Lori A. Delale-O'Connor - Publications

Book Chapters

Delale-O'Connor, L. & Murray, I. E. (2020). Relationships, resources, and reciprocity: Lessons on engaging with marginalized and diverse communities through asset-based participant evaluation research. pp. 85-101 In A. Morrell, J. Petrie-Wyman & A. Soudi (Eds) Diversity Across Disciplines: Research on People, Policy, Process, and Paradigm. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing


Delale-O'Connor, L., Huguley, J. P., Parr, A., & Wang, M.-T. (2019). Racialized Compensatory Cultivation: Centering Race in Parental Educational Engagement and Enrichment. American Educational Research Journal. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831219890575
Delale-O'Connor, L. & *Graham, D. L. (2019) Teachers' talk about race and caregiver support: "You can NEVER be too sure about parents." Urban Education. 54(4), 499-534.
This study focused on teachers’ perceptions of caregiver support for engaging in conversations about race in the classroom. We analyzed data from the Teachers’ Race Talk Survey, an exploratory survey that examines teachers’ perceptions about discussing race and racial violence in the classroom. Our analyses suggested that respondents espoused broad uncertainty for talking about race with regard to parental support. Teachers explained their responses drawing on four primary logics: (a) context characteristics, (b) family characteristics, (c) teacher characteristics, and (d) subject. We connected logics to social and cultural capital theory to further explain connections between caregivers and teacher race talk. More
Delale-O'Connor, L. (2018) Choosing, defaulting or falling short: Defaulters in the education context. Teachers College Record 120(4).

Background/Context: Prior research overlooks the importance of drawing distinctions within the category of defaulters or “nonchoosers” in schooling choices. Defaulters are both a theoretically and empirically interesting population, and understanding the processes by which families come to or are assigned the default school offers insight into the micromechanisms contributing to the reproduction of inequality through education.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: In this study, I use in-depth interview data to understand defaulting and propose a basic framework that gets beyond a chooser/nonchooser dichotomy. The purpose of this work is to help researchers and school district officials to identify areas of school choice systems that are incompatible with would-be choosers. This study further offers a useful framework for thinking about defaulters and their role in the school choice process.

Population/Participants/Subjects: This study draws from survey and interview data from 28 low-income to working-class African American parents in the Chicago Public Schools whose children were at a choice juncture (the transition from eighth grade to high school).

Data Collection and Analysis: This study utilizes survey and in-depth qualitative interviews. Surveys and interviews were conducted in person and lasted from 30 minutes to 2 hours each. Parent respondents filled out a survey that included demographic information, family and child activities, community connectedness, and basic activity around choosing a high school and then answered open-ended questions about their specific choice activities, their ideas about education, and their information networks. I employed inductive coding to analyze the interview data.

Findings/Results: In this study, I find that families who arrived at the default outcome did so in ways that followed patterns similar to those found in studies of choosers. Families’ inclination to choose, capacity for choice, and school preferences, as well external barriers, compose a framework that helps to explain how some parents labeled as “nonchoosers” or defaulters in other studies are actually actively engaging in the choice process and, further, how the choice process itself can lead those who perceive themselves as choosers to be classified by researchers as nonchoosers or defaulters.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The defaulter framework provides insight into the barriers that some families face to active choosing and, as such, suggests potential micro- and macro-level interventions to meet the needs of a variety of potential types of participants in choice systems.

Scholars have long acknowledged that the information parents have about schools is the “Achilles’ heel” of school choice. Although much has been written about school choice, far less is known about the information disseminated to help families make choices. I construct a case study of the dissemination and accessibility of choice information in the Chicago Public Schools. I find that both the readability and content of the information disseminated limit its usefulness. In addition, a lack of centralized resources leads to both limited and disparate access. I conclude with modifications for improving information dissemination and accessibility. More
Delale-O'Connor, L., *Alvarez, A., *Murray, I.E., Milner, IV H.R. (2017) Self-efficacy beliefs, classroom management and the cradle to prison pipeline. Theory into Practice. 56(3), 178-186.
In this article, we focus on connections between and among teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs, classroom management practices, and the cradle to prison pipeline. Drawing from Bandura’s (1986) theorization of self-efficacy, we discuss how teachers’ beliefs shape their classroom management practices and how these beliefs and practices can be essential sites to understanding and decreasing disparate outcomes in disciplinary referral patterns among practicing teachers. We emphasize the importance of building teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs and sense of efficacy to inform their classroom management practices/decisions. In particular, we focus on three sites of learning that, we argue, are essential to building teachers’ sense of efficacy in the classroom: learning about and building powerful and sustainable relationships with students; learning about and developing an understanding of outside of school contexts that students experience; and recognizing and appropriately responding to traumatic experiences of students. More
Akiva, T., Carey, R.L., Cross, A.B., Delale-O'Connor, L. & Brown, M.R. (2017) Reasons youth engage in activism programs: Social justice or sanctuary? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 53, 20-30.
Youth activism programs have been studied for their impact on societal change and their contribution to youth development; however, less is known about what motivates youth to engage in such programs. In this study, we draw on survey and focus group data from eight youth activism programs to understand reasons that youth attend. We find that engaging in social justice work was the highest rated reason for participation, followed closely by sanctuary, and lastly, relationships with adults and peers in the program. Analysis of qualitative data highlights the importance of sanctuary—not limited to psychological safety, but with an emphasis on celebrating aspects of identity. Findings also point to important intersections between social justice work and sanctuary, with youth expressing a desire to impact change from protected and affirming spaces that are liberating and allow them to take risks. More
Delale-O'Connor, L. (2017) Using what you've got: The possession and use of official information in urban school choice. Equity and Excellence in Education 50(2), 170-181.

In this study, the author makes the connection between school and district provided information and families' use of this information. Prior studies have found that over half of families eligible for school choice have information to make their decision. However, little is known about if and how families actually use formally provided information. Drawing from observation and in-depth interviews to construct families' information use approaches, the study revealed that approaches families take in engaging information range along a spectrum from what can be characterized as shallow to deep engagement. Their engagement ultimately influences the number, type, and quality of schools to which families apply. As choice proliferates in urban districts and continues to put the least resourced families at increasing disadvantage, the implications of this study can support policymakers and educators in providing more robust information sources and practices to increase potential families' deep engagement.


Milner, H.R., Delale-O'Connor, L., Murray, I.E., & Farinde, A. (2016). Reflections on Brown to understand Milliken v. Bradley: What if we are focusing on the wrong policy questions? Teachers College Record 118(3).
Background/Context: Prior research on Milliken v. Bradley focuses on the failure of this case to implement interdistrict busing in the highly segregated Detroit schools. Much of this work focuses explicitly on desegregation, rather than on equity and addressing individual, systemic, institutional, and organizational challenges that may prevent the advancement and actualization of desegregation to benefit Black students, teachers, and communities.

Purpose/Objective: In this study, we shed light on the impacts of desegregation on Black students, teachers, and communities. We argue that Brown, Milliken, and associated policies that attempt to address segregation focus mostly on student assignment policies. Our focus instead is on highlighting the underconceptualized microlevel realities of desegregation, which include the losses of cultural and community connections, strong role models, and connections to school.

Population/Participants: This study draws from interview data collected from three experts in the field of education whose research focuses on school desegregation. The interview participants have written scholarly articles and/or book chapters about desegregation and related influences on/for Black teachers, Black students, and Black communities spanning the PreK–12 and higher education spectrum.

Research Design: This study employs in-depth qualitative interviewing.

Data Collection and Analysis: Interviews were conducted by phone and lasted approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Participants in the study were asked questions about the impact of desegregation and education on Black teachers’ experience, self-concept, dedication, and retention; Black students’ experience of schools and school-related success; experience and connection of Black communities; and “next steps” in educating Black students. An interpretive perspective was used to guide the interview analyses in this study.

Findings/Results: Analysis of the expert interviews reveals the underexplored microlevel losses and harmful effects of desegregation policies and politics on Black children, families, and communities.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Evidence from these researchers who have studied desegregation suggests that for many Black students and educators, desegregation was unsuccessful—even when there were superficial indicators of success. We suggest that both researchers and policy makers should consider drawing from the potential losses associated with desegregation and focusing on the equity, regardless of schooling location and population.


Milner, H.R., Cunningham, H.B., Delale-O'Connor, L., & Kestenberg (2018). These Kids Are Out of Control: Why We Must Reimagine Classroom Management for Equity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

If you’re looking for a book on how to “control” your students, this isn’t it! Instead, this is a book on what classroom learning could be if we aspire to co-create more culturally responsive and equitable environments—environments that are safe, affirming, learner-centered, intellectually challenging, and engaging. If we create the kind of places where our students want to be . . .

A critically important resource for teachers and administrators alike, “These Kids Are Out of Control” details the specific practices, tools, beliefs, dispositions, and mindsets that are essential to better serving the complex needs of our diverse learners, especially our marginalized students. Gain expert insight on:

  • What it means to be culturally responsive in today’s classroom environments, even in schools at large
  • How to decide what to teach, understand the curriculum, build relationships in and outside of school, and assess student development and learning
  • The four best practices for building a classroom culture that is both nurturing and rigorous, and where all students are seen, heard, and respected
  • Alternatives to punitive disciplinary action that too often sustains the cradle-to-prison pipeline

Classroom “management” takes care of itself when you engage students, help them see links and alignment of the curriculum to their lives, build on and from student identity and culture, and recognize the many ways instructional practices can shift.



Delale-O'Connor, L. and Milner, H.R. (2016). Disrupting dangerous narrative in early childhood education: Being Black is not a risk factor. Essay in Being Black is not a Risk Factor: Statistics and Strengths-Based Solution in the State of Pennsylvania.
Lori A. Delale-O'Connor


University of Pittsburgh
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