Youth are Not Centered

Existing pathways for youth feedback and input are limited and do not get responded to directly or have real and immediate impact.

  • When asked how they currently give feedback, students mentioned that they are not even aware of any processes that would allow them to give feedback about their experiences with teachers or school leaders.1

  • “Students HAVE opinions. But when we’re told to fill out another survey, and we’re NEVER given any indication that those surveys are even read, it’s only natural that we lose hope in the administration’s ability to take our opinions into consideration.”2

  • “I think school officials should start taking what we want seriously and let us speak to them about what we want.”3

  • Principals expressed frustration and pain at the lack of response when students raise issues. Asking students to speak up and then shutting them down was described as disrespectful and abusive.4

Practical and programmatic decisions are not centered on young people’s needs, experiences and perspectives. Youth have valuable input that could improve their experiences and learning in school.

  • Students want school to be interesting, which they often describe as learning new things or engaging in authentic and hands on tasks. However, students can also feel anxious or disengaged when they worry that academic tasks will be too challenging or that they will not be able to complete them...high expectations must be paired with the supports and scaffolds that each student requires to maintain a sense of belonging.

  • A student’s thought about intervention scheduling, “They get to go outside and play and we have to be stuck in a hot room.”5

  • They noted there is a significant need for mental health support in the schools and that the addition of greater mental health support might curb some of the behaviors that are interpreted as disciplinary.6

  • Eighth grade graduation was raised as an example of an event that is ostensibly about students, but that really is all about adults. Graduation dates and times are scheduled around predominantly the perspectives of white men in positions of political power rather than around the needs of youth.7

Youth of color do not see their cultures reflected positively in the curriculum.8

Youth know that when they feel valued in school they are more able and willing to learn.

  • “I don’t want to be here” “This [school] doesn’t matter” “This isn’t relevant or interesting to me.”9

  • “..When others exhibit that they value someone as a person, it shows them that their life really matters, which encourages individuals to take advantage of their opportunities, and do as much as possible to ensure a good future, of which is staying on top of their academics.”10

  • “...[feeling valued] encourages students to work harder towards their goal and take risks. If someone doesn't feel valued, then it affects how they view themselves and therefore affects the work they do in school.”11

  • “It’s easy to see that it’s Black and Brown students in the hallways during classes. And, when you ask them why they are there, they say that ‘class was boring’ or ‘they aren’t engaged’ or the ‘teacher won’t even notice I’m gone anyway’.”12

Whether young people feel known and heard depends on trusting and positive relationships with individual educators.13

  • “Teachers and students are usually able to tell once one doesn’t respect the other which causes a negative vibe between the two.”14

  • “I think for the students, ...they're very quick to tell you who they trust and who they don't trust. Who they respect, who don't they respect. And who don't they respect are the folks who don't respect them, right? And that's human.”15

  • Many students explained their sense of feeling “more or less like myself” by writing and talking about their relationships with teachers, both positive and negative.16

Youth are often thought of as students, rather than being considered as whole people with complex lives both in and out of school.

  • Many students articulated frustrations that there are teachers who do not seem to care about teaching anymore and/or that there are some teachers who, “only want to teach content but really don’t seem to care about us as students or as people.”17

  • “I think that if there’s inconsistencies in the student’s attendance or grade, that are just beyond what is expected of the individual, the issue should be looked at at home... you can’t blame the student if they got three hours of sleep the night before because of (something that’s going on at home)...”
    “Taking personal life into account. Sometimes things get in the way, and when teachers realize that and try to support one regardless, it comes across that they care.”18

1 Focus Group Report
2 Youth SMT
3 Youth SMT
4 Principal’s meeting artifact
5 3-5th grade student, CPAR Study 15
6 Focus Group Report
7 Principal’s meeting artifact
8 For evidence, see “Inequitable School and Classroom Experiences” barrier
9 Student quote, CPAR Study 5
10 CPAR study 11
11 CPAR study 11
12 Focus Group Report
13 For evidence, see “Lack of Focus on Relationships” barrier
14 Youth SMT
15 Focus Group Report
16 CPAR study 15
17 Focus Group Report
18 Focus Group Report
19 Youth SMT

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