Student voice creates a greater sense of belonging and diversity
Asking students for feedback but not taking any action is worse than not asking them at all, says Principal Arria Coburn, of the Springfield Renaissance School.
“When student voice is shared but not used, it makes students feel disempowered,” says Coburn, whose school for grades six to 12 is part of Springfield Public Schools in Massachusetts. “I try to make sure that what they share, we are able to put in place.”
The Springfield Renaissance School has a high school student voice group that works on race and equity. It has tackled issues like Latinx representation in the curriculum and the use of racial slurs by opposing teams in sporting events.
Coburn has also worked with the school’s teachers to remove barriers to student voice and using language that gives students more control.
More from DA: Why student voice is a key component of SEL
“We’re clear that we’re not giving them voice,” she says. “Students have always had voice. We just need to move out of the way.”
During school closures, Coburn says she has been meeting with students virtually. Students also have encouraged their classmates to share feedback on social media and via email.
As voice has played a more prominent role, students have reported in surveys that they feel a stronger sense of belonging and involvement at the school.
Read the other stories in our series on student voice:
- How Chicago’s 200 student voice committees solve problems
- How a superintendent builds a ‘high level of student voice’
- Here’s where student voice inspires eighth-grade activism
- 4 stories of how student voice is growing in volume
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