Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
In the conversations about transforming education for the 21st Century, often the most critical stakeholder voice is missing. That is the voice of students. From the classroom to the State Department of Education it is rare that students have a say in what, how, why, when, and where they learn. All of these are key ingredients in thinking about school transformation. And since the impetus for change is the outcomes the structures of schools have on children, it makes sense to engage youths in the decisions that will ultimately affect them.
Enter Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST). Like the name suggests, this organization partners with schools to give both young people and adults the tools they need to transform schools. This means fostering relationships, relevance, rigor, and responsibility across and throughout the schools. YATST student led teams have learned how to engage with faculty at school wide faculty meetings, presented policy changes to school boards, and engaged student voice to make meaningful change at the schools.The Peoples Academy YATST survey revealed that one in three students disagreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that, “Teachers check in regularly to see if I am learning and adjust instruction based on what they hear”. In marked contrast, 97% of teachers “agreed” or strongly agreed” that they “regularly check in with students to see if they are learning and adjust instruction based on what I hear”. The team was struck by this discrepancy, and concerned by the widespread student perception that they have so little voice in classroom curriculum and instructional choices. They brought this concern to faculty and together decided to institute a mid-semester student feedback survey and classroom discussion process. In this way, at least once a semester, every student at The People's Academy has the opportunity to share how the class is working for him or her, witness the teacher's response to feedback, and set personal learning goals.
Meaningful transformation happens when all the stakeholders embrace it. The best way to do this is through grassroots efforts. YATST exemplifies this approach by connecting youth and adult voices, and creating meaningful change. Find out more about YATST.
Greg Young nominated Helen Beatie to be a Champion of Change. Helen Beatie is the founder of Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together.