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Listening to Student Voices

Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Karissa Bell

The "Listening to Student Voices" session examined the strategies and programs the National Urban Alliance (NUA) has implemented in schools across the United States to inspire confidence in all students and give them a voice in their own education.

"All students have the potential for high intellectual performances," said presenter Yvette Jackson, chief executive officer for the NUA. Jackson calls this idea "the pedagogy of confidence," and she wrote a book by the same name that examines methods, backed up by research, to inspire urban students to perform at a higher level.

"We've been doing the wrong thing for so long with underperforming students by starting with where they're weak," said Jackson. Instead, she said, it's important to focus on the things students are good at and build off of their strength, adding that her own neuroscience research confirms this.

"If you start working with someone based on their strengths you are working on a very specifically developed area [of the brain] that makes learning happen more efficiently, more effectively," she explained.

Listening to Student Voices - 2011 ASCD Annual Conference

The NUA has developed innovative strategies—like including students in professional development and faculty meetings—to get students more invested in their own education. One school in Green County, Georgia, particularly demonstrated this. There, the students who were included in the professional development meetings were those who were at Saturday school for being consistently tardy.

But their experience in interacting with their teachers in this way completely changed them and the way they thought about school. "By the middle of the year, none of those students were ever tardy," Jackson said. And not only that, but those students also became ambassadors to other students and began coteaching with their teachers.

"The school became a place where they had voice," Jackson explained. "They were having fun. The real issue becomes what we have to do not to reform education, but to transform it."

San Francisco schools, with the support of the superintendent, have also embraced student voice programs. At Washington High School, students were allowed into faculty meetings so that they could express their concerns to teachers in a casual way. This gave students the opportunity to take issues that affect them and offer teachers their suggestions for improvement.

Ericka Lovrin, the principal from Washington High School, will present a session with Jackson on their experience with the student voice program Monday morning (Session 3153: "Leading for Change: A Principal's Story in San Francisco").


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