Suggesting ways forward, Turner shows that changes need to be made. Without transformations to the system, she argues, even the best efforts of district members will undermine the promise of equity for students.

In April, Turner received the 2021 Erickson and Hornberger Outstanding Ethnography in Education Book Award from the University of Pennsylvania’s Ethnography in Education Research Forum. And in August she received an honorable mention for the American Sociology Association’s Pierre Bourdieu Award for the Best Book in Sociology of Education.

Anti-racist Educational Leadership and Policy book coverWelton’s book, which she composed with Sarah Diem of Missouri State University, has been called a “must-read book for anyone interested in both anti-racism and educational policy.”

A preview for the book explains that “Anti-racist Educational Leadership and Policy” aims to help educational leaders better comprehend the racial implications and challenges of the current educational policy landscape.

Each chapter in Welton and Diem’s work unpacks a policy issue such as school choice, school closures, standardized testing, discipline, and school funding, and analyzes it through the racialized and market-driven lenses of the current leadership context.

Full of real examples, the book equips aspiring school leaders with the skills to question how a policy addresses or fails to address racism, action-oriented strategies to develop anti-racist solutions, and the tools to encourage their school community to promote racial equity.

By demystifying a complex policy context, the book aims to prepare current and future teacher leaders, principals, and superintendents to lead their schools towards more equitable practice.

Learn more about Turner’s “Suddenly Diverse” and Welton and Diem’s “Anti-racist Educational Policy and Practice,” and view all of the titles recognized this year with the AESA Critics’ Choice Book Award.