When schools are intentional about encouraging students to speak up and share their ideas, it serves to motivate individuals, improve whole school climates, and give administrators valuable insights that can reshape their work.
That’s the message of school districts like Washoe County, Nev., which weaves broad student voice efforts into its social-emotional learning strategy.
“It’s really not just listening but valuing what they’re telling us and really seeing them as valued members of the education system,” said Michelle Hammond, the district’s student voice coordinator.
And those efforts are more than feel-good exercises. The district has a student voice policy and student advisory councils that provide feedback. At an annual conference for student voice, students share insights into the district and review data about issues like engagement and school climate. Groups of students have also learned about filmmaking while producing videos that explore key issues for the district. For example, students interviewed peers who’d dropped out of school to learn about what happened and what educators could have done differently to help them persist.
You can get a glimpse of those efforts in this new Education Week video, which follows one student (and her adorable little sister) as she steps forward to share her thoughts on the district’s budget. The video is the latest in a series produced by Education Week video journalist Swikar Patel, who also produced this explainer on social-emotional learning strategies and this deeper look at the origins of Washoe County’s SEL efforts and measurement.
Want to learn more about Washoe County’s student voice efforts? Want to try out these strategies in your school? Check out my 2015 story, which explores the video project and a student voice toolkit the district helped develop with WestEd.
More reading on student voice, social-emotional learning:
- Watch: Social-Emotional Learning Strategies, Explained in Three Minutes
- One Student’s Quest to Reshape Schools
- Student Insights Guiding Districts on Policy and Practice
- How a Persistent Student Sounded the Alarm on Unsafe School Bus Drivers
- Watch: What a Principal Learned by Shadowing a Student for a Day
- Opinion: Heartbreaking Conversations With Students: Student Voice and Value
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.