Student Voice Think Tank
Rachel Belin, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence – Student Voice Team
Students are a largely-untapped resource for school improvement efforts, despite being the primary stakeholders in our public schools and spending more than 35 hours each week experiencing classrooms up close. To amplify their voices and expertise, we seek to establish the “Student Voice Think Tank,” an initiative inspired by six years of student-led field testing in Kentucky, supporting students as independent education research, policy, and advocacy partners to improve public schools.
We aspire to brand and expand our unique student-led independent education research, policy, and advocacy model in the form of a “Student Voice Think Tank.”
The Student Voice Team’s success at supporting students as powerful education partners hinges on four common elements:
1. Youth and adult partnerships that allow for expertise to emerge regardless of age;
2. An emphasis on “equitable student voice” or seeking, soliciting, and supporting students who tend to be least heard in our school systems;
3. A focus on student-generated quantitative and qualitative research including student-led school climate audits, and
4. Intentionality in supporting students to study and analyze education data and research and frame the narrative and public conversation around it.
Our proposed Student Voice Think Tank, a state-level body focusing on education issues and propelled by independent student-led research, would synthesize each of these four elements to ensure greatest impact.
We believe that the establishment of a Student Voice Think Tank will lead to significant, measurable outcomes. Among them:
• Comprehensive, engaging education policy reports, social media threads and clips, and other communication products that frame education issues, strengthen the collaboration and communication between youth and adults, bring research to life, and maintain the general public’s investment in public schools;
• A deep bench of young, informed public education messengers whose political motives are less suspect than career advocates;
• The normalization of students participating in thoughtful, high-level dialogue in education professional development spaces;
• Locally-sourced solutions contributing to a more equitable education system that supports all students to learn at high levels; and
• Education policy change at the legislative level.
Additionally, the concept we describe would benefit education stakeholders in a range of ways.
For Students, the proposed Student Voice Think Tank would provide:
• Development of a range of deeper learning skills supporting successful college, career, and civic experiences including mastery of core academic content, critical thinking and complex problem-solving, effective communications, collaboration, and learning how to learn;
• Platforms to influence public policies that directly affect their own education experience and those of peers from a range of different backgrounds; and,
• A peer and professional network to sustain learning and impact well beyond high school.
For Educators and Education Advocates, it would provide:
• A better public understanding of the role and value of education research;
• A cadre of skilled and informed students-as-partners in school improvement;
• Rich, timely feedback to identify areas of success and improvement at the classroom and district level;
• Insight into education equity issues and assistance identifying innovative solutions to mitigate them;
• Opportunities to develop actionable research that is more accessible to the people it is intended to impact;
• Improved research-based relationship with public school students; and,
• A research leadership pipeline to sustain longer-term education improvement efforts.
PATHWAY 2 TOMORROW
Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future (P2T) matches responsive and agile education policy solutions with the needs of states and local communities.
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