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Mark R. Warren

Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Chapter Member: Boston SSN

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About Mark

Warren is a sociologist and community engaged scholar who studies and works with community, parent and youth organizing groups seeking to promote equity and justice in education, community development and American democratic life. He is a leading expert in the study of contemporary community organizing. Warren studies efforts to strengthen institutions that anchor low-income communities – public schools, religious congregations and other community-based organizations – and to build broad-based alliances among these institutions and across race and social class. Warren has co-founded several networks promoting activist scholarship, community organizing and education justice.


Lessons from the 2016 Boston Public School Walkouts

  • Andrew King
  • Mariette Bien-Aime Ayala
  • Sheetal Gowda ,
  • Jeffrey S. Moyer

In the News

Opinion: "Schools Are Better Off Without Police," Mark R. Warren, The Progressive Magazine, March 30, 2022.
Guest on Black News Tonight, December 16, 2021.
Opinion: "Police-Free Schools: Challenging the “Pandemic-to-Prison” Pipeline," Mark R. Warren (with Jonathan Stith and Emma Tynan), The People's Think Tank, December 8, 2021.
Opinion: "Police-Free Schools: The New Frontier in Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline," Mark R. Warren, OUP Blog, November 11, 2021.
Opinion: "Parents Must Shut Down the School-to-Prison Pipeline," Mark R. Warren, The American Prospect, January 22, 2019.
Opinion: "How Activists are Fighting Racial Disparities in School Discipline," Mark R. Warren, The Conversation, December 10, 2018.
Guest on Washington Post Blog, November 29, 2011.


"Willful Defiance: The Movement to Dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline" (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Documents and analyzes how Black and Brown parents and students, with their allies in the legal, advocacy and research community, built a movement that changed zero tolerance school discipline policy across the country, created restorative justice alternatives, and began to remove or defund school police. Argues for the vital contribution of people most impacted by injustice to equity-oriented education policy and offers a new theory of racial and social justice movements as accountable to local grassroots organizing rather than Washington-based professional.

"Is Collaborative, Community-Engaged Scholarship More Rigorous Than Traditional Scholarship? On Advocacy, Bias, and Social Science Researc" (with Gregory D. Squires, Jose Calderon, Luke Aubry Kupscznk, and Celina Su). Urban Education 53, no. 4 (2018).

Argues that collaborative, community-engaged scholarship (CCES) must meet high standards of rigor if it is to be useful to support equity-oriented, social justice agendas. Discusses the importance or relationship building and trust in addressing the tensions that can arise between the demands of knowledge production and action-oriented social change.

"Lift Us Up! Don't Push Us Out! Voices from the Frontlines of the Educational Justice Movement" (Beacon Press, 2018).

Features voices from the frontlines of a new movement for educational justice that is growing across the United States. Recounts organizers' and activists' journeys to movement building, lifts up victories and successes, and offers practical organizing strategies and community-based alternatives to traditional education reform and privatization. 

"Transforming Public Education: The Need for an Educational Justice Movement" New England Journal of Public Policy 26, no. 1 (2014).
Argues that a social movement that creates political and cultural change is necessary to transform the racial inequities in public education and to connect this transformational effort to a larger movement to combat poverty and racism. Discusses how the seeds of a new educational justice movement can be found in the rise of community and youth organizing efforts, in the development of teacher activism, and in the recent creation of new alliances at local, state, and national levels like those combating the school-to-prison pipeline.
"A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform" (with Karen L. Mapp and the Community Organizing Research Project) (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Shows the vital contributions that organized parents and young people are making to school reform through participation in community organizing efforts. The book demonstrates the limitations of reform efforts that are imposed from the top. It draws from rich descriptions of organizing efforts to show the ways that grassroots organizing groups are building the power to increase equity in public education and creating collaborations with educators to improve schools in our most distressed communities.
"Fire in the Heart: How White Activists Embrace Racial Justice" (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Shows the processes that influence white Americans to become activists for racial justice -- not just because it is the right thing to do but because they embrace the cause as their own. Drawing from interviews with fifty white activists, the book shows how white activists come to find common cause with people of color when their core values are engaged, as they build relationships with people of color that lead to caring, and when they develop a vision of a racially just future that they understand to benefit everyone – themselves, other whites, and people of color.
"Community Organizing for Education Reform" in Public Engagement for Public Education: Joining Forces to Revitalize Democracy and Equalize Schools, edited by Marion Orr and John Rogers (Stanford University Press, 2010), 139-172.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the growth and development of the field of community organizing for school reform. It reviews the diversity of ways organizing groups build the participation of parents and young people to improve quality and increase equity in public education and considers that challenges the field faces in bringing organized communities to the center of school reform efforts.
"How White Activists Embrace Racial Justice" Poverty & Race Research Action Council Newsletter, Nov/Dec 19 (2010): 1-2, 10-13.
Offers a concise summary of the author’s research findings on how white Americans come to support racial justice not just because it is the right thing to do but because they embrace the cause as their own and as critical to the well-being of all Americans.
"Communities and Schools: A New View of Urban Education Reform" Harvard Educational Review, Summer 75 (2005): 133-173.
Identifies and analyzes promising models for how public schools can work together with community-based organizations in low-income communities to develop integrated strategies that combine education reform with community development. This approach creates policies and practices that address all of the factors – like housing, health, and safety – that affect the ability of children to learn and grow in schools.
"Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy" (Princeton University Press, 2001).
Identifies effective strategies to rebuild social capital and democratic life in low-income communities. Through a study of modern community organizing efforts, it shows how religious institutions have become engaged in initiatives to build affordable housing, create job opportunities, improve public education and build a cross-class and cross-racial progressive alliance that addresses the needs of poor and working families.