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Want to improve school culture and climate? Listen to student voices.

April 01, 2019

Iowa is a leading state in incorporating student voice into school improvement. Did you know Iowa is…

  • One of only four states to use student surveys as a measure in its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.
  • One of only six states in which the Governor appoints a student member to the State Board of Education.
  • The only state in which the state education agency received a Pathway 2 Tomorrow innovation grant to help transform education by incorporating student voice.

Iowa educators at every level are committed to listening to students and to using what they learn to strengthen school climate and culture. This spring, students across the state will take the Conditions for Learning survey, which gauges student perception on issues like physical and emotional safety, student and adult relationships, and expectations for students. School leaders can use the survey data to identify both areas of strength and opportunities to improve the school culture and climate.  Research demonstrates students succeed academically when they feel safe, engaged, and when they have positive relationships with adults and peers at school. Iowa is at the cutting edge in taking a comprehensive, statewide approach to utilizing student voice in school improvement efforts.

I notice on my school visits how intentional some schools are in ensuring students have real opportunities to shape their learning environments. For example, on a recent visit to Woodward-Granger Community School District, I met a teacher who applied for and received a grant to redesign her classroom with a flexible seating arrangement based on feedback from a student survey she administered to her class. And on a visit to Creston High School, I spoke with students who were developing a presentation for teachers and administrators on how to redesign the senior year of high school to make it more meaningful. Examples like these build upon efforts to personalize learning for students. For example, The Center is developing Iowa’s capacity to leverage learner-centered and competency-based approaches to education.

Iowa is also gaining some national attention for our student-focused initiatives. Later this month, I have the pleasure of serving on a panel at the Council of Chief State School Officers conference in Washington, D.C. with Robert Nishimwe to discuss Iowa’s approach to giving students a voice in shaping education policy. Robert, a graduate of Des Moines North High School and a freshman at Georgetown University, served as the student representative on the State Board of Education for two years.

In the months and years ahead, I’m confident Iowa will continue to explore additional ways to give students more say in what and how they learn. This will only serve to strengthen education in Iowa.

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 20, 2021 at 6:11pm.