THE STUDENT VOICE TEAM
The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team consists of approximately 100 self-selected students, elementary school through college, from across the Commonwealth who work to integrate students as partners to improve Kentucky schools.
We use the tools of civic engagement to elevate the voices of young people in education research, policy, and advocacy. We conduct surveys and roundtables; we create and deliver workshops; we make speeches and presentations; we testify; we publish informed opinion pieces; we issue policy reports, create press events, harness social media (follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and more!
Following are a few of our current major initiatives.
COPING WITH COVID STUDENT-TO-STUDENT STUDY
When Kentucky schools shut down due to coronavirus in the spring of 2020, the Student Voice Team pivoted their school-level school climate work for the moment in order to design a relevant state-wide research study. The goal was to gauge the impact of the crisis on students learning from home and ensure that education leaders navigating through the pandemic would have a better understanding of what Kentucky students were experiencing to better inform their decision-making.
Bolstered by funding support from Project AWARE, Teach for America, National Geographic, The Woodrow Wilson Institute, and Pathway 2 Tomorrow, the team enlisted adult research partners from the University of Kentucky and McRel International to conceive the Coping with COVID Student-to-Student Survey. After receiving nearly 13,000 student responses from all 120 of Kentucky’s counties, the team created an executive summary and regional reports for Kentucky’s ten educational co-ops and began amplifying and elevating the student voice they collected by sharing the research findings with a range of local and national education audiences from the Kentucky Board of Education and the Interim Joint Education Committee to the Policy Innovators in Education Network and the Aspen Institute.
As the team launches the second phase of their study involving 50 peer-to-peer qualitative interviews they aim to continue to ensure that Kentucky students’ lived experiences drive decisions about how they are educated and also show what is possible when young people are enlisted as solutions-oriented education research partners.
STUDENT VOICE FORUM
The Student Voice Team’s Student Voice Forum offers a space for student thought and feedback on a range of education issues. By employing a user-friendly blog format, reaching out to youth-serving organizations and individuals for submissions, and by promoting posts across multiple social media platforms, we seek to make the site especially accessible even to those who have never before written an article.
The primary role of the Student Voice Team’s Forum Editorial Board is to foster and moderate informed dialogue about the student experience and support young people to contribute to broader discussions about the way they are educated.
SCHOOL CLIMATE AUDITS
Research shows that student success in school, especially for those who feel marginalized there, can hinge on student engagement and a sense of agency and autonomy. Creating an awareness about whether and how students can develop more ownership around their learning environment is an important step toward incorporating this conversation into the culture of the broader education system.
In partnership with Panorama, a student-founded tech firm that specializes in school survey work, we are putting the power of school climate data and analysis into the hands of students themselves.
Targeting a set of schools that represent the geographic and demographic diversity of the state, we are supporting students in a variety of Kentucky school districts to produce a study about just what students are experiencing related to school climate and culture with an emphasis beyond individual classrooms. We are hoping that our student-driven audits serve as a model for students in other schools to play a more meaningful role in school climate improvement.
STUDENTS AS PARTNERS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
In 2016, after a year’s worth of research and an original survey of Kentucky’s principals and superintendents, the Student Voice Team released Students as Partners, a policy report detailing the state of student voice in existing school governance bodies.
The work continues to prompt inquiries from students, educators, and education advocates and led us to develop interactive workshops to prompt stakeholders to consider ways to support more meaningful student voice in their own schools.
COLLEGE TRIPWIRES RESEARCH AND OUTREACH
Our 2015 College Tripwires investigation into hidden barriers that make the transition from high school to college so difficult for too many Kentucky students continues to drive a range of activities.
After delivering over 50 local and national presentations on this work, our team of student investigators embarked on the second phase of research, an undertaking involving surveying and interviewing hundreds of Kentucky high school seniors and undergraduates to define college readiness from a student perspective.
The work culminated in Ready or Not, Stories from Students Behind the Statistics, our 2017 book lifting the stories of students struggling to make the transition from high school to college. The book is available online, and the team continues to share its contents across the state and country with the goal of bringing policy data related to college readiness to life and ensuring that policymakers better understand the lives of those their decisions most effect in real time.