Opinion
Families & the Community Commentary

To Fight Inequity, Empower the Families It Harms Most

By Veronica Palmer — May 31, 2017 2 min read

At RISE Colorado, an education nonprofit founded in 2012, we’ve created a model in which we train school leaders and teachers to educate families about the opportunity gap and their role in overcoming it. We then provide strategies for families to support their children’s learning and to be their children’s No. 1 teachers and advocates. We equip families with community-organizing skills and tools because we believe that when people have the opportunity to lead, they will make the right choices for their children and communities.

RISE was founded on the conviction that the families most affected by inequity—low-income families and families of color—must lead the movement for change. Too often, these families are invited in at the eleventh hour to wear a T-shirt, hold a sign, or testify on a bill. They need to be involved from the beginning in designing policies that will help their children. Their voices need to be heard at all stages in the policy and decisionmaking process.

To Fight Inequity, Empower the Families It Harms Most: In an effort to close opportunity gaps, let’s position families to lead the movement for change, writes Veronica Palmer of RISE Colorado.

In Aurora, Colo., where we work alongside families, more than 130 languages are spoken, more than half of students are Latino, and more than 65 percent of public school students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Only one in five elementary students can read and write at grade level, and it’s heartbreaking to see our students falling behind their peers.

We’ve reached more than 2,000 families through our programming. As families gather knowledge, skills, and tools from RISE workshops, they have an impact not only on their own children, but also children throughout the community. We ask families to reflect on the issues that affect them and then to envision, design, and implement solutions.

For example, preschool families wanted developmentally appropriate resources, or “homework,” that they could use year-round because parents knew about the kindergarten-readiness gap. Families organized and met with teachers, principals, district officials, school board members, and the district’s director of early-childhood education. After more than a year, parents have the materials they requested, and preschool staff and parent handbooks now explain that families are to receive developmentally appropriate resources to support their children’s learning.

Aurora is also an official refugee-resettlement city with many undocumented immigrants. Since the 2016 election, many families have been worried about their and their children’s safety on school property. In response, they drafted a resolution, which passed with a 7-0 vote by the board of education this month, to keep the Aurora public school system a safe and inclusive community. Among other things, the resolution encourages schools to partner with community-based and legal-service organizations to provide resources and information to immigrant students and families at all district facilities, and to translate and distribute a memo on how the district will respond to requests from immigration and customs-enforcement officials in the top 10 languages spoken in the district.

Aurora still has too few opportunities for families to be involved in decisionmaking. Since these opportunities rarely exist at a local level, it’s no surprise that they also do not exist at the state level. My challenge to state leaders is this: How can we see families as crucial partners and allies whom we are doing things with, instead of to?

A version of this article appeared in the May 30, 2017 edition of Education Week as Empowering Families to Lead

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Families & the Community Opinion Vaccinating Teachers Is Just One Part of the Reopening Puzzle
Winning parents' trust back is every bit as important in bringing every student back into the classroom.
Ruth Faden, Matthew A. Crane, Annette Anderson & Megan Collins
5 min read
Vaccine vials and a syringe on a flat surface
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty<br/>
Families & the Community Photos PHOTOS: Schools as COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics
A look at how and where school districts are using their facilities to host Covid-19 vaccination clinics.
Education Week Photo Staff
1 min read
Vaccine recipients meet with shot givers at the Anchorage School District headquarters. The Anchorage School District headquarters hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Anchorage, Alaska, on February 3, 2021.
Vaccine recipients meet with shot givers at the Anchorage School District headquarters. The Anchorage School District headquarters hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Anchorage, Alaska, on February 3, 2021.
Marc Lester/for Education Week
Families & the Community Audio A Storm, Power Outages, and a Pandemic: Texas Educators and Families Describe a School Year Upended
On top of the deadly pandemic, millions of people in Texas lost heat and water for days after a winter storm. Hear how families and educators coped.
2 min read
Jack Fitzgerald, 14, an 8th grader at Hogg Middle School in Houston, Texas, plays Rocket League at home this week when school was cancelled because of icy weather and widespread power outages. Jack's family had to stay with friends briefly when their home lost power and indoor temperatures plunged.
Jack Fitzgerald, 14, an 8th grader at Hogg Middle School in Houston, Texas, plays Rocket League at home this week when school was cancelled because of icy weather and widespread power outages. Jack's family had to stay with friends briefly when their home lost power and indoor temperatures plunged.
Courtesy of Ginny Goldman
Families & the Community Leader To Learn From Relying on Community Values: How One School Leader Advocates for Vulnerable Families
Carissa Purnell’s work at the Family Resource Centers in Salinas, Calif., is a lifeline for families, many of them migrant farm workers.
7 min read
Carissa Purnell, director of the Family Resource Centers for the Alisal Union School District in Salinas, Calif.
Carissa Purnell, director of the Family Resource Centers for Alisal Union School District in Salinas, Calif., provides essential services and critical information to vulnerable families.
Nic Coury for Education Week