Michael C. Barnes

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Co-Founder / CEO, TeacherTalent


B.A., Political Science, Macalester College
M.S., Computer Science, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley
Ph.D., Educational Policy and Planning, The University of Texas at Austin


Teacher Preparation, Critical Race Theory, Indigenous Studies, Testimonio, Critical Ethnography, Textual Analysis


Angela Valenzuela


Colonization 2.0: The Evolution of Inequality in a South Texas School District

In “Américo-Paredes” Independent School District (APISD) a prevailing sense of unity and pride is derived from a common set of cultural experiences. Most of the educational community—from teachers, to administrators, to school board members—attended the district as students. For some elder “Hispanics” (Mexican Americans), shared experiences include being punished by “Anglos” (Whites), teachers or principals who swatted students’ hands and rears when they spoke Spanish. This system was symbolically challenged during a 1960s era walkout. Subsequent White flight dramatically reduced the population of APISD, yet increased the power of a now predominantly Hispanic school board. However, performance outcomes for students continued to lag behind more affluent, White peers statewide.  In this research, I conduct a critical ethnography (Foley & Valenzuela, 2005) rooted in a series of transcribed life histories of Hispanic members of the APISD school board past and present (1960-2015), and their former classmates.  My research questions include: (a) What systems of power, leadership, and schooling, both historical and contemporary, influence events that transpire at APISD? (b) To what extent do life histories of board members and classmates reflect a narrative of oppressive schooling? (c) Do these factors contribute to schooling as a sustained cycle of socialization?


Michael Barnes interests include a dual emphasis on addressing excellence and equity within K-12 education systems.  For equity, his focus is on how our systemic racial and cultural biases reproduce and perpetuate inequality, even while individual actors within the system are well intentioned.  On the subject of excellence, he believes that students at all levels of the P-20 pipeline should be engaged in work that places demands equivalent to those performed at a graduate level.  As an example, whether we’re studying “text messages used in a gossip exchange” or “telegrams used in the construction of the transcontinental railroad” the concepts and application of primary sources in history can be equivalently addressed to 8th graders as well as doctoral students.  It is not as much a question of “what” students study, but “how” they are expected to demonstrate mastery.  Michael is also an advocate for teaching “startup skills” including algorithmic reasoning and design thinking.  At UT, he helped form Startup Meetup, a monthly event and gathering space meant to unite all college schools in the exploration and development of for-profit/non-profit startups.