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Re-imagining turnaround: families and communities leading educational justice

Ann M. Ishimaru (College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 7 August 2018

Issue publication date: 15 October 2018




The purpose of this paper is to deepen the understanding of how minoritized families and communities contribute to equity-focused school change, not as individual consumers or beneficiaries, but as educational and community leaders working collectively to transform their schools.


This qualitative case study examines one poverty-impacted racially diverse high school in the US West and the changes that occurred over a seven-year period.


Minoritized families, community leaders and formal leaders leveraged conventional schooling structures – such as turnaround reforms, the International Baccalaureate program and the PTA – to disrupt the default institutional scripts of schools and drive equity-focused change for all students, particularly African-Americans from the neighborhood.

Research limitations/implications

Though one school, this case contributes insights about how families and communities can collaborate with systems actors to catalyze educational justice in gentrifying communities.

Practical implications

This study suggests strategies that families and communities used to reclaim school narratives, “infiltrate” conventional structures and reorient them toward equitable collaboration and educational justice.

Social implications

This study contributes to a body of critical scholarship on “turnaround” reform efforts in urban secondary schools and suggests ways to reshape decision making, leadership, parent engagement and student intervention to build collective agency.


This research raises provocative questions about the extent to which families and communities can use conventional structures and policies to pursue educational justice in the US public education. Learning from such efforts highlights strategies and practices that might begin to help us construct more decolonizing theories of change.



The author would like to thank the parent, community and educational leaders of Rainier Beach High School who so generously shared their stories; graduate students Rebeca Muñiz and Ishmael Miller for their help in the study; and Dr Seashore, Dr Khalifa and anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback.


Ishimaru, A.M. (2018), "Re-imagining turnaround: families and communities leading educational justice", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 56 No. 5, pp. 546-561.



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