Category: Student Voice

Improving School Equity Through A Student-Led PD Activity and an Equity Summit at Casco Bay

May 28, 2019 by

This post originally appeared as “Letter from the Principal Derek Pierce” in the January 2019 newsletter of the Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine.

Casco Bay High School StudentsDear CBHS Families and Friends,

Happy New Year! The CBHS faculty is always looking to create meaningful opportunities for student leadership, but last month was the first time we ever offered an entirely student-planned and facilitated professional development session.

The goal was to help faculty better understand the lives our students live, especially our immigrant students and students of color. It began with a student fishbowl. A cross-section of about twenty CBHS students, many members of our Student Union, answered questions posed by senior Imti Hassan. Faculty sat around in a larger circle and just listened, for thirty minutes, as students spoke candidly on questions that ranged from “What do you love about CBHS?” to “Where and when have you experienced injustice or inequities at school?” Faculty received lots of kudos, but also heard some hard truths (delivered with remarkable maturity and civility); they ranged from student frustration at having their names or pronouns continually botched by staff, to a request that our curriculum include more uplifting and nuanced tales of oppressed or marginalized people. Afterwards, small groups of students and staff discussed what they had just heard and went deeper into questions about what teachers and students may not yet see or fully understand about each other’s lives.

Students and Staff at Fish Bowl Professional Development ActivityThe insights shared during our closing circle from both faculty and staff made clear the profound impact of the experience. This December professional development session was one action step in response to the Equity Summit held on October 30th. During the Summit, the CBHS faculty leadership team met with members of the Student Cabinet to review feedback generated earlier in the fall by the faculty’s equity self-assessment and the student’s courageous conversation on equity. We also used a set of rubrics on school equity developed by the “Schools of Opportunity” program as another tool to reflect on our strengths and areas in need of improvement. (more…)

What Happens When You Really Listen? Student Voices and Reshaping Policy

April 18, 2019 by

This post originally appeared on EdWeek’s Next Gen Learning in Action blog on March 25, 2019.

Student Explaining Work to Adults

Educators and policymakers spend a lot of time asking, “How can we better serve our students?” We hold convenings, we compile data, we collect surveys and evaluations. But how often do we ask the real experts: the students themselves?

Based on our current education system, it’s clear we haven’t been listening deeply enough. That’s why Future Focused Education and the Assessment for Learning Project created a touring student-voice exhibit. The “If You Ask Me…” gallery is an interactive, augmented reality experience that brings student interviews to life through any smartphone. It is the culmination of a 1,000-mile road trip, visiting eight districts across New Mexico and interviewing over 45 students. We asked students directly: “How do you learn best?” and “What would you change if you were in charge?”

What Did They Say?

The student interviews surprised and delighted us. We heard from 3rd grader Ben Malden, who said, “School would be more fun if we played more math games” and 12th grader Lily Camunez, who said, “When all the students are really engaged, it’s a room full of energy that wants to learn.”

Their responses troubled us, too. Twelfth grader Jacob Gutierrez said, (more…)

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