Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways

Achievement Gap

The gap in any measure of student academic achievement (common metrics are standardized test proficiency, graduation rates, etc).  This conceptual framing puts the onus on students and their achievement.  It is usually summative, based on one measure, and ignores context, need, opportunities and resources. (See opportunity gap for a different conceptual framing)


Actively opposing racism. Anti-racism is often in response to interpersonal racism (see below), and focused on the actions of individuals.

Attributional Ambiguity

A psychological state of uncertainty about the cause of a person’s outcomes or treatment. It occurs whenever there is more than one plausible reason for why a person was treated in a certain way or received the outcomes that he or she received. People of Color are often vulnerable to attributional ambiguity creating an internal state of doubt (e.g., “did that happen because of my behavior/work?  Or was it because of my race?”  This effect can interact with stereotype threat (see below), to create even greater self-doubt.


A term which describes people whose gender identity or gender expression matches their assigned sex at birth

Code Switching

Shifting your language, dialect, and mannerisms depending on what social groups and situations you are in.


A within race preference or prejudice based solely on skin-color. (e.g. preferences in the Asian/Latinx or  Black community for lighter skin, prejudice against darker skin, skin-whitening


Paulo Freire’s conception of critical consciousness-- raising the consciousness of both the oppressor and the oppressed about the system of oppression that implicates both of them.  It is seen as a form of liberatory pedagogy that, in turn, helps both the oppressor and the oppressed consider their situation critically and creatively and work towards systemic transformation (praxis), towards a more just social order.

Cultural Competence

An approach that comes from the health and educational sectors and means being respectful and responsive to the cultural beliefs, practices, and needs of those in your care.  In education, that means:

- Believing that all students can learn
- Self-reflective and critical examination of one’s
- Own behaviors working with students of diverse backgrounds
- Setting high standards and communicating them to students
- Standing up to
- Challenge prejudice and discrimination

Cultural Proficiency

A set of values and behaviors in an individual or set of policies and practices in an organization that create the appropriate mindset and approach to effectively respond to issues of diversity.  Culturally proficient people may not know all there is to know about others who are different from them, but they know how to take advantage of teachable moments, how to ask questions without offending, and how to create an environment that is welcoming to diversity and to change. Five essential elements characterizing cultural proficiency include: assessing culture, valuing diversity, managing the dynamics of difference, adapting to diversity, and institutionalizing cultural knowledge.

Culturally Relevant Education (CRE)

(Also commonly called culturally responsive education/culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally responsive teaching) A teaching approach that empowers students and incorporates their cultures, backgrounds, and experiences into the school environment and classroom activities involving three different elements: 1) supporting academic success by setting high expectations for students and providing ample opportunities for them to succeed; 2) embracing cultural competence, including a curriculum that builds on students’ prior knowledge and cultural experience; and 3) promoting critical consciousness by providing students with the tools to critique and challenge institutions that perpetuate inequality.

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy

An approach that goes beyond culturally responsive or culturally relevant pedagogy in that it focuses explicitly on sustaining the cultural and linguistic value of students’ families and communities while also offering access to the dominant culture to support multilingualism and multiculturalism


Culture The social characteristics that people have in common, such as language, religion, traditions, political and social affiliations, dress, recreation, foods, etc.   (see ethnicity for subtle distinctions)

Color Blindness

The racial ideology that contends that the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. It focuses on commonalities between people, such as their shared humanity (a common refrain here is “I don’t see color.”)  This approach is often critiqued as not accounting for historical, systemic and institutional racism.

Controlled Choice

A school enrollment method first popularized in Cambridge, Massachusetts where family school choice is balanced with a locality’s interested in creating equitable school populations.

Critical Consciousness

An intentionally critical analysis of power, privilege and injustice in society and institutions for the purpose of changing them.  It requires anti-oppressive thinking and anti-oppressive action.

Critical Pedagogy

An orientation to teaching that focuses on critiquing the status quo by naming, analyzing and takes steps to address power imbalances and social injustice.

Critical Race Theory

A theoretical approach that originated in the legal field, and has gained traction in academia.  CRT assumes a system of institutional racism that is based on colonialism and white supremacy and marginalizes people of color.  CRT seeks to analyze, critique, and change the existing social order that consistently confers power and privilege on people based on their (white) skin color.


Dismantling the beliefs, policies, and practices that physically separate students into racially and economically isolated schools, tracks, classes, and/or programs, that invariably results in inequitable access to programs, resources and opportunities.


A personal limitation of substantial disadvantage to the individual when attempting to function in society.  It reflects the interaction between a person and the society in which they live. It encompasses more than students who receive special education services. Disability status is defined differently under different laws.


Refers to the disparity between the percentage of persons in a particular racial or ethnic group at a particular decision point or experiencing an event (maltreatment, incarceration, school dropouts) compared to the percentage of same racial or ethnic group in the overall population.  These disparities could suggest underrepresentation, proportional representation, or overrepresentation of a population experiencing a particular phenomenon.


Diversity has come to refer to the various backgrounds and races that comprise a community, nation or other groupings. In many cases the term diversity does not just acknowledge the existence of diversity of background, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and so on, but implies an appreciation of these differences. The structural racism perspective can be distinguished from a diversity perspective in that structural racism takes direct account of the striking disparities in well-being and opportunity areas that come along with being a member of a particular group and works to identify ways in which these disparities can be eliminated.

Educational Equity

Raising the achievement of all students, while narrowing the gaps between the highest and lowest performing students, and eliminating the racial predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories.


Sameness in quantity or quality. In education, this means providing the same educational resources to everyone regardless of need.


A social group that shares a common culture, religion, language. Often used synonymously with national origin. Currently, the U.S. census only recognizes two ethnicities (Hispanic or non-Hispanic)


A state in which all people in a given society receive what they need to be successful. It is about fairness and justice and focuses on equal outcomes not equal inputs, recognizing that different individuals have different access, challenges, needs, and histories.

Field Support Centers

DOE run, borough-based organizations that provide differentiated support in Teaching & Learning, Business Services, Operations, Student services (safety, health, and wellness), English Language Learners and Special Education.

Gender Expression

Refers to the way a person expresses gender to others in ways that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice, or mannerisms.

Internalized Oppression

Internalized negative messaged about a group.  Belief that there is something wrong with being part of that group. Shame, self-hatred, and low self-esteem that results when members of an oppressed group take on society’s attitudes toward them and adopt myths and stereotypes about themselves. Internalized oppression can manifest through a sense of inferiority; lowered expectations and limited imagination of possibilities; holding members of one’s own group to higher standards of behavior; not associating with one’s own group; changing oneself in order to pass or assimilate; identifying with the dominant group; oppressing other members of one’s own group; self-destructive behavior; and inability to ally oneself with other oppressed people. Cycles through generations.

Gender Identity

A person’s inner sense of being male or female, neither, or both, regardless of their sex assigned at birth.

Gender Non-Conforming

Individuals whose gender-related identity and/or gender expression do not conform to the social expectations or norms for a person of that sex assigned at birth (variations include gender creative, gender liberated, gender expansive, etc.)

Gifted and Talented

An option for supporting the educational needs of exceptional students, offering specialized instruction and enrichment opportunities.

High Poverty Schools

A school where more than 70% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, or are eligible for Human Resources Administration (HRA) benefits.


Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that share power.


Policies and practices that actively create demographically diverse schools that support and affirm the identities of all their students. Of note, integration often involves busing students of color into schools that have historically been predominantly run by white leaders, with predominantly white teachers, for predominantly white students. To achieve real integration, more equitable student movement and the integration of staff and leaders are important considerations.


The idea that every individual is subject to multiple identifies (e.g. race, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, etc) that affect that individual’s level of privilege or oppression.


The brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and diminishing messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally (“You speak good English.”), nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using American Indian mascots).

Multicultural Education

Instruction that incorporates the histories, texts, values, beliefs, and perspectives of people of diverse backgrounds.  A multicultural approach would encompass curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Multilingual Learners

(Formerly English Language Learners) A student learning a language other than English who has the opportunity to become bilingual or multilingual in school.


An option for supporting the educational needs of exceptional students, offering specialized instruction and enrichment opportunities.

Opportunity Gap

This is a more commonly accepted term among educators who approach educational inequality with a critically conscious lens.  This puts the onus on adults and ways that we have underserved students by denying them equal opportunities (access, resources, a culturally responsive curriculum, diverse teachers, strong pedagogy, health, safety, etc.).


The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.

Systemic (or Structural) Oppression

The ways in which history, culture, ideology, public policies, institutional practices, and personal behaviors and beliefs interact to maintain a hierarchy – based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and/or other group identities – that allows the privileges associated with the dominant group and the disadvantages associated with the oppressed, targeted, or marginalized group to endure and adapt over time.

People of Color

A term for all people of African, Latinx, Native American, Asian, or Pacific Island descent.  It was intended to be an inclusive term and is more accurate than the word minority, since people of color are frequently no longer minorities in many different domains.


Access to resources and to decision makers, power to get what you want done, the ability to influence others, the ability to define reality for yourself and potentially for others. Power can be visible, hidden, or invisible. Power can show up as power over others, power with others, and/or power within.


A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual because of their class, caste, gender, or racial/ethnic group.


A prejudgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members.


A way for people to self-identify by the pronouns they prefer to identify by.


Describes categories assigned to demographic groups based mostly on observable physical characteristics, like skin color, hair texture and eye shape.  A political construction created to concentrate power with white people and legitimize dominance over non-white people.


Describes a person that perpetuates racism in their words or deeds.


A complex system of beliefs and behaviors, grounded in the presumed superiority of one race over another backed by legal authority and institutional control/power. These beliefs and behaviors are conscious and unconscious; personal and institutional. According to this definition of racism, reverse racism, in the United States, does not exist, because historical, systemic, and institutional systems and structures have all been created to consolidate power and privilege for white European-Americans.  People of color can be prejudiced against white people, but without the power of all of these systems, that prejudice is not defined as racism.

Systemic Racism

A societal system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.

Institutional Racism

Refers to the policies and practices within and across institutions that, intentionally or not, produce outcomes that consistently favor white people and chronically disadvantage people of color, especially black and Latinx people.  Examples of institutional racism occur throughout society where people of color are disproportionally affected: housing segregation and mortgage lending, environmental racism, “zero tolerance” school disciplinary policies, sentencing disparities in the criminal justice system, racial profiling, and recruitment, retention, promotion and termination.

Interpersonal Racism

Discriminatory actions from one person directed at another based on race.

Internalized Racism

The acceptance of a racially hierarchical system. This can occur among people who accept their superior or inferior status within the hierarchy without questioning it or working against it.

Racial Equity

A reality in which a person is no more or less likely to experience society’s benefits or burdens just because of the color of their skin. This is in contrast to the current state of affairs in which a person of color is more likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school, be unemployed, be imprisoned, and experience poor health outcomes like diabetes, heart disease, depression and other potentially fatal diseases.

Relative Risk Ratio

The risk comparison of one demographic subgroup to end up in a risk category compared to all other demographic subgroups.  It is expressed as a multiple (e.g. if black males have a relative risk ratio of 2.5 for being suspended, they are two-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended than their peers).

Restorative Justice

Focuses on rehabilitation through reconciliation with victims and the community at large instead of punishment to resolve conflict.

Safety Transfers

A transfer process utilized (1) when students are victims of a violent criminal offense on school property; and (2) in other situations, when it is determined that a student’s continued presence in the school is unsafe for the student.

School Climate

Well-being and safety of students and staff in schools.

School Screens

Selection criteria schools use to admit students.

School Quality Report

An easy to digest report that highlights the key aspects of public schools in NYC. It contains background information about each school through multiple measures, including data from the Quality Review the NYC School Survey, and through Performance Metrics. It has been produced by the NYC DOE since 2014.


Separation of people, especially students, by demographic categories (most commonly race), which invariably results in an inequitable distribution of programs, resources, and opportunities.  

- De jure segregation refers to government-sanctioned racial separation due to laws or policies

- De facto segregation refers to race-based separation caused by unwritten, or unsanctioned, (but not always unintentional) societal factors (e.g., housing, discrimination, zoning, registration procedures, etc)

Sexual Orientation

Describes an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional, and/or spiritual attraction to another person.


Many leaders of color have recently begun to critique allyship as being convenient, temporary, transactional, or subject to paternalistic or savior mentalities.  Instead of allyship, they are calling for solidarity, which involves sacrifice, shifting focus away from the ally and back to the marginalized people and communities. Solidarity requires humility, accountability, and a long term commitment.


A generalization and oversimplification about a person or group of people that may result in stigmatization and discrimination. Even so-called positive stereotypes (e.g., Asians as “model minorities”) can be harmful due to their limiting nature on the domain group and other groups.

Stereotype Threat

The pressure and danger that any individual will believe that their performance or behavior will confirm negative perceptions about their race.  This has been studied repeatedly across races and genders.

Students in Temporary Housing

Students who lack a “fixed, regular and adequate” nighttime residence are homeless and entitled to protections under the McKinney-Vento Act. This includes students living in a homeless or domestic violence shelter, hotel, car, park, bus or train station, students ‘awaiting foster care placement,’ students sharing housing with another household (sometimes referred to as ‘doubled-up’) and students living in other temporary living situations.

Students in Temporary Housing

Students with challenges, such as:
Autism Spectrum Disorders, significant cognitive delays, emotional disturbances, sensory impairments, multiple disabilities, and physical impairments.

Title I

Federal funding that provides additional dollars to schools with high percentages of students living in poverty.


A term which describes people whose gender identity or gender expression is different from their assigned sex at birth.


Describesimmigrants without immigration papers.  This term is more humane than describing people as illegals or illegal aliens.

Universal Design

A theory of teaching and learning emphasizes representation of information in multiple formats, and pathways to engage and motivate students.

White Fragility

A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.  These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar.

White Privilege

The historical and contemporary advantages in access to quality education, decent jobs, living wages, homeownership, retirement benefits, wealth, etc., that have been conferred on white people in America due to their race.

White Supremacy

Historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and people of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.


A social construction that centers a shifting group of people that are considered “white,” and confers and consolidates power and privilege within their group.  Whiteness is constructed, reinforced and manifested in ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized racism.