Tanishia Lavette Williams

Education stratification pioneer
A voice for change, Tanishia Lavette Williams strives to do good work by leveraging her experience and research to push education toward living up to its promise, not just for some but for all.

Why you should listen

Tanishia Lavette Williams is forging a pathway in education stratification, a field that fuses social science methods to examine the causes, consequences and remedies of racial, gender and class inequality in education. Her research examines policy intervention and education disparities with a focus on the achievement and life outcomes of Black students. Her scholarship and practice, as well as her experience as a teacher, principal, executive director and superintendent in school systems undergoing extensive reform, underscore her ability to elevate education research by connecting praxis and theory. Her contributions to school-based pedagogues and contemporary literature leverage the historicity of race relations within the law to modern policy and infrastructures that impact public education. Advancing the literature at the intersections of education, racial stratification and policy, she founded the Center for the Study of Race in Education, designed to deliver research-based scholarship to the people who need it the most.

Williams has more than two decades of experience working in a variety of school districts undergoing reform, namely New York City, one of the nation’s largest and most segregated school systems, and Washington, DC. Her current research exposes the varied tensions, contradictions, inclusions and exclusions that coexist in public education, focusing on policy interventions meant to increase student achievement among the marginalized. Her public scholarship includes a variety of presentations, talks, documentaries and workshops that analyze the role of race in disparate outcomes for people of color.

Born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia, Williams’ southern roots bind her to her commitment to advocating for education as a pathway toward ensuring that education serves as a lever for social mobility and a cornerstone for building a just and equitable society. She obtained a PhD from the Public and Urban Policy program at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School.

Tanishia Lavette Williams’ TED talk