Education has a massive impact on students’ lives. Yet far too often are students not present in the fundamental behind-the-scenes decisions that dictate their education. Student Voice aims to go out and change this.
Started in May 2012 as a result of the viral #StuVoice Twitter chats, Student Voice is spearheading a conversation on student agency and empowering students to have a place at the table within educational reform. As Zak Malamed, Executive Director of Student Voice said about his inspiration to start Student Voice and the problems he aims to address, “education is for and about students, but they are not necessarily engaged in how they experience their education. In many ways that can lead to them dropping out or not necessarily pursuing the career or going to the college they desire to go to. There are a variety of reasons why student voice is really a critical piece of education. At the end of it all, it is really about students.”
Born out of the power of online media, Student Voice has expanded far beyond the realm of hashtags. From their education summit Student Voice Live, to a variety of national events and forums, Student Voice has made it a priority to go out and hear the stories of students from all around the nation on how they view their education.
Andrew Brennen is an important part of this expansion of dialogue. Brennen, who has been an influential proponent for empowering student voices in his home-state of Kentucky is acting as National Field Director of Student Voice. Brennen announced today at the White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools the plans for a nationwide tour connecting with students on education in hopes of creating quantitate data on their findings and reporting back to the White House and others interested in discussing the future of education.
“We aim to visit students where they are in their communities and hear their stories about their experiences in education and then amplify those stories into spaces where people are making decisions about how to change the system. We think that those people making decisions can make better, more informed decisions when they are talking to the people who spend 35 hours a week in a classroom and those are the students, “ Brennen told Generation Progress before the White House summit in regards to his hopes for this commitment.
Using the Student Bill of Rights (SBoR) as a tool to assess students desired educational outcomes, the tour aims to reach at least 10,000 students from all 50 states. Based on the input received, Student Voice will then create two dozen case studies of schools and organizations best using student voices in shaping the school environment and work to help certify and implement schools through the Student Voice integration and improvement process.
“I hope students through the tour continue to be seen as a necessary component of the stakeholders that are brought to the table when it comes to school improvement efforts. I think just like teachers, parents and school administrators, students have something essential to offer,” Brennen said.
“We don’t pretend to be experts on education policy but we are almost certainly experts on our own experiences and we think those experiences can have some serious added value to some of these conversations. One of the tremendous goals we have not only for this tour, but for the entire movement is for student voice to be the rule not the exception.”
While there are many factors to take into account when discussing how this tour can impact our understanding of student education, Brennen emphasized that accepting diversity will be key, as each student brings something different to the conversation as seen through their personal education. “We have to remember that student voice is as diverse as adult voice. There is not one student opinion.”
Moving forward, both Brennen and Malamed discussed the connective force and community-building potential Student Voice has. From the Twitter chats connecting students across the globe, to first-hand discussions and encounters of experiences like what Student Voice has experienced on the road and soon on tour, to casting a vote on the Student Bill of Rights website—there are countless ways for people to join a community of students, educators, and policy-makers open to student-led dialogues and paradigms shifts within high school education.
As the first White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools kicked-off the conversation on the future of high schools today, Brennen casts his vision for what he wants to see for the next generation to come. Simply put, he said, “the next generation of schools need students in the room.”