An innovation award: Giving students a voice
Should students have a voice in their own education? Research indicates an unequivocal yes.
And to that end, the Iowa Department of Education has received a highly competitive innovation award that will work to give students their voice to create a school climate that is conducive to high-quality learning.
A major focus of the work will be on schools engaging students with the Conditions for Learning survey, now given annually by every district for grades 3-12. This survey provides student perspectives regarding school climate, and is a part of the Iowa School Performance Profiles.
The nonprofit Pathways 2 Tomorrow, known as P2T, representing over 70 national organizations, sought proposals that were targeted at some high level criteria including meeting local needs, be research-informed, innovative, implementable, and drive measurable outcomes and results.
The Department will develop a plan for schools to employ sustainable practices for authentic student engagement and voice within a multi-tiered system of supports to enhance school climate.
One of the primary focuses will be to work to develop processes and materials to assist Iowa schools in using the Conditions for Learning data. In addition, the Department will work with existing youth organizations to develop, train, and engage a diverse stakeholder group of student and adult partners to investigate and recommend policy, practice, and processes for system design needed to embed student voice.
The priority is to engage student voice in processes for school improvement to not only positively impact school climate, but to increase students’ sense of safety and belonging while developing student efficacy, civic engagement, and leadership skills while reducing risky behavior.
There is a growing body of research showing the importance of focusing on school climate to positively impact intellectual, social, emotional, behavioral, physical safety development, mental health, and healthy relationships.
Research demonstrates the correlation of school culture and climate with student attendance, achievement, wellness, skills to pursue post-secondary options, and to ultimately be productive in work, home, and community life.
Work is already under way as the Department works with state and national collaborators, including the nonprofits Seek Common Ground and Communities in Schools. Other partners include the Council of Chief State School Officers, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, and Education Commission of the States.
The Department will receive $50,000 through P2T.