San Francisco Unified School District's Innovation Lab (iLab) aims to improve SFUSD's education through design challenges and innovation awards.
E.R. Taylor Elementary School noticed at family events there tended to be higher participation among Asian families than that of Latino families or African American families. As an Innovation Coach for the SFUSD iLab, I guided E.R. Taylor staff through a two-month design sprint, resulting in $12,500 in funding to bridge the engagement gap.
The Discover phase of the process involved the E.R. Taylor team to “walk in the shoes” of the users for whom they are designing through activities such as interviews and observations so they understand the challenge from the user’s perspective. These users include students, teachers, and parents. I introduced various Discovery activities such as shadowing and interviews to the E.R. Taylor team so that they could build empathy for their end-users through the capacity to make unbiased observations, and translate their insights into a deeper understanding of the problem, its root causes, and the possibilities.
The Define phase of the process translates insights gathered from the field research (student interviews & observations, teacher interviews, parent interviews) to define convert it into a “How might we?” question that they can truly design and test. Initially, we thought the design challenge was parent engagement, but we learned that there was an underlying design challenge at hand. Dr. Barbara Berman, became the new principal of E.R. Taylor less than two years ago, and thus there was a divide between more veteran staff of the school and the newer staff. We discovered a lack of trust among staff and in order to address parent engagement and equity, we need to first create the right conditions for change: a united staff.
Rather than going into prototyping an idea that E.R. Taylor originally was excited about (home visits), I had them interview more staff about trust and tensions, which resulted in various diagrams to visualize the source of political strife. For example, though Restorative Justice is quickly becoming a powerful alternative to removing students from class or the school, the additional empathy work revealed that veteran staff were able to have less disruptions and thus perform better because the prior principal authorized students be taken out of class and referred to specialists. It became clear in this session that even though it felt like we "went backwards" from the usual design process, it was indeed a breakthrough.
The final session involve the school team pitching for resources to implement their plan, which was to initiate retreats for various teams within the school in order to slowly build trust and buy-in into a greater equity-focus at the school that not only (1) honored the needs of veteran staff; but also (2) introduced new processes that could improve student outcomes. E.R. Taylor Elementary school was awarded $12,500 to implement the retreats for the 2016-2017 school year.