Updates and Insights: Vol. 1, No. 5

Mailing Date: 
June 7, 2005
Education/Evolving
Vol. 1, No. 5June 7, 2005Jon Schroeder, Editor

Welcome to the fifth edition of Education|Evolving’s new electronic newsletter -- UPDATES AND INSIGHTS.

IN THIS ISSUE:
NEW E|E WEB SITE INTEGRATES STUDENT VOICES WITH EDUCATION POLICY DEVELOPMENT

Education|Evolving is launching a new Web site featuring resources related to its latest initiative, "Real Impact: Student Opinions for a Change."

The new initiative facilitates the integration of student opinions with adult-level education policy development and school-design discussions. The site not only reports findings from E|E’s independent research efforts, but also provides resources so journalists, educators, policymakers and other adults can easily integrate student opinions with their work. To access E|E’s new student voices Web site, click here.

For two years, Education|Evolving has been bringing the voices of charter and alternative school students into adult discussions. Now, we are formalizing and expanding our efforts to include student voices from all types of schools (charter, alternative, home, district, magnet) and all achievement levels. The effort is coordinated by Kim Farris-Berg, an E|E Associate. E|E intends to share what it learns from these efforts on the Real Impact Web site.

The Web site includes three main sections:

  • Education|Evolving Publications. Reports and memos highlighting student opinions that E|E gathers through interviews, surveys, and the Web site. E|E also gathers student views by providing settings for students to design and conduct their own research--using their own questions; their own language; their own write-ups of the findings.
  • Student Input: Message Boards and Student Submissions. E|E created this space for students to communicate and discuss their opinions on a variety of "hot topics" in education policy development. E|E will integrate these discussions into its work, and encourage others to do so, as well.
  • Links to Other Sites With Student Voices. E|E isn’t the only group asking students what they think about their schools and education. This section of the new Web site is a clearinghouse of links that directly report student opinions on education topics. No links offering solely adult speculation about what students think will be allowed.


AVALON CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS EXAMINE PEERS’ ATTITUDES ABOUT WHAT MAKES A SCHOOL WORTH ATTENDING

In Education|Evolving’s most recent Real Impact publication, student-researchers from Avalon Charter High School in St. Paul are challenging adult decision-makers to start allowing consumer/student input to be a driver in school and education redesign efforts; to use their modest beginnings to launch bigger, broader conversations about how to increase students’ motivation to attend school, learn, and graduate.

After interviewing Twin Cities students, primarily from alternative and charter schools, and analyzing results, the student-researchers concluded:

"We believe that schools can better meet the needs of most students by encouraging freedom and independence, by being small in size, by creating a sense of community, by encouraging positive student and teacher relationships, and by allowing students to have control over their education and a greater ability to influence their future."

The student-researchers are hopeful, from the recent trends to seek student opinions, that sincere efforts to integrate student input--such as the findings from their report--are not too far off.

Yet, as E|E associate Kim Farris-Berg discusses in the paper’s preface, the Avalon student-researchers found that examples of such efforts are, so far at least, very few. While educators and policymakers are talking about standards, students are talking about flexibility. While educators are setting up metal detectors, students say more individualized instruction and more attention from teachers would improve school safety. While adults say more money will be necessary to make improvements, students suggest creative solutions.

Farris-Berg concludes that not only do K-12 designers largely ignore consumer input, but designers are also basing their decisions on theories that run counter to their consumers’ needs and desires. The product--an education--may be desirable on its face, but students are increasingly relating their motivation to learn to new and different methods for improving and co-creating their educational experiences.

Student experiences outside of school teach them to expect response and change based on their input; but they sense that when it comes to their schools, response from K-12’s "manufacturers" doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. In this report, the students call for a change. How will yourespond?

To download a copy of the Avalon students’ report, "Listening to student voices: Asking students’ opinions about school may be trendy, but integrating their views must be a growing part of education policy development, as well," click here.


STUDENTS INFORM LEGISLATORS: WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT CHARTERED SCHOOLS AND WHAT MOTIVATES STUDENT LEARNING?

Education|Evolving and the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools (MACS) recently collaborated to organize and host the first-ever Minnesota Charter School Student Summit.

At the summit, more than a hundred Minnesota charter school students discussed the growth and challenges facing the charter movement Minnesota and nationally and reflected on keynote speaker Dr. Howard Fuller’s theory that there can be greater capacity to achieve needed changes in public education via chartered schools. Fuller is board chair of the Charter School Leadership Council and also the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). Both organizations are based in Washington, D.C.

Following Dr. Fuller’s opening remarks, students from more than two dozen Minnesota charters discussed their own experiences in chartered schools and exchanged ideas for improvement of the sector -- both through a student reaction panel and in small groups facilitated and recorded by students.

Now two new documents quoting student opinions from the summit are posted at Education|Evolving’s Real Impact Web site:


WANTED: STUDENT PARTICIPATION TO INFLUENCE MINNESOTA EDUCATION

Education|Evolving provides concrete opportunities for junior high and high school students, and those who have graduated within the past two years, to have a Real Impact on education policy issues currently in debate. We present students’ explanations about what school is like today, and their ideas for school improvement, to policymakers, journalists, educators, and other adults.

There are a number of ways for students to get involved, from participating on the Education|Evolving message boards to becoming a Real Impact reporter. Please print, copy and distribute the "Student Recruiting Document" linked below to students you know and encourage them to participate. Consider offering credit for their participation, particularly over this summer.

E/E would also appreciate your help in spreading the word about the initiative by sharing the linked document with your colleagues from all types of schools: traditional district, magnet, alternative, home, and charter. To download a copy of Real Impact’s Student Recruiting Document -- for our own dissemination -- click here.


UPDATES AND INSIGHTS SIGN UP AND ARCHIVES

The Education|Evolving site features a section where you can sign up to receive these periodic updates, and view an archive of all past issues. Click here to be taken to the sign up page; click here to be taken to the archives. You can also access these two sections by clicking on the "E-mail updates" sidebar button on the E/E front page.


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