Transcription of the episode “Building communities of trust: transforming family-school relationships”

Amy H-L: [00:00:15] I’m Amy Halpern-Laff. 

Jon M: [00:00:16] And I’m Jon Moscow. Welcome to Ethical Schools. Our guest today is Dr. Ann Ishimaru, Associate Professor in the Educational Policy, Organizations, and Leadership Program at the University of Washington College of Education. She’s the author of Just Schools: Building Equitable Collaborations with Families and Communities, published in 2019. Welcome, Ann. 

Ann I: [00:00:40] Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Jon M: [00:00:42] You’ve said that there’s a disjuncture between the theory and practice of relationships between parents and communities and schools. What is this disjuncture?

Ann I: [00:00:53] Yeah. Well, I think we have a lot of language and sets of ideas about the importance of families, families as partners, as schools, as first teachers. And that’s all a wonderful set of ideas. And I think the disjuncture is that there’s a lived experience that many families have in schools that’s quite at odds with these ideas of really partnering. We have this idea that they are in a partnership, that both sides would be doing things with each other. There would be a sense of reciprocity. There would be some shared power and shared ownership. And I think the disjuncture is that for many, especially families of color, they’ve experienced schools as exclusive environments, sometimes alienating and often dismissive of the concerns and priorities that they may bring to the school about their children.

Jon M: [00:01:47] How did we get there?

It’s a great question. We have to go back in history. I think one of the things that happens when we start talking about the idea of families and schools is people forget that we got here over a very long period of time, that our schools were developed many, many years ago, hundreds of years ago. And from the very get-go, they were often places in which children were being taught to assimilate to a set of white norms about their behavior, about their language, about their culture. So when we even think about the boarding school experience for Native Americans, a very traumatic experience of actually literally taking children away from their families when they were five or six years old. But even when we think forward a little in terms of other communities as well, the experiences in schools, we had very segregated schools and then even after desegregation, we still have these racialized dynamics that play out in the ways that families experience schools, in the ways that they are treated, often by educators, but also just by the way the system has been designed to really privilege certain kinds of white, normative, middle-class behaviors and ways of involving themselves with schools.

So we have this dominant model of the PTA meetings, the parent teacher conferences, the open house, and then there’s an expectation about what parents should do, how they should behave. And when they depart from those expectations, if they are families of color, those departures are often labeled and interpreted by mostly white educators in ways that are very racialized. So we have all these very deficit-based narratives about parents who don’t care or who don’t value education. And we actually have a very robust body of literature and research that demonstrates that that is not the case. And yet these racialized interpretations of behavior that departs from white middle-class educator expectations persists. 

Amy H-L: [00:03:55] And why is that, Ann, despite the data that shows otherwise?

Ann I: [00:04:01] Well, I think that it’s connected to these broader narratives we have out in society, that it’s not an accident at all. Like we think about all that’s happening in society at large, with the killing of George Floyd and far too many black men and women. And we’ve got a set of broader societal narratives that are racialized and that play out in schools. And so, you know, we think about issues like discipline and the ways that, especially Black boys, but also Black girls and other students of color as well are treated, and how their behaviors are interpreted, you know, in the case of Black boys, often as aggressive or as adultified expecting them to, or thinking of them as older than they are. And that there’s a through line that goes straight from the ways that educators interpret those behaviors. as young as when they’re in preschool all the way up to the kinds of things that we’re seeing at the level of police shootings. We see that sort of connection between schools and prisons. And so there’s a through line all the way through those dynamics that I think is very persistent and that we don’t do a good job as educational systems, really narrating and preparing educators and shifting those narratives and expectations.

Jon M: [00:05:20] I mean, obviously what you’re talking about is clearest in cases of racial discrimination, for example, you know, you’re talking about African-Americans, you’re talking about Native Americans. What do some of these dynamics play out with in terms of say white working class and poor families? Do you see some of the same patterns?

Ann I: [00:05:41] There are some similarities, to be sure. I think one of the things that is interesting is that there are a set of broader myths as well about poverty, and we have that really, and unfortunately it has also persisted, this notion of a culture of poverty as though there’s some magical culture that unites all people who live in poverty. It comes from actually one inquiry of six families that happened decades and decades and decades ago that has been challenged and disproven time and time and time and time again. There is no such thing as a monolithic culture of power [ED: poverty]. And yet, that notion still persists and it makes its way into professional development for educators. And so there’s a set of deficit based assumptions as well that are associated with that. So there are certainly some of those dynamics that persist for kids and families who are living in poverty. And then there are ways in which it actually gets magnified or amplified when you add race into those conversations.

Amy H-L: [00:06:49] There’s been a lot of talk about learning loss during the pandemic. What does learning loss mean?

Ann I: [00:06:56] Yes. That is a good question. Thank you for asking that one. So learning loss is an interesting term because it’s another one of those things that I think for a lot of educators, it feels common sense. And that’s what I think we always have to stop ourselves and wonder what, why does this feel common sense?

Well, on the one hand, we all know that schools were disrupted. We had 50 million kids out of school, and many, many, many of them are still not back into buildings. So there has been a disruption to their schooling, but the narrative of learning loss comes out of this notion of transferring what you can measure on a standardized assessment, a standardized test, and then kind of dividing that up by the number of days you’re in school. And so I think a lot of people don’t realize that that’s how people have been using that term. It’s largely driven by people who are doing assessment. And what it hides or erases is the fact that children are learning all the time. And part of the problem with the narrative is if we say this has been a time only of learning loss, then we are positioning school learning as the only kind of learning that matters or counts. And I think many of us with children at home recognize that our children continue to learn and they’re learning about all kinds of things. So some of the things are things that they learn at home with their families. Maybe they’re speaking their native languages, they’re participating in cultural practices that they haven’t been able to do as much, and learning about their cultural and racial identity. I know families who have been bringing their children to protests last summer, and theyI’ve been learning about the intergenerational histories of their family activism. There are kids who are learning all kinds of other things about how to take care of each other, how to take care of their families, how to take care of their communities, and contributing to community care efforts.

So I think that the challenge is to recognize that there has been a lot of loss, especially for many Black, indigenous and other people of color communities. There’s been disproportionate loss and grief of lives and wellbeing due to COVID and also to racial trauma. And at the same time to recognize that there are really resilient and emerging as well, efforts that families and communities have undertaken in this moment to continue the learning of their children.

Amy H-L: [00:09:21] Ann,  in terms of the actual academic loss, I’m not sure I understand the algorithm. Would you explain that?

Ann I: [00:09:29] Do you mean in terms of the test score measurement? 

Amy H-L: [00:09:31] Yes.

Ann I: [00:09:32] Yeah. So especially early on in the pandemic, one of the things that came out and I can’t remember the details of which company this was, but what they did is they looked at the average amount of change between a given grade, say third grade and fourth grade, for an average student in a non- pandemic year. And they divided that by the number of academic days there are in the year and they said each day counted for a certain amount of learning. Of course, we know that learning doesn’t work like that. Uh, it’s neither linear nor something that can be solely confined to test score measurements. But one of the things that was striking about that, especially early on in the pandemic, is that some of the assessments were coming out saying that kids, especially kids of color, have lost more learning than they had not been in school. So there was actually some scrambling and some retracting of some of the figures that got out there. And I think that’s, it’s just a really good lesson for all of us in terms of consumption of data and numbers. I think sometimes when things come out in numbers, they feel like they can be trusted or they’re they’re objective. And we also have to really think carefully about how do we get those and then how do we turn that into an interpretation. Like we’ve had X amount of learning loss. 

Jon M: [00:10:53] Do you think that this very narrow and twisted definition of learning loss is likely to impact the stimulus money that’s going to be coming into schools? What are some of the choices that people have?

Ann I: [00:11:07] Yeah, that is huge. That narrative is also very tied to a set of approaches that are focused on remediation. So remediating individual students and children. And the problem with that is then we think about if we have systems that kind of double down on our remediation paradigm, and we have a lot of approaches that are like, let’s double the amount of content. We’ll really increase the amount of seat time that children are getting. Especially as we think about the danger of using summer in that way. We already have a whole lot of children who are struggling in lots of ways that are not just academic. Uh, there have been a lot of challenges for not just children, but the adults too, in terms of coping with this whole pandemic. So we’ve got a lot of folks who feel disconnected, who are struggling socially, emotionally, and their engagement in academic learning is going to be a challenge. If we don’t reckon with these other things that are very present for young people. So I guess the way I like to think about it is that there’s an opportunity, especially as we head into the summer, to think more expansively about what do we really know about learning and about engagement of young people and why we’re educating young people. And so if we think about learning as something that we enjoy, as something that is integrated with social and relational dynamics in which culture is a part of learning, those are all things that we know from the learning sciences, that we might need joy, and we might need connection and relationship and a sense of belonging, that all of those things are tied up in how we think about learning, then we can’t just double down on the academic aspects and expect that that’s going to dramatically increase, you know, standardized outcomes. But we might need to really tend to young people and their families and educators as human beings, given all these areas of need.

Amy H-L: [00:13:14] How would you like to see the stimulus money spent?

Ann I: [00:13:18] I think that we have a tremendous opportunity to shift the way we interact with families and with communities in this moment that we’ve got resources coming down and we’re in a situation where there are so many things that we don’t know about how to proceed. And so if we think about the fact that, as I said earlier, we had families stepping up and creating learning opportunities for their children, sometimes individually, many times collectively, and we have community-based organizations also stepping up, that we have an opportunity to undertake partnerships with families and communities in a way that we never have done before. And so I think that’s a real possibility that the resources could make happen and that we could really leverage the expertise of families and communities to help us understand what is it that young people need right now. What do their families need? What are their priorities? What are their dreams? And families and communities can be a resource for that kind of inquiry to help us reshape how we go about the learning, and then they can be partners in providing and shaping those learning environments.

Jon M: [00:14:31] So it sounds as though it goes back to what you were talking about before, in terms of shifting away, or it’s going to have to be more than a shift, a dramatic change away, from some of these deficit based assumptions toward low-income parents and communities. 

Ann I: [00:14:49] Yeah. I think that the first step is for us to recognize that those things are still alive and well, even if we change our language. And I think that the tricky part is sometimes, especially in the wake of the racial reckonings of this past year, there was a tendency to pick up new language. We might talk about liberation and abolition and all these great things without actually digging into what those things mean and how that actually has to shift our approaches. And so that means our systems have to shift the way they approach young people, students, and their families and communities. And then at the individual level, educators also need to shift their own practices as well.

Jon M: [00:15:34] What have schools, parents, students learned about their relationships during the pandemic?

Ann I: [00:15:43] Schools, parents, students, all of them?

Jon M: [00:15:47] Well, in terms of the relationship between families and schools, what kind of assumptions that people have had about the relationships that exist have been shown perhaps not to be true or have been shown to be very much true? What have you found?

Ann I: [00:16:04] I think two kinds of things really stand out. One is that I think a lot of schools assumed that they had a good relationship with families and communities, especially the families in their own schools. And when the pandemic happened and suddenly they didn’t have robust mechanisms for reaching students and their families, they discovered that they actually didn’t have as great a relationship as they thought they had had. That a lot of that was actually one way communication. They were sending information, but they didn’t have good mechanisms, sometimes as simple as contact information, they didn’t have reliable systems for being in touch with families and understanding what’s going on for students. And so that’s, that’s one sort of recognition that happened for many schools.

I think some of them began to realize that there were teachers among them who have always had good relationships and sought to be in a kind of more reciprocal communication with their students and families. And all of a sudden people began to look to them and realize how vitally important those practices were and the kind of leadership that those teachers offered in having those positive relationships and robust communication mechanisms.

And then I think, lastly, this is a third thing, but this idea that families matter. In schools, I think again, we had a lot of lip service and ideas about that before, but it became very evident in the moment of the pandemic and that even for, you know, we were doing some work with especially Black families near the beginning of the pandemic, sort of midway through, and one of the learnings was that many of them actually experienced their children being happier at home. And so that was really striking. And I think a lot of educators have found that really sobering to hear that especially young boys were not subject to the kinds of daily racial, micro and macro aggressions and assumptions and expectations that they had to negotiate when they were in buildings, they were able to relax and not have to deal with as much of that at home. And so I think that was another piece is again, we had a lot of lip service to the importance of attending to racial dynamics and racism in schools, but I think the pandemic, especially children and their experiences at home, also parents experiencing instruction on the other side of the screen with their children, it opened a lot of people’s eyes to the importance of those dynamics in really fundamental ways and the ways that children and young people experience their schools.

Jon M: [00:18:45] You know, it’s really interesting because I was just reading an article in, I think it may have been this Sunday’s Times, about some studies of privileged kids , white kids, kids in very affluent schools. And they were saying, I don’t know if you saw the particular study, but they were saying that when they went first went to virtual learning, they found that a lot of those kids also got a lot more relaxed because they were relieved from some of this extreme pressure to perform. And then as the pandemic went on and their parents’, especially, and their teachers’ expectations that they were still going to be performing, you know, at 800 SAT levels and still getting into all the Ivies. Just even though they obviously didn’t have the support structures and they were experiencing the pandemic that in fact, I think, they said that they found that their mental health, I don’t know whether it was by numbers of visits or whatever, but by whatever measures they were using, that the mental health of a lot of those kids actually ended up being a lot worse than the mental health of lower income kids and kids of color. And the thrust of the article was that it would be a serious mistake for everybody to not get the messages that it’s not just a matter of back to normal, but trying to re-examine what normal means for all kids, in different ways, of course.

Ann I: [00:20:16] Yeah, I think that’s right. I think it highlights a set of assumptions, kind of goes back to your question, Amy, about learning loss. I think the other thing that underlies that narrative is this notion that we were in the some kind of race and it’s a very meritocratic race and that some people are going to win and some people are going to lose and some kids are going to get farther behind relative to other kids. And I think that that underscores a set of assumptions about what schools are for and what schools are doing that end up being problematic for all kids.

Amy H-L: [00:20:49] And how did these dynamics between schools, parents, children that have been exposed during the pandemic, how do they impact groups’ willingness or reluctance to return to in-person classes?

Ann I: [00:21:07] Yeah, it’s been interesting to see how racialized the return to buildings is. And there’s been quite a number of articles and explorations out in the news media about the disparities in terms of who’s returning to classrooms and who’s staying remote. We know, especially with the dynamics I was talking about with Black families, many of them don’t, especially in some of the large urban districts, they don’t have a trust in the schools and the school systems that their children will be safe in returning to schools. And I think one of the quotes that always sticks with me is one mom said To me, “My child wasn’t safe before the pandemic. How can I expect them to be safe now?” Well, we have this added issue. I also think about a lot of the anti-Asian racism that’s happening. And we know in some districts, it’s 50%. Where I live in New York City, it’s 70% of the Asian families have chosen not to return to buildings. And for sure COVID is implicated in that and health issues. But I think we also have to think about safety more broadly than only health. It also includes the safety that young people experience in their own schools. The issues of racial bullying and the concerns that their families have as well about their children returning, being on the street and walking back to school or being physically attacked as they try to return to school. So, yeah. The return to buildings has really highlighted some of the dynamics that have been going on all along. And I think one of the things that really struck me as I’ve started to talk to some of those parents too, is to realize that they have had to figure out alternatives and ways to work with other families or community organizations to supplement or provide other kinds of education for their kids during this time. And in some ways that’s connected to the kind of histories  we talked about. On the one hand, many of these communities have experienced oppression in relation to schools, but they also have long histories of resilience and of figuring it out, of constructing educational opportunities for their children when the system wasn’t eager to provide them for them. So they’re also kind of drawing on those histories of resilience and creativity to ensure that their children are educated.

Jon M: [00:23:31] Funding for programs like My Brother’s Keeper have urged grantees to implement models like Karen Mapp’s Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family -School Partnerships. What is this framework? 

Ann I: [00:23:45] So there are quite a few different family engagement frameworks, but Karen Mapp worked with a couple of other folks and she first developed the dual capacity framework when she was working with Arne Duncan during the Obama administration. And one of the things that really distinguishes that framework from some of its predecessors is this idea that we need to develop the capacity of both educators and of families in order to foster more productive and generative and helpful partnerships in improving student learning. And our prior frameworks, a lot of times, have focused only on families, and parents and families, and are trying to train them in ways that in some ways end up inadvertently trying to assimilate them to the norms that I was talking about earlier. And so the dual capacity framework is really trying to say, well, we also need educators to develop their capacity, to engage in equitable ways with families as well. And that those come together. And that’s part of how we’re going to reshape these partnerships. I think that she’s been working with some other folks as well on a more recent version of the framework. And I think this version of the framework is more focused on the issues of trust and the relational dynamics that unfold between families and educators. Because as we’ve seen with the pandemic and as I was alluding to earlier, issues of trust are pretty fundamental in how we try to work together across these boundaries of not only the institutions and the roles, but also often boundaries of race, language, class, culture, et cetera.

Jon M: [00:25:30] So you just talked about some of the strengths of this model. Are there potential limitations that you can you see taking it further? Are there things that still need to be done? 

Ann I: [00:25:39] Yeah, I think that one of the things that is evolving across the field is the conversation about what it means to really center issues of race and inequity in the work of transforming educational systems. And so really trying to question whether our aim is only to produce high test scores and to graduate and go off to college, sometimes in ways that could leave behind the families and communities that kids come from. But when you talk to families on the ground, they are wanting their children to be good people to give back to their community. Yes, to do well in school. But the notion of what success means in school and in partnering with school is much more expansive. And so I think that that’s one of the things that across the field we’re beginning to see far more is really thinking about what does it mean to go back to some of the original ideas of what our school systems were established for and to really center the ways in which the inequities that were built in from the very beginning might need to be a really central focus of our efforts, to not just change children and improve how they do, but to transform our systems. So we can actually educate the children that we have and the brilliance, be able to see and recognize and build from the brilliance and the cultural practices. And there are the dreams and ambitions and priorities of young people and their families and communities.

Amy H-L: [00:27:16] What does it mean to talk about communities’ funds of knowledge? 

Ann I: [00:27:20] This is a term that came originally out of a set of research from Dr. Moll and others in Arizona. And they posited that families, especially they were looking at Latinx families, um, had funds of knowledge that came out of their household functioning and everyday lives. And so they started a series of efforts that have grown dramatically in terms of having teachers really come to take a kind of ethnographic approach to understand what those different funds of knowledge might be. So some of the examples early on were things like mother who was making candy and she could help really engaged kids in the classroom and teaching them how to make candy. And then the teacher could use some of those lessons to help teach kids about things around math or around science, things like that. And so this has been a really potent and important idea in education, to recognize that there are resources that our schools and educators, who are often trained in fairly constrained ways, um, to see beyond the really narrow bounds of academic, the kind of conventional academic ,learning to really understand the strengths and insights and wisdom that families bring to the conversation, like the prior conversation. I think that there are ways that the field has taken that up that could even go farther because one of the bodies of work that I’ve developed with the Family Leadership Design Collaborative is called solidarity- driven co-design. And so the funds of knowledge relies on teachers being the ones to recognize the expertise and knowledge of families and then to use it as a kind of leverage to introduce core common content. And I think there are some great examples of projects and efforts where folks have taken that to the next level to say, well, wait a minute,  maybe core academic content content actually needs to broaden. 

We might need to think about the land and outdoors and our relationships in new and broader ways than we have in, for example, science education. So my colleague, Dr. Megan Bang,  Dr. Carrie Tzou, and the project called Learning and Places, have done a lot of work on what does it look like when we have teachers and families actually collaborating together to develop educational activities and curriculum and learning opportunities for kids in which the diversity and the funds of knowledge of families are actually part of reshaping the curriculum and the learning environment for children. 

Jon M: [00:29:55] How could the balance of power between schools and low-income families and families of color be made more equal?

Ann I: [00:30:02] So I think there are a lots of, there’s lots of layers to that, but I think one layer to it really starts with this idea of moving beyond performative models of input and listening, because I think systems have learned that it’s really important to try to listen and to try to get input from families. But we have a default set of approaches for doing that. And these default set of approaches, tend to privilege English-speaking families, families who are middle-class, who have access to technology, who are familiar with how educational systems work, who behave in sort of white normative ways, are heterosexual, able-bodied, et cetera, et cetera. And so the systems are things like sending out the electronic survey to try to get folks to respond about a whole battery of questions. It might be things like having a town hall these days online. Or the school board meeting where you get three minutes of testimony that you have to sign up ahead of time to provide.

And a lot of these mechanisms are really focused on making a show of listening and considering input, but then we have a default practice of then the educators or whoever the policymakers are, they go behind closed doors. They decide what to pay attention to, what to listen to, what matters, and how that will shape their decision-making. They make a decision. And then if they’re really feeling accountable, they’ll go back and tell people what they decided and how it’s going to happen. But I think that the work that is beginning to bubble up across the country, that most excites me ,are efforts in which, especially those who’ve been most impacted by injustices, are part of crafting the solutions to address those inequities. So it doesn’t mean that they have all the expertise and neither do the educators or the researchers or the policymakers. Uh, but that those young people themselves and families have some expertise that often we overlook and dismiss and exclude from our core decision-making processes.

And I think that the potential for moving forward is if we could, instead of looking for the next off the shelf program that’s going to fix everything or the expert who’s going to come in and tell us all what to do, we all begin to recognize the expertise that exists in our own communities and our own schools, and to make particular efforts to take a more family and community centered approach rather than a school centered approach and ask those folks to be in partnership with schools to co-design the kinds of solutions that we need to move forward and make change. 

Jon M: [00:32:48] I guess a question I have is, and in a way it goes back to the earlier question  where you started to talk about ways that even though people change their language, they may not have changed some of their defaults around deficits. What are the power dynamics? What are the ways that we can actually get this change to happen? What’s your sense of what circumstances will make a school or a school district be able to move beyond the performative to really understanding that they have to share some of the power, and that hopefully the power isn’t zero sum but, in fact, you know, increases everybody’s power. How does that happen?

Ann I: [00:33:29] One of the ways that that happens, I think, is by recognizing that there’s already work happening. There’s already thinking happening there, already folks coming up with solutions and ideas. So first off, just identifying the folks who are part of those networks, who are in relationship with each other. And not presuming that nothing is happening. And so undertaking some initial inquiry to try to figure out for the schools themselves or the districts who are some of those key folks who are already in relationship with other parents or families or communities. And sometimes it may be somebody who doesn’t actually have children at a given school. It could be a community leader from a community based organization. It could be a faith-based leader. So identifying some of those folks, and I think that there are a number of processes that have been really encouraging to see, when folks take the time to engage in routine practices that begin with the priorities and stories and lived experiences of families and communities, something profound can begin to emerge when educators are not just listening to respond or to answer, but to really learn about those individuals’ experiences and then learn about their system.

 What does that say about their system that people have had these kinds of experiences? I teach in a leadership, several leadership programs, and that’s a practice that we support prospective leaders and undertaking is these kinds of this kind of really deep inquiry work to really understand how do our systems work and how do the experiences of those who’ve been most impacted by injustice, help us understand not only how those systems function, but also how our own roles are implicated in that and how we might develop a different kind of relationship with those families and communities once in which we might partner with them to come up with solutions and different kinds of changes that can address the part of the problem. So maybe it’s communication, maybe it’s policy, it could be as high up as policy. It could be other kinds of decisions. But I think one of the things that happens is our schools and educators are so conditioned to these notions of efficiency and moving really quickly through processes and coming to a decision and and really taking a little bit of time to slow ourselves down can have a really profound effect in terms of being able to see and hear and make sense of the everyday practice and new and different kinds of ways.

Jon M: [00:36:08] How do you see the abolitionist movement in education fitting in with this? 

Ann I: [00:36:13] That’s one of the things that we’re hearing more and more people are talking about abolition. And I think especially young people are really at the forefront of those conversations. And I think one of the things that it has helped to open up is that we have a a long history again, of people who’ve been thinking about these things who’ve been working towards them. Who’ve been organizing around them and that are kind of tinkering around the edges isn’t sufficient. So maybe we want to say like, I’ll just, you know, pick on the test scores again. Like, let’s say we want to change our metrics so that we are not only focused on test scores, but the tinkering around the edges to say, okay, so, well let’s just count attendance then, and how often kids attend school or how often they log on and realizing that that actually is, I’m just going to kind of, then we create new issues about, then it becomes about seat time, or it becomes about login time, but actually not getting us to the deeper or more profound kinds of shifts and changes that we want to get to.

And so I think that the conversations about abolition are helping us to realize that we can’t just make these kinds of little tinkering changes around the edges. And I see that in family engagement a lot, where people will, you know, their kind of move is like, Oh, let’s do everything we’re doing, but we’re going to change what languages we’re going to make available, more languages now. And we’re going to, you know, we’ll provide food at the same events that we had before. And I think part of what’s abolition has helped us to think about and see is, just on multiple levels. One is just sort of, there, there are these much broader movements and that youth are really at the forefront of them. And in this iteration, while I think that’s probably been true in the past as well. And as we think about all these movements to move cops out of, of schools and to get more counselors and to move more towards schools as a place of solidarities, as a place of liberation as a opportunity to build community connection and vision. I think that all of those things are rooted in these broader social movements that we see bubbling up and emerging all over the place right now. And I think that that’s, that’s really exciting. And part of the conversation about abolition has been to, to push beyond these sort of half-measures that often come out of the systems themselves, to recognize that there is incredible energy and wisdom and insight in existing movements.

Amy H-L: [00:38:49] You spoke earlier about solidarity driven co-design. What is that?

Ann I: [00:38:54] Sure. Well, I’m going to start with the concept of it. So the co-design comes out of this idea that we have to move beyond these kinds of these listening mode and actually co-create together, new practices, new tools, it could be policies, but we’re actually needing to co-design these things together. And then the solidarity driven co-design is a kind of intentional riff off of the data-driven decision-making and that the data doesn’t tell us what to do or drive. People do. And I think the really moving towards thinking about solidarity as both a catalyst and also an aim towards which we’re moving in terms of a co-design, takes the process of creating something new,so it could be a curriculum. 

There’s a case in the book that I talked about, where families and teachers and principals and district leaders, along with us as researchers, came together. And the district had wanted us to create a new curriculum for an existing family academy or parent academy that they had. And so the process starts with really talking to families about their priorities and their stories and listening deeply to that. And we ended up reshaping a kind of curriculum. Yes. It was a curriculum for families, but it developed a set of design principles that were really about developing relationships with other families, about talking about their experiences, sharing resources with each other. And so developing a kind of network between each other. That was also about trying to work together with educators to understand the system in some ways, but also to work with educators to try to change it. So they address things like racial bullying and how to develop a positive racial and cultural identity amongst their children.

And so these are things that are not in a typical kind of parent involvement training, but these are things because the families and educators and principals co-designed together, they were able to develop these. But those collaborations are never straightforward because of the different roles and the assumptions I talked about earlier, because they are often happening across these different divides. Tension is often part of that process. And co-design solidarity doesn’t see tension as something to be avoided, but it’s inevitable. And so we intentionally lean into and talk about those tensions. The teams might look at a transcript of their planning from a different meeting and talk about what are some of the assumptions that were playing out and how can we push on those in productive ways? And so it’s really about thinking about both process and product simultaneously, and one of the things, yes, it will produce some outcomes. It could be a curriculum. It could be a policy. And it’s also really about introducing a new set of practices and processes and the ways that we go about transforming it.

Jon M: [00:41:53] Thank you, Dr. Ann Ishimaru of the University of Washington.

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