Student Voice

When crafting educational policies, how important is student voice?

If I were to answer this question from just hearing how educational policy makers today go about making policies, I would say student voice isn’t important as long as you have the students’ best interests in mind. I would say this because most of the people we have spoken with in policy do not have direct student input.

How is it possible though to have students’ best interests in mind if you don’t hear from them what is important? When we spoke with Candi from Project VOYCE, she really pushed the importance of student voice and student engagement in making important changes in educational policy. So far though, I have been disappointed to find that student input in educational policy is not common.

We met with former DPS board member Landri Taylor and when asked about student voice on the school board, his response was that much of the board is scared of student voice. Today we met with Highline Academy and Independence Institute and they all had similar responses – they value students and have their best interests in mind but they don’t actually talk with students to get their input on policy matters. I am not suggesting boards are bad if they do not have direct student involvement, I am merely wondering how they do it? Is student voice not valued?

In general I believe voice and the freedom to speak up is very important. Teacher voice. Student voice. Parent voice. It is one thing if students are not talked to when policies are being made but I think it is even more detrimental if teachers are not talked to. What if teachers are told their voice isn’t important? One teacher we spoke with from another school said that she was told directly by her principle to not speak out and instead just go along with what she was supposed to do. She was urged not to question things. In sum, she was being told her voice wasn’t important. As for parent voice, they seem to have the most! Parents are often the ones on school boards deciding many aspects of their students’ education. We need to find a way to bring all these voices together because once we do that, I think educational policy will have major changes.

HCU CR 2/22/16

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2 thoughts on “Student Voice

  1. I enjoyed your reflections on student voice Chloe. You are right, we need all voices in the mix in order for educational policy and reform to have a meaningful effect. How do you suggest empowering the voices of students and teachers?

    Like

  2. Chloe,

    I think the lack of student voice in educational decision-making is not uncommon, and while it’s an unfortunate truth to encounter in these experiences, I can’t help but think of how instrumental this truth will be to our development and our perspectives on innovation and reform. I think the sector of education, which mirrors the structure of society in a lot of ways, sends overt and covert messages to students about their value and agency. From our perspective, working in the classroom, are there ways to structure an environment that values student voice? I’m sure that as educators, we could take after Project VOYCE’s model and empower students through our classes. Earlier this evening you described a class you witnessed at Manual that directly involved student voice and experience in shaping the learning environment, and you expressed that it really seemed to engage students in meaningful and productive ways. Allison witnessed an elementary environment that fostered critical discussions on segregation and race. So while there are covert and overt ways of silencing student voice on a macro level, I think there are also ways that a classroom teacher or any other person who works with students can reinforce student agency, knowledge, and subsequent empowerment to be part of a system that can unfortunately be stifling. I’ll be interested to observe models that both support and ignore students this week.

    Stef

    Liked by 1 person

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