Danns began her teaching career at Indiana University’s (IU) School of Education in 2005 as an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies. She was promoted to associate professor in 2011 and full professor in 2020. She served as chairperson of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from 2017 to 2020. She also served as the Associate Vice Provost of Institutional Diversity in the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Inclusion and Diversity from 2017 to 2020. In light of her commitment to students and devotion to diversity, inclusion, and academic excellence, Danns earned the honorary title of 1950 Herman B. Wells endowed professor in 2021.
Prior to joining the IU faculty, she began her career as an AERA/IES Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Danns has authored three books. The first, Something Better for Our Children: Black Organizing in Chicago Public Schools, 1963-1971 (2003), examined student and teacher activism around school reform. Her second book, Desegregating Chicago’s Public Schools: Policy Implementation, Politics, and Protest, 1965-1985 (2014), focuses on the federal government’s use of public policy to eliminate racial segregation and discrimination in public institutions in the United States through the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The book won the American Educational Studies Association’s Critic’s Choice Award in 2015. She recently completed Crossing Segregated Boundaries: Remembering Chicago School Desegregation (2021), which explores how graduates of desegregated schools crossed racial boundaries to integrate their schools. Danns is also the co-editor of Using Past as Prologue: Contemporary Perspectives on African American Educational History (2015) and co-edited a special issue of the centennial volume of the Journal of African American History, titled “African American Education, Civil Rights, and Black Power” (2015). Her teaching includes courses on the History of American Education and the educational histories of African Americans and Latinos.