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Root 2: Belief in students and families as experts

What this root looks like:

  • Districts and schools release prior teaching or expectations that they are to be the only experts
  • Districts and schools push back against fear that involving the community will result in “bad” decisions
  • Districts and schools welcome student/family interest groups, even if there are many
  • Districts and schools invest in student/family training and leadership development
  • Districts and schools embrace shared decision-making

Root 2 In Action at the School Level: Juana & Rafael’s Story

A K-8 school in urban Rhode Island focuses its engagement on the expertise families have about their children. The school staff seeks and welcomes the expertise of parents in informing what is best for their students from the very beginning of the student’s education journey. As an example, the following vignette describes what enrollment in the school looks like:

Juana, a mother of three, enrolls her youngest child, Rafael, in kindergarten. She completes the required forms and submits them to the school. However, this initial enrollment step is only the launching point for Rafael’s success. Following submitting the required enrollment documents, a team from the school, including Rafael’s assigned teacher, an administrator, and community engagement staff, scheduled a home visit with Juana and her family. Some key conversation points for this initial visit include listening to Juana share about Rafael so that her knowledge and expertise can inform his education experience. The school team invites her to express her hopes, dreams, and the insights she has about Rafael. Staff provide Juana an opportunity to share how Rafael loves to keep up with his older brothers and often tries to imitate the writing and reading homework he sees them work on after school. Staff learn that Rafael enjoys helping his mother with cooking and will be quite talkative with her one-on-one but tends to be more reserved with larger groups of adults and children. The school staff seeks Juana’s experience and understanding to establish how best to ensure Rafael is successful in school. Her descriptions and experiences with Rafael inform the school and his teacher as they plan. They build on Juana’s expertise to provide Rafael with opportunities to grow and achieve over the years. How does this initial home visit reflect the belief in students/families as experts? First, it equalizes the power dynamics- school staff go to neighborhoods and homes of families rather than making families and students come to official offices and buildings where they may not feel as comfortable and confident. The attentive listening conveys that the information Juana shares is essential for Rafael’s development. As the school year unfolds, Juana will participate in conferences where her ongoing input and perspectives are critical to monitoring Rafael’s progress. This consistent engagement with families whose perspectives and knowledge influence decisions leading to student success reflects the belief that families and students themselves have the expertise necessary to create positive outcomes.


Which two descriptions are examples of what Root 2 looks like in practice?

Districts and schools release prior teaching or expectations that they are to be the only experts,


Districts and schools embrace shared decision-making


Districts and schools hire staff for their community engagement skills,


Districts and schools provide for families' and students’ language translation and interpretation needs


Districts and schools welcome student/family interest groups, even if there are many,


Districts and schools prioritize their time and resources toward relationships


Districts and schools understand what “community-friendly” means in their context,


Districts and schools have effective communication and outreach practices


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