Listening to the Student Voice
What would you do if nearly 60% of your customers or stakeholders were disengaged? Or didn't understand what your organization was doing and why? You'd do just about anything to get them more engaged.
Well, that's what we found with our student customers in the Student Engagement Survey, which we informally call The Student Voice. About 60% of them had no idea why they were learning the content in their classes or how this was relevant to their futures. Yet we know that relevance is key to student learning.
And while most students were generally satisfied with their high school experience, a significant group (more than a third) was both disengaged and dissatisfied. This puts them at risk for dropping out and all of the negative community impact that results. As educators, we know we must educate - and graduate - all students.
This drive to engage them all is the energy behind our superintendents' decision to create Kent Innovation High and encourage innovation in all of our schools. We seek success for all students at every grade level.
A Groundbreaking Initiative
At Kent ISD, commitment to the voice of students began when the district superintendents began studying new ideas for teaching and learning. They knew change was needed, both to reach all students and to prepare them with 21st Century skills. The superintendents did many of the things you'd expect. They researched various opinion leaders, read books, articles and websites, heard from some thinkers in the field. They learned of several other studies of high school students, including one Indiana University has been doing for several years.
Superintendents also visited schools in the Midwest where teaching and learning were approached very differently from most of our high schools. With all of these things influencing their thinking, they also decided to learn from those at the heart of all the discussion - students. So they asked Kent ISD to design this survey.
The Student Engagement Survey was designed to examine students' perceptions of their high school experience, especially academic requirements, engagement, motivation, and support. The study was funded by a grant from The Mott Foundation and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, and completed in May 2010. With the help of national research firm K-12 Insight, we surveyed 60.7% of all the high school students within our borders in the spring of 2010 (17,355 out of a total 28,604 public high school students).
And we listened!
The Superintendents wanted the voice of students to inform their work in secondary schools re-design, begun in 2008. As a result of the study, what they learned in their research and their work together, Kent Innovation High - a very different kind of school - opens in the fall of 2011 with our first group of 9th graders.
Map of Kent ISD's 20 public districts. Each of these districts was represented by students completing the survey.
The Importance of Student Engagement
1. Education is the driver of economic progress
2. A highly educated population is required for:
- technologically advanced industries
- support a higher standard of living
- support a strong tax base
3. Successful education is dependent on student engagement
4. More engaged students obtain the higher levels of education needed for new industries