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NEPC Talks Education: Designing and Implementing Ed Policy with Families of Color

BOULDER, CO (May 13, 2021) – In this month’s episode of the NEPC Talks Education podcast, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña interviews Regina Elmi, Muna Hussein, Ann Ishimaru, Patricia Palomino, and Helen Taunu’u—researchers and parents who work with and as members of Supporting Partnerships in Education and Beyond (SPEB). Elmi is executive director of SPEB; Hussein, Palomino, and Taunu’u are parent leader members of the organization. Ishimaru is an associate professor in the college of education at the University of Washington. Together, they research, advocate, and practice youth, parent, family, and community engagement in South King County, Washington public schools.

Ishimaru begins this month’s podcast by explaining how families have historically engaged in the process of shaping and implementing school policy. She notes that parents are often engaged through prescribed forms of parent engagement; e.g., parent-teacher conferences or the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). According to Ishimaru, prescribed approaches to parent engagement are largely shaped by assumptions about what a typical family is presumed to “look like” or by the culture, values, and beliefs they might bring to school. As a result, the school’s culture of family and community engagement tends to be shaped by white heteronormative assumptions that have the effect of excluding students and families from groups who have been historically marginalized.

Elmi, Hussein, Palomino, and Taunu’u encourage policymakers to build on the lessons that have been learned during the pandemic. Hussein, for example, argues that because of the time teachers have spent in their students’ homes virtually during remote learning sessions, they have had a unique opportunity to learn about their students’ culture and family practices. She suggests that policymakers should build on this experience, by providing the resources that would allow educators to change and improve their practices through learning more about the families they serve.

They argue that if families who have been left out are to be included, policymakers will need to do more than try to fix or assimilate families into the current school system. They will need to work with those families to transform and create something entirely different—i.e., a system that is responsive to the cultures, languages, priorities, needs, and hopes of the many racially and culturally diverse youth and families in schools. They explain that policymakers must develop practices that allow the voices of nondominant families to be heard and then engage and support those families in designing and implementing practices that reflect their dreams for their students.

A new NEPC Talks Education podcast episode, hosted by Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May. 

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All episodes are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

NEPC podcast episodes are also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher, under the title NEPC Talks Education. Subscribe and follow!

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: