Friday, November 6, 2015

Giving Students a Real Voice

For the past several months I have marveled in admiration as I have watched Idea Street (albeit virtually) evolve at the Northfield Community Middle School.  Idea Street, the vision of principal Glenn Robbins, his staff and students, creates daily authentic learning opportunities. The products they continue to create, result from students taking advantage of the chance to learn what they want to learn.  With the guidance of their teachers they explore new adventurous avenues of learning often, all the while staying within the framework of a curriculum. The results are quite inspiring. Maker spaces located throughout the school promote and reveal student creativity and artistry.

One thing unmistakable after reading Glenn's postings about this innovative new initiative is that student enthusiasm is off the charts.  It is obvious that his students embrace their opportunities to come to school each day.  This is an environment where students are engaged and empowered on a consistent basis.

As an industry the time has come to take a hard and honest look at the benefits of creating environments where student voice and choice take center stage. Transformative things happen with student achievement when our students are engaged. Schools like Northfield provide all the proof one needs. 

Talk to teachers nationwide about their successful implementation of Project Based Learnimg and one cannot help be impressed. When students have a choice in their learning their investment in their learning is strengthened as well. Consequently the quality of their work improves and measurable sustained growth occurs.

Our state and federal governments continue to enact and implement educational reforms based on their perception of how to best equip our students for the 21st challenges they will face upon graduation. The suggestion here is to give students a seat at the table.  Give them a voice in the type of reforms that need constructing based on their diverse needs as learners. Once we  truly understand the landscape from a student perspective, we can enrich, strengthen and truly authenticate future reforms.

The voices that get the most attention, should be the ones that have the most at stake. School districts throughout the country continue to demonstrate the value of promoting learning where students have a voice. It's time for our legislators at the state and federal level to first sit down and listen to educators and their students. Then, based on these conversations, constuct a transformative educational agenda with the necessary financing to support it.  When we finally commit to this, we will finally provide our children with a true voice in their educational pursuits.

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