Educational Justice Starts with Equitable Family Engagement

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

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

Self help: Mockingbird youth are leading advocacy efforts by the Mockingbird Society

Mockingbird Society

Photo: Jerry Davis

“For the young people at The Mockingbird Society who have experienced homelessness and foster care, advocating for the youth of the next generation is imperative.

‘Even as I’m going through this journey of being homeless, I’m teaching, I’m inviting people in and changing people’s lives,’ said Okesha Brandon, a youth advocate. ‘Everyone kind of learns your strengths and people notice, and it builds your confidence. That in itself is a contribution to society.’

Named after the great American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the organization draws inspiration from the book’s narrative.

“The power and promise of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in reminding each of us of the untapped potential our most vulnerable citizens hold,” states the organization’s website.

In the seventeen years since its founding, The Mockingbird Society has had a hand in 25 new laws and reform policies to better the lives of young people in Washington state. Mockingbird’s youth programs train young people who have been homeless or in foster care to be their own best advocates. The result? Changes in the policies and perceptions that stand in the way of every child having a safe, stable home and a healthy family.

Mockingbird’s legislative agenda for 2017 is ambitious, but already making an impact.”

READ THE FULL STORY ON REAL CHANGE

Daniel Pak’s Mission to Share Music

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Photo: Joshua Huston

“Growing up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Daniel Pak knew that music was in his blood. His father was a jazz pianist and taught him to play scales around age 6. In a few years, he had advanced to performing pieces by Mozart and Beethoven. But it wasn’t until he taught himself acoustic guitar at 13 that his passion was truly ignited. “That’s when I really found that music was more than just lessons. Music was something that would be with me every day,” says Pak.

Pak has fond memories of kanikapila, impromptu music jam sessions with friends. “We’d all go to the beach. Someone would bring ukuleles and guitars, someone would bring bongos. We’d play music and listen to the waves coming in and the palm trees rustling,” says Pak.  Today — minus the beach, palm trees and crashing waves — Pak tries to “perpetuate that tradition here in Seattle.” 

READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN SEATTLE’S CHILD