Students’ Voices Need to Be Heard

This post is written by Joanne Yatvin, NCTE’s P12 policy analyst for Oregon. 

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A few days ago, I read an article about education that really irritated me.  Although I’d read similar articles before without any reaction, this one was about a plan for schools in our state of Oregon that sounded wrong-headed to me, and was going to cost 3.5 million dollars a year.

According to the article, the Oregon Department of Education and the Chief Education Office have devised a plan that would deploy a team of “on-the-ground experts” to help schools that have a record of severe student absenteeism. That team would be composed of 20 coaches who would receive training, then be placed in selected schools to work on alleviating the problem.

What I saw was another top-down pipe dream, welcomed by school principals who had been unsuccessful in curbing absenteeism themselves, and meant to be implemented by newly hatched experts called “coaches.” Teachers and parents of chronically absent students would be informed about the new plan and asked to cooperate. The only people left out would be the ones who know the most about the causes of student absenteeism and how to reduce them: students.

My argument this time is the same as it has been in regard to other school problems: students should be active players in the planning and execution of any change in school operations—not only because they have firsthand knowledge of the problems and clear views of the causes, effects, and possible solutions, but also because their cooperation is essential if anything positive is to be achieved.

Over her 45 year career Joanne Yatvin was a teacher of almost all grades 1-12, an elementary and middle school principal, and a member of The National Reading Panel.  Since retiring she has done independent research in high poverty schools, written three books for teachers, and served as president of NCTE. Joanne Yatvin is a lifetime member of NCTE.

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About Lu Ann McNabb

Lu Ann Maciulla McNabb is the Policy & Alliances Associate for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Lu Ann has long been an advocate for teachers, students and education. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently said, "Education is the anvil upon which democracy is forged."

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