Since its founding in 2006, Young Voices has enabled youth to create policy agendas and action plans for improving quality of life for young people in Rhode Island. Empowering youth to conduct credible, focused research to inform a clear policy agenda has been central to Young Voices’ success at transforming urban youth into powerful advocates for their communities.
Students Partnering in School Redesign
Across the country, states are identifying their lowest-performing schools for turnaround. In 2010, we created a model for how students could be true partners in the redesign of their schools. Young Voices worked with students at two RI high schools chosen for turnaround to ensure authentic student voice in the redesign process.
With the support of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we provided weekly leadership training to students at Central Falls High School and Juanita Sanchez High School in Providence. The students met regularly with school administration. They also conducted research with the student body, gathering student input on the schools’ Reform Plans.
Young Voices youth then used this research to create an Action Plan for improving their school.
Here’s the research:
The Action Plans created by the students include things like: improved structure of the school day; more variety of teaching methods; and academic credit for relevant after-school programs.
The students are now working closely with school leaders to push for the changes they want to see. They have literally become part of the key decision-making bodies of their school, sitting on the School Improvement Team and meeting regularly with teachers on committees focused on Teaching and Learning and Common-Planning Time. Because they have become real partners in decision-making at their schools, students are already reaching the goals in the Action Plans!
We have created a viable, functional model for students to truly be partners in the redesign of their schools, and this work has national significance (nationally, about 800 schools are in “turnaround” status). Over the next year, we will focus on expanding this model to schools across the State, and sharing it with others across the country.