How a superintendent builds a ‘high level of student voice’

Student voice has diversified the Howard County Public School System's curriculum
By: | July 31, 2020
Superintendent Michael Martirano, of Maryland’s Howard County Public School System, says he has worked to include student voice in many district decisions.Superintendent Michael Martirano, of Maryland’s Howard County Public School System, says he has worked to include student voice in many district decisions.

Student voice has had a significant impact on diversifying the curriculum and altering the dress code in Maryland’s Howard County Public School System.

“Student voice is not an add-on or an afterthought—it’s a proactive part of how we’ve shifted education in Howard County,” says Superintendent Michael Martirano, a former high school class president. “We have to constantly check in with students to ensure we are meeting their needs.”

Students have been instrumental in updating the curriculum with books and reading lists that more fully represent the district’s diverse ethnicities, Martirano adds.

Working with administrators, students are reviewing and making suggestions on improving the district’s equity and inclusion policies, an effort that has taken on more immediacy since the death of George Floyd and the ensuring anti-racism protests, he says.


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The Howard County school board also has a student member who has engaged classmates on social media and collected feedback. And school board members now frequently ask whether student voice has been heard before making decisions on various issues, Martirano says.

“There’s a high level of student voice in many of the policies that impact our students,” he says. “I encourage it in everything we do.”

Read the other stories in our series on student voice:

  1. How Chicago’s 200 student voice committees solve problems
  2. Student voice creates a greater sense of belonging and diversity 
  3. Here’s where student voice inspires eighth-grade activism
  4. 4 stories of how student voice is growing in volume