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Building Educational Justice and Community Well-Being with Families and Communities

BOULDER, CO (July 16, 2019) – At this moment in the United States, the blaming, criminalization and forced separations of families of color serve as an extreme example of the ways American public institutions like schools often approach families of color. The political tumult and violence being directed at immigrants, people of color, and other marginalized groups across the nation make it more important than ever for our education systems and local communities to support families rather than further harm them. 

At the most fundamental level, high-quality schools and safe communities are basic human rights that all children in this country should enjoy. But ensuring that families can access these rights requires a new approach to advancing education justice and community well-being. 

In a policy memo released today by the National Education Policy Center and the Family Leadership Design Collaborative, Recasting Families and Communities as Co-Designers of Education in Tumultuous Times, the authors describe how justice-based approaches to family engagement can enable parents and families, particularly from communities of color, to contribute as fellow leaders in transforming schools and educational systems to better serve all children, families, and communities. This approach is based on the idea that families and communities possess historical and lived knowledge about how to persist through such challenging times, and that they bring critical expertise to efforts to advance educational justice and community well-being. Such an approach stands in direct contrast to current U.S. policies that are traumatizing young people and harming, criminalizing and separating families.

The Family Leadership Design Collaborative (FLDC) is a national network of scholars, educators, and family and community leaders who work to center racial equity in family engagement. They do this by reimagining how families and communities can create more equitable schools and educational systems. 

This policy memo shares what they have learned, speaking in particular to public school leaders and others working to engage families and communities in education. The memo also provides policy recommendations based on the findings of the FLDC’s collaborative work. System, school, community and foundation leaders committed to racial equity and family co-design work should take steps that include:

  • Building and setting the co-design table: supporting initiatives that develop the collective leadership of families and communities of color in improving schools, communities, and broader systems;
  • Engaging in co-design: beginning processes with the priorities, concerns, and issues of families and communities; and 
  • Sustaining co-design: redesigning key educational decision-making processes to ensure that those directly impacted by racial inequities have influence and agency.

Find Recasting Families and Communities as Co-Designers of Education in Tumultuous Times, by Ann M. Ishimaru, Megan Bang, Michelle Renée Valladares, Charlene Montaño Nolan, Henedina Tavares, Aditi Rajendran, and Katherine Chang, at:

The Family Leadership Design Collaborative (FLDC) is a national network of scholars, practitioners, and family and community leaders who seek to center racial equity in family engagement by catalyzing an expansive national research agenda and developing “next” (beyond current “best”) practices, measures and tools. We envision family and community wellbeing and educational justice as core aims in work that begins from non-dominant family and community ecologies, creates ongoing transformative possibilities, and builds solidarities towards collective action for racial equity in education. Visit FLDC at:

This policy memo was made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which funded the Family Leadership Design Collaborative and the research underlying this memo.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: