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100+ Organizations Endorse Youth Partnership in the Next Department of Education

100+ organizations representing a cross section of student organizers, teacher stakeholders, education justice advocates, civil rights groups, climate organizations and more endorse Student Voice's call for meaningful youth partnership in the next Department of Education.

December 21, 2020

Dear President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the Education Agency Review team,

We write to urge the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to meaningfully engage students as partners in the next Department of Education. Pre-school through university students are learning amid the historic convergence of an unprecedented public health emergency, the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, widespread uprisings for racial justice, and the urgent need for climate action. This generation is facing a learning context unlike any generation before us.

Against this backdrop, the Department of Education faces many deep existing and yet-unforeseen challenges to advance equitable learning for every student. Therefore, young people, particularly those who have been most marginalized by the education system, must be essential partners in developing accurate policy priorities and effective solutions to educational inequity.

We, the undersigned 100+ organizations, are in solidarity with this student initiated call for meaningful student engagement in future federal education policy. It is abundantly clear that young people are eager and prepared to create change within the education system.

Based on surveys from over 1,500 students, listening sessions with over 100 students since the election, and the Student Bill of Rights framework that is endorsed by 7,000 students, we recommend five key mechanisms that the Department of Education can employ to achieve meaningful youth-adult partnership. The US Department of Education should:

  1. Ensure the next Secretary of Education prioritizes student voice
  2. Convene regular listening sessions and roundtable discussions with students and stakeholder meetings with student groups across offices at the Department
  3. Include students on all commissions, workgroups, and convenings across the Department
  4. Reinstate staff person(s) in ED focused on youth engagement  
  5. Establish a “Learn Back Better” federal advisory committee with student members about the intersections between COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change and ED’s role

We provide a clear definition of student voice, as recognizing and acting upon the fact that students are the primary stakeholders of our education and should be partners in shaping it. We recognize that student voice exists on a spectrum and that tokenism of young people can occur at every level of the spectrum if relationships are not meaningful. It is incredibly critical that for youth voice to be a tool to achieve equity, power must be meaningfully shifted towards young people who are most marginalized by the education system.

Our recommendations are consistent with a field of student or youth voice research that has emerged in the last several decades to provide evidence that thoughtful inclusion of student voices can increase academic motivations, strengthen reports of positive school climates, and boost students’ overall perceptions of school. The Department of Education is poised to extend this field through the implementation of student voice at the highest institutional level.

With urgent crises compounding, now is a critical moment for our nation’s education system. For the Department of Education to adequately address the needs of America’s students, it is necessary to be in rigorous, consistent, and authentic conversation with young people. The methods through which students are engaged must be thoughtfully designed and implemented to meaningfully uplift the experiences and expertise of those most impacted by educational inequity. The Biden-Harris Administration, and particularly the Department of Education, must take advantage of this moment to lead the way in elevating young people as advocates for justice in our public schools and in our nation.

You can read the full Roadmap to Authentically Engage Youth in the U.S. Department of Education here:


Student Voice

Student/Youth-led groups:

18by Vote

Black Excellence Pipeline

Content By Us

Design for Equitable Systems

Diversify Our Narrative

Future Coalition


The Greater Good Initiative

Greater Lawrence (MA) Education Justice Alliance

Hanford Student Equity Committee

Heirs To Our Oceans

Houston Youth Climate Strike

Iowa Student Learning Institute

Kentucky's Student Voice Team

Lead Kentucky

March for Our Lives

Maryland Youth Advisory Council

MCHS Student Council (KY)

Montgomery County Students for Change

National Student Council

National Youth Council for Real History Education

National Youth Leadership Council

National Youth Rights Association

Next Generation Coalition

Oregon Student Voice

Pride in Running


Student Leadership Initiative Program

Students Toward Equitable Public Schools (STEPS)

Students for Equity through Education (S.E.E.)

Students for Gun Legislation

Teens Take Charge

UrbEd Inc

Washington Student Association

Wuf Shanti Children’s Wellness Foundation

Y'22 (A Youth on Boards Movement)

Youth Activism Project

Youth In Action

Adult-led groups:

ACCEPT: Admissions Community Cultivating Equity & Peace Today

Afterschool Alliance

Alliance for Climate Education

Alliance for Excellent Education

America's Promise Alliance

American Federation of Teachers

Aspen Institute Education & Society Program

Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS)

Association of Young Americans

California AfterSchool Network

Center for American Progress

Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council

Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University

Center for Youth & Community Leadership in Education (CYCLE) at Roger Williams University

Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Coalition for a Multilingual Rhode Island

Collaborative For Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

Consortium for Educational Change

Danbury Family Learning Center, Inc.

EDGE Consulting Partners

EL Education



Generation Citizen

Generation Progress


Grantmakers for Thriving Youth

Human Restoration Project

IDEA: Institute for Democratic Education in America

Institute for Citizens and Scholars

Kentucky Parents in The Know

Kentucky SHAPE

Kentucky Teachers in The Know

Kentucky Speech-Language-Hearing Association


Latent Talent Accelerator

Modern Learners

National Association of Secondary School Principals

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Parent Leadership Institute

National Urban League

Our Turn

Open Way Learning

Cyrus Driver, Partnership for the Future of Learning

Mary Gonzalez, Partnership for the Future of Learning

PDK/Educators Rising

Portland Empowered

Prepared To Teach

Public Advocates

Pure Edge, Inc.

Sandy Hook Promise

SchoolHouse Connection

SDIAE: South DeKalb Improvement Association Education, Inc.

Sean’s Legacy

Southern Poverty Law Center

SciTech Institute

Teach For America

The Admit List

The Education Trust

The Forum for Youth Investment

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation

The Research Hub for Youth Organizing at University of Colorado Boulder

Thompson Scholars


University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership

YMCA Youth and Government

Young Invincibles

Youth Service America

About Student Voice

Student Voice is a by-students, for-students 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in all 50 states to equip students as storytellers, organizers and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. Through direct civic action, Student Voice helps students hold their schools and surrounding communities accountable to the Student Bill of Rights and prepares them to become lifelong agents of social and political change. For more information about Student Voice, visit our website at and follow @Stu_Voice and #StuVoice on social media.

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