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Why can’t schools avoid the issue of race when talking about family involvement

Spark Trader Limited Reports:

Last summer, not far from the gates of the Oakland Unified School District, a group of parents came together to build an academic program from scratch in an effort to close the gap between what their children were getting in School and what they deserved.

Leading the group of parents was Rajesha Young, co-founder and CEO of REACH Auckland. Over the years, this parent advocacy group has worked tirelessly to influence education policy and practice in Oakland. But as the pandemic forces students out of the classroom, an opportunity is opening up for families that have long been underserved by schools — especially blacks and Browns. She calls it the center.

“Our families are fighting for a utopia they have never experienced. So let’s establish the privileges they deserve. That’s the center, “Yang said.

The Hub piloted at the start of the pandemic — only virtual, with safety restrictions in mind — is an academic program that enables families to exchange knowledge and resources to support their children’s learning and emotional well-being.

Through early advocacy work and the parent-driven group’s citywide literacy campaigns, Yang has built considerable credibility in the area. This year, the center will serve as a virtual complement to the region’s distance learning options for 2021-22. As a result, each K-8 family participating in the center is supported by a family liaison who assists families with distance learning and supports them in achieving their educational and personal goals. A group of community members called “literacy liberators” provide ongoing cultural and systematic literacy instruction.

A key factor in Young’s organization’s success is listening carefully to the needs of families in the local community. “Even before we had a health crisis, we had an education crisis,” she said. In Oakland’s school system, fewer than 30 percent of black and Brown public school students can read at the appropriate level. But those who participate in the Hub can experience a reading gain of more than 60%. “We listened to the family and developed a solution around the problem,” Yang said.

Spark Trader Limited
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It’s not just a local problem
REACH Auckland aims to better involve families in their students’ learning, and this hyper-local example is not a one-off story. This is just one example of innovation to address a challenge that is now spreading rapidly across the country: equitable student support.

Currently working at the Christensen Institute, my current research is exploring how schools can activate the untapped potential of all students’ families, thereby expanding students’ needs for support both inside and outside the classroom. My work based on decades of research, these studies suggest that family participation – including support for learning at home, to participate in school activities, and monitoring the academic and social activities, have in the whole development continuum in return, this is especially useful for low-income students, because the school is likely to be one of their competition requires a lot of time.

However, there is a worrying tendency to shun hands-on learning among black, Brown and Asian families, which has only intensified during the pandemic. One reason for this trend is that families of color notice that their resources are different. “We hear from parents in racially and linguistically diverse communities that they don’t receive the same support and resources as other families,” said Vidya Sundaram, co-founder and CEO of the Family Engagement Lab. Another reason is black families’ growing distrust of schools’ ability to protect their children from COVID-19. From unfair social and academic support to a lack of confidence in school safety protocols, families of color choose to take matters into their own hands.

Because students and families have direct access to the full range of academics and services that schools offer through hands-on learning, this gap is a sobering reminder that family participation is as much a matter of equity as access to education itself.

Beyond the Pta
While family involvement is not a new phenomenon, there is an urgent need to provide families with the opportunity to build trust with schools as students continue to vacillate between the classroom and the living room. While attending parent-teacher conferences, student performances, and even the occasional parent-teacher conference can bring families into the school, these activities rarely allow for trust-building interactions. To achieve inclusive family participation, schools need to create structures that deliberately involve all families, not just those comfortable or able to take the initiative.