Educational Justice Starts with Equitable Family Engagement

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By Riddhi DivanjiElla Shahn, and Sydney Parker, foundry10

Whether conducting a home visit or teaching virtually, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers, school administrators, and youth-serving organizations unprecedented access to the home lives of their students. This intimate blending of school and home can feel invasive at times, but is also a meaningful opportunity to build deeper relationships with families who are part of historically marginalized social groups in school communities.

To learn more about how to engage with low-income, POC, immigrant, and world-language speaking families during COVID, many school administrators and organizations across the country are using surveys to assess each family’s needs and preferences. But not all surveys are created equal. Far too often, families give their time in hopes of contributing to positive change in their school communities, but rarely get to see the final data or their words turned into action.

“Part of the reason that there’s so much fatigue with answering anything — whether it’s a survey collecting data from families or a conversation — is that they have experienced time and time again nothing happening as a result of them sharing their challenges,” said Dr. Ann Ishimaru, associate professor at the University of Washington School of Education and author of Just Schools.

Ishimaru and UW researchers Jondou Chen and Aditi Rajendran collaborated with the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), local schools, caregivers, community organizations, and other stakeholders to design an equitable family engagement survey for Southeast Seattle schools. The survey was adapted from a previous co-design process the UW researchers had developed with input from community leaders across the region. Foundry10 research coordinators Riddhi Divanji and Ella Shahn supported the Southeast Seattle effort through data collection and analysis support.

Ishimaru spoke with Divanji about family engagement and equitable survey design collaborations with families and communities during COVID-19 remote learning. Here are a few takeaways from their conversation that may be valuable for researchers, school administrators, youth-serving organizations, and educators looking to build equitable family engagement into their professional practice.

Read the full article in foundry10 News