Always do the right thing...that’s it.
— Da Mayor (Spike Lee’s Do the right Thing)
Decoteau Irby, Ph.D.

Decoteau Irby, Ph.D.

At age 25, having never played an instrument, I purchased and started teaching myself to play guitar. It was not easy for me. I put forth a lot of continuous time and effort. The core challenge of my regular learning task was to be slightly better than I was the day before. That feeling never escapes me because I wanted to have songs to give back to the world well into my old age. My fascination with learning the guitar and my commitment to getting better reflects a philosophy I apply to all areas of my life: as husband, father, scholar, teacher, friend, advocate for justice, or whatever role I am called to fill. I go for it as best as I know how. I focus. I commit to continuously learn. I work to be better. And I give when, where, and in what ways I can.

Professional Background: I am an associate professor at University of Illinois at Chicago in the Department of Educational Policy Studies where I focus my teaching and advising in the Urban Education Leadership Ed.D. program. I am also an affiliate faculty member with the UIC’s Center for Urban Education Leadership, which conducts research on the dynamics of principal preparation and development over time with a goal of building a robust research base on how those dynamics relate to the impact principals have on student learning in primarily high needs urban schools. The Ed.D program and associated center are nationally recognized as a model for urban principal preparation and received numerous recognitions including: University Council for Educational Administration’s 2014 Exemplary Educational Leadership Preparation Program Award, a "Model Program" recognition from Illinois Board of Higher Education Commission on School Preparation, and Council of Great City Schools Urban Impact Award.

Our program’s curriculum is vertically and horizontally aligned to develop visionary transformational leaders who engage their schools in cycles of inquiry and continuous improvement as levers for facilitating change. In my current role, I teach classes on educational leadership, developmental approaches to instructional improvement, and school-wide organizational change. My teaching methods are strongly influenced by experiential learning approaches. I emphasize school-based action research, in-class team-based inquiry, and embedded active learning.  I advise Ed.D. and Ph.D. students on a range of topic focused on school improvement for Black children and youth.

My scholarship explores the intersection of race and school leadership; cultural politics of urban education; the educational lives of Black males; and improving school discipline, climate, and culture. I started my career in education coordinating, delivering, and evaluating education programs to better serve primarily low-income Black and Puerto Rican youth in South and North Philadelphia. I have since served on the faculty at several colleges and universities, including University of San Francisco and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee among others. I hold a B.S. in Economics (2002) from College of Charleston in South Carolina. I earned my Masters (2004) in Geography & Urban Studies and Ph.D. in Urban Education (2009) from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Areas of consulting expertise: Cycles of inquiry;  Data collection, use, and sensemaking; Hip-Hop Based education; Leading equity-focused organizational improvement; Participatory action research; Program design and evaluation; School climate and culture; School discipline; Transformational school leadership

Sample publications, awards, or accomplishments:

Drame, E. and Irby, D. (eds.) (2016). Black Participatory Research: Power, Identity, and the Struggle for Justice in Education. Palgrave-MacMillan: New York, NY. (Book)

Irby, D. (2015). Dignity-based BMOC work: What it is and why it matters. Research Center for  Urban Education Leadership Development. University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Milwaukee, WI. (Report)

Irby, D. (2015). Urban is Floating Face Down in the Mainstream: Using Hip-Hop Based Education Research to Resurrect “The Urban” in Urban Education. Urban Education, 50(1), 7-30. doi:10.1177/0042085914563183

Irby, D. (2014). Revealing Racial Purity Ideology: Fear of Black–White Intimacy as a Framework for Understanding School Discipline in Post-Brown Schools. Educational Administration Quarterly (Special Issue on 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board). 50(5), 783-795. doi: 10.1177/0013161X14549958

Irby, D. (2014). Trouble at School: Understanding School Discipline Systems as Nets of Social Control. Equity and Excellence in Education (Special Issue on Understanding and  Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline). 47(4), 513 - 530. doi: 10.1080/10665684.2014.958963

Irby, D. & Clough, C. (2014). Consistency Rules: A critical exploration of a universal principle of school discipline (Published Online 5 July 2014). Pedagogy, Culture, and Society.  doi:10.1080/14681366.2014.932300

Irby, D. & Mawhinney, L. (2014). Strategies for Dropout Prevention: Partnering with formerly incarcerated adult non-completers. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth. 58(2), 2 – 10. doi: 10.1080/1045988X.2013.785923

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