Journal of Educational Research and Practice




K–12 schools are facing a syndemic of critical junctures right now: On the one hand, school communities and families are still reeling from the effects of racial reckonings and the COVID-19 pandemic, while on the other hand, school leaders and decision-makers are grappling with how to effectively engage families and students amid demands and realizations for equity and justice. The book Just Schools: Building Equitable Collaborations with Families and Communities (2020) by Ann Ishimaru provides tools and pathways forward. Ishimaru first describes how our education systems have long been incubators of oppression and disengagement, steeped in colonizing methods and deficit views of “nondominant” families and traditions. Through narratives—grounded in her experiences and those of other families—she highlights examples of how schools and systems have narrowed or blocked opportunities for “equitable collaborations.” In response, Ishimaru offers frameworks grounded in critical race theory, decolonizing methods, cultural–historical activity theory, and cross-sector collaborations to foster more just and equitable partnerships between schools and families. To operationalize these frameworks and shape reader understanding, she then offers several case studies that exhibit participatory, co-designed spaces and processes that center the family and school community. Just Schools: Building Equitable Collaborations With Families and Communities is a critical read for educational leaders and school community stakeholders seeking to redesign school, family, and community partnerships; improve school governance structures and methods; and rewrite the dominant narrative of educational systems that often exclude parents and families via traditional methods of engagement.