Our youth have been partnering closely with the Providence Superintendent and other district leaders—offering student-driven solutions for increasing attendance and graduation rates. This is a new resource for policy-makers—comprehensive data collected by students themselves, from extensive dialogue with their peers, giving new information on what can be done to increase attendance and graduation rates. Students themselves, the ones who experience the impacts of education policies on a daily basis, have become policy experts who offer data-driven recommendations to key decision-makers at the school and district level.
Our youth have surveyed thousands of their peers over the past four years, asking them what could be done to improve attendance rates, and their message was loud and clear: there needs to be a massive shift in school climate, and the ending of punitive, unfair discipline practices.
Since then, our youth have worked at the school, district, and state level to shift the culture in their schools—from punitive discipline that pushes students out of school, to positive discipline like restorative justice that productively engages students.
Youth have been hard at work:
- Conducting a new study with 2,500 of their peers from Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls about the impact of punitive discipline practices on the learning environment from the student point of view.
- Working closely with district staff to design a new discipline policy and Code of Conduct for Providence schools that incorporates restorative justice.
- Meeting monthly with the new Providence Superintendent to advocate for implementation of restorative justice across the district.
- Presenting their data at a major state-wide conference, with recommendations on how to integrate restorative justice into the state’s schools
- Presenting trainings in restorative justice to Providence School staff.
Providence Youth Caucus
Young Voices and the Providence Student Union, in partnership with four of Providence’s strongest youth organizations, launched the Providence Youth Caucus (PYC) in 2015. This coalition includes New Urban Arts, H2O, RUIDL, and Youth In Action, uniting students from across Providence to work with city and state leaders to improve RI’s biggest school district. In just a year, the youth met with Governor Raimondo, Mayor Elorza, and Interim Superintendent Maher to push for more personalized learning and improved discipline practices. The PYC also created the #RealTalkEDU video series. This series of student video interviews, which was watched over 6,400 times online, aims to shift the citywide conversation about school climate and classroom engagement. In April 2016, the PYC organized a major citywide event, bringing together students, parents, and community leaders to create a list of priorities for improving Providence schools. This important work is supported by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.