STUDENT VOICE | Report Seeks Roles for Student Input
Student perspectives go untapped and unheeded in schools across Kentucky, ignoring a highly valuable take on improvement and motivated individuals who could help to improve culture, instruction and achievement, according to a new report from the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team.
Nearly all schools lack a mechanism for student feedback, “allowing students to slip through the school system as passive consumers rather than engaging them as active partners in governance and learning,” according to the report. “Students as Partners: Integrating Student Voice in the Governing Bodies of Kentucky Schools” was released Aug. 9 at the new Eminence Schools’ EdHub, a facility planned with student feedback in a district that includes a student as a school council member.
The report found that Kentucky is behind states like California and Maryland in incorporating student voice into school-improvement efforts. A tiny fraction of schools in Kentucky have students who serve on school councils, where most often students are allowed as advisory members rather than having a vote. Only a few school districts have students who serve as advisory members of the local school board. However, the Student Voice Team found in its survey of 89 districts and 189 schools that about half of the districts and school councils would be open to including student members.
The report recommends discussions aimed at adding student representatives on governance bodies. In addition, it calls for schools and districts to strengthen a culture of respect for student input, create formal platforms where students can share their input, and enlist students to design and disseminate surveys on meaningful local policy issues that directly affect students.
“The goal of the education system is to prepare students to be productive members of society,” the report notes. “Integrating students in school governance helps to realize this goal by engaging students in democratic processes from a young age and teaching students the importance of civic engagement.”
The group’s report includes examples of student participation in other states and documents steps the Student Voice Team has taken to elevate student input in Kentucky. It also spotlights districts that are leaders in student voice in Kentucky, such as Eminence.
Beyond governance structures led by adults, the report found ample room for improvement in student-focused structures. While nearly three quarters of the middle and high schools surveyed for the report have student councils, only one in three was described by the school principal as having meaningful duties beyond fundraising and social-activity planning.
“We hope this report will encourage Kentucky to recognize that in strengthening the partnership between young people and adults, we have a valuable opportunity to improve our school system,” said Eliza Jane Schaeffer, a recent graduate of Henry Clay High School in Lexington who led the team that produced the report. a rapid pace,” said Rachel Belin, its senior director. “I attribute that to the fact that it is nourished by the Prichard Committee and continues to draw a dynamic array of young people and older allies who understand on a visceral level that students can and must be partners in the work to improve our schools.”