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What Student Voice Is – And Isn’t

Students deserve a seat at the table.

April 25, 2019

The student voice movement is simple: We think that students should have a say in their education. Businesses, legislators, educators, community members, and students all play a role in bringing this idea to fruition, so let’s cover the basics of what student voice is.

Student voice is involving students in discussions that affect them.

We’re currently meeting with students across the U.S., and one thing that we keep hearing is that their administrators make decisions without considering the implications it has on them. It’s not often you see a student speaking at a school board meeting or advising on school policy, and we think there’s something wrong with that. If students are the consumer of education, then they should be treated as stakeholders in their school. It’s that simple.

Student voice is a platform for education reform.

The U.S. education system is failing its students. Despite the advancements in technology happening around us, schools stick to industrial-era teaching styles that were created using the premise that unruly children should be disciplined. Students of color, those from low-income families, English Language Learners and students with mild to moderate disabilities have less access to resources than their peers. Schools are horrendously overcrowded based on property taxes that have a living legacy of racism and education funding has largely stayed stagnant. Students know all of this. According to a survey from TNTP, high school students said their school experience was engaging for only 42% of the time. Why don’t we listen to them?

Student voice is changing education to be student-centered.

The days of preparing students to work on factory lines are over. This country needs innovative, ethical and profound thinkers to lead us through the changing economy—yet the U.S. still takes a one-size-fits-all approach to education. Our system rewards monotony, repetition and memorization through its use of tests and lectures. Students know that projects and real-world application of knowledge is what’s best for them.

Student voice is not a token for corporations.

There is a place for adults and organizations to authentically support students, but corporations tokenizing student voice for their own profit gain is not acceptable. Organizations like Student Voice, the Iowa Student Learning Institute, the Prichard Committee on Student Voice, Kinston Teens, and Youth Powerhouse (to name a few) are doing important work to advance the student voice movement. Companies who share a passion for authentic student voice should tap into students’ expertise and partner with them.

Student voice is not a bunch of angry students storming down school doors.

We recognize that adults, legislators, and businesses all have a role to play in reshaping education. But we also know that students suffer from a systemic lack of representation, when they should be treated as the primary stakeholder. We’re asking that students have a seat at the table.

Student voice in a nutshell: students should be involved in decisions that affect their education.

Student voice is not predicated on any corporation or technology platform—it relies on students who share the passion for better schools.

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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