“At school, if you don’t have the right answer, you don’t raise your hand, but in Oregon Student Voice there isn’t really a ‘right answer,’ we listen to everyone’s opinions.”
Ebado Abdi, a high school senior, is a member of Oregon Student Voice, a student-run organization that not only makes a concerted effort to listen to opinions across the state but advocates for those opinions to leaders and policymakers.
She is one of many students across the country using research to make the case for student voice. As the power of student voice takes center stage nationally, this three-part series share insights from advocates and students on the power of elevating education’s ultimate stakeholder.
Abdi and her peers at Oregon Student Voice spent their first year together collecting student responses from more than 2,200 students in 42 high schools. These responses are compiled in the group’s first report, “State of Our Schools,” entirely written by high school students, showcasing five recommendations for policy makers.
In a recent blog post, Samantha Holquist, a special projects advisor at Chalkboard Project and advisor for Oregon Student Voice, shares four insights for leaders planning to engage students. She urges leaders to understand the distinction between student voice and student feedback.
“Student feedback solicits student opinions while student voice gives students the opportunity to authentically participate and gives them a seat at the decision-making table.”
From the Beaver state to the Bluegrass state, student advocates are leading the charge to increase engagement in policymaking. In summer 2016, the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team released “Students as Partners,” a policy paper designed to help advocate for more student voice in the governance process. 89 districts and 189 schools responded. According to their findings, only 9 percent of school boards have student members, and just 43 percent of schools offer any meaningful platform for students to voice their opinion.
Across the country in Minnesota, EdAllies Strategic Communications Director Ariana Kiener reminds leaders that incorporating student voice can open your eyes: “Maybe their opinion on an issue will make you rethink your own, or your organization’s.”
If you are interested in connecting with any of the leaders mentioned, reach out.