We Must Center Student Voices
February 9, 2021
We’ve heard a lot about the effects of the pandemic on education over the last several months. We’ve rightfully talked about the heroic efforts of teachers, staff and school districts to meet student needs. We’ve discussed the challenges of virtual learning and the vast educational inequities that exist and are widening along lines of race and class. What we’ve talked less about and need to do more of is listening to what our students and families have to say on how they’ve been impacted and what they will need moving forward.
Despite the undeniable challenges brought on by 2020, now represents an exciting time in education. We have a new Secretary of Education in Indiana poised to advance Hoosier education. At Indianapolis Public Schools, newly elected commissioners will join a stellar board to support Superintendent Aleesia Johnson and her team in their efforts to continue making racial equity-driven, transformative progress so that all kids have access to an excellent and equitable education and one that enables them to lead lives of their choosing. Now is the time to build on what is working for students and families and reimagine our systems of education such that we never go back to normal – as normal wasn’t working for far too many of our kids.
In order to do so, we must center student voices. Never would a business realize success by circumventing their customers, nor should we in education. Students are the ones who are most impacted by the quality of our schools, and they have a great deal to say about their aspirations and the role they see education playing in helping them achieve. We do well to listen to their perspectives and heed what they’re telling us, especially in these unprecedented and disruptive times.
In the coming weeks, Teach For America Indianapolis will hold space for students to convene and share their insights about what’s working for them and what they need most. As we build on our progress and momentum, and make decisions for the future of our schools, let’s listen to what our students are telling us they want and need and ensure that our policies reflect their interests.