Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Students Would Improve Schools

YouthTruth, and organization that regularly surveys high school students across the country on a variety of subjects, has just published their most recent work on how students would improve schools. Of all of the data collected, five ideas rose to the top; not surprisingly, classroom managament was number one. Students cannot learn if there are constant and pervasive discipline issues in the classroom.

Other important issues - more one-on-one time, relevant learning, and not giving up on "hard-to-reach" students - were prominent in this survey.

That's funny. I don't see any mention of students believing that one political party or another is necessary to change or improve schools.

I don't see any mention of vouchers being a problem or a solution.

I don't see any mention of NCLB, testing or evolution vs. creationism.

I don't see any in-fighting, politics, demographic research or any of that other wrangling that adults feel is necessary to improve schools.

I see data that suggests that students would like to be heard, respected and involved in their education. They'd like to actually learn something useful, so a school culture and structure that values learning is important, as is a school that teaches skills and ideas that will be useful moving forward, not pinned in the past.

I see that kids who seem like they don't want to learn actually do but have been so long in a system that has ignored them or shunted them to the side or otherwise categorized them as unteachable that they are defensive, disruptive and disabled by their negativity.

I have said it before and will say it again: until we move the politics to the side and begin to put students in the center of the debate on school reform in a real way, we will not make any changes beyond the surface. And who suffers most? The students in the system. Students want action now; they cannot wait for adults to move past their egos to agree on a moderate plan of changes. We need swift, dramatic changes that take into consideration how students would chaneg schools. Are we listening?

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