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 Students As Partners 

After years of experience in Kentucky’s legislative process and classrooms, our team knew firsthand that students' perspectives were largely unrepresented in the decisions and discussions that shape their lives. We also knew that students, as the recipients of education, are perfectly positioned to see problems and solutions that adults don’t. 


The Student Voice Team created a report, Students as Partners: Integrating student voice in the governing bodies of Kentucky schools, to highlight the benefits of including student input in school governance. Out of that report came four key recommendations: 

  1. Develop a culture of respect

  2. Support students to serve on school governance bodies.

  3. Create a formal platform where students can share their perspectives with educators

  4. Enlist students to design and disseminate student voice surveys and/or hold roundtables to inform policy changes that directly affect them.


The report served as a reminder that students can, and should, be involved in conversations about their own learning, and that doing so improves school quality for everyone, not just students.


Read Our Takes

May 15, 2016

Kentucky Students can be More than Passive Consumers

Eliza Jane Schaeffer

Students are the frontline of education. We see our peers who secretly celebrate when they’re suspended, the students who aren’t challenged by a certain curriculum change, and the students who are bullied in the bathroom. We are experts on the population on which the success of the entire school system depends.

May 15, 2016

Playground Project Not Child's Play

Izzy Taylor

When our class heard about the renovation, we were excited. The kids had been without a playground this year and had lots of ideas for a new playground. We were sure the adults in charge would welcome our help. How else would they know what we would like?

May 15, 2016

A Win for Students This Legislative Session

Amanda Wahlstedt

Jay Shrader, a senior at Shelby County High School, worries about how he will pay for college, calling his acceptance to Eastern Kentucky University “bittersweet.” He knows, “the first semester at EKU is about $3500... and the last time I was ever around a thousand dollars was never.”

May 15, 2016

STEM: The Roots of the Gender Gap

Madison Ortega

If you are a girl who is interested in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), or if you are plainly a person that cares about the fate of Kentucky’s innovational future, there is something you must know: women have less than a 25% representation in these critical and high-paying fields.

May 15, 2016

Student Perspectives Essential to Understanding Gaps

Susie Smith and Andrew Brennen

As biracial and African-American Kentucky students, the color of our skin has always been a relevant part of our education careers. From a young age, we were peppered with questions about our hair and requests to touch it. We were grilled on why we felt so comfortable speaking in full sentences, known as speaking “white.” We were called “Oreo,” the implication being that we were black only on the outside. Success is not something people that look like us are supposed to achieve. Many of our peers have had experiences like ours.

May 15, 2016

The Real Special Need: Being Heard

Jack Bradley with Rachel Bradley

I live in parallel universes—the universe of special education and the universe of not-so-special education. I have a foot in each. Every day I am split in two.

May 15, 2016

Education System Accountability Begins with Students

Lydia Burns and Jamie Smith

Congressional reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) last fall sparked the interest of policy experts and educators hoping to see a fresh wave of education improvement. They were excited by the prospect of overhauling the current problematic school accountability systems and envisioning ways to replace them with a collection of well-researched and thoughtfully-designed systems for states to use as models.

May 15, 2016

Schools can do More to Learn the Language of Support

Sam Swayze

Imagine going to school in Kentucky without knowing English. You can’t understand the lessons; you’re foreign to the culture; and worst of all, your parents are no better off.

June 20, 2017

Let’s Stop the Apathy in Kentucky and Beyond: The connection between student and civic engagement

Zachariah Sippy

We know democracy is in jeopardy when millions of people dismiss the political process as rigged and not worth their attention, choosing to stay home rather than vote. For example, in the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election, when the voter turnout was a dismal 30.6 percent. More than two-thirds of Kentuckians who could have voted stayed at home. Where did we go wrong?

October 9, 2020

On the Kentucky School Board and in Their Communities, Youth are Making Their Voices Heard

Emanuelle Sippy and Sanaa Kahloon

With Louisville student Solyana Mesfin’s recent appointment by Gov. Andy Beshear as a non-voting member of the Kentucky Board of Education, Kentucky joins the ranks of 20 other states who have young people playing a similar role. As a junior at Eastern High School and daughter of Ethiopian immigrants who is active in several youth-driven, equity-oriented leadership groups, including ours, Solyana brings exceptional capacity and perspective to the job.

Read the News Coverage

The Atlantic
March 12, 2015

Why Do American Students Have So Little Power?

Lexington Herald-Leader
May 24, 2016

Student Voice Team members ask for Fayette County school board seat

August 12, 2016

Students call for greater school governance role

Lexington Herald-Leader
August 12, 2016

Students need more voice in Kentucky schools, report says

Prichard Committee
October 20, 2016

Report Seeks Roles for Student Input

Kentucky Department of Education
October 2, 2020

Louisville junior selected as first student member on Kentucky Board of Education

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