Northwest Regional Education Service District
In a regional student network, students used continuous improvement strategies to identify a problem and test change ideas.
"One thing that I have learned from this network is how to be a problem solver so I can be a leader not only at my school but in my community as well. "
"It really helps to have the student perspective on just about everything."
Over 50 students in a regional student network used continuous improvement to define barriers to student success and design change ideas to help remove those barriers. As part of a regional 9th grade success network, the students also provided feedback to adults on everything from change ideas to root cause analyses.
Network organizers knew that recruiting students to be an ongoing part of their network was a critical way to center the voice, experiences and backgrounds of the students most often marginalized by education systems.
Each school in the 9th grade success network was asked to include students on their improvement team from the very beginning. School staff were encouraged to recruit students from historically marginalized groups; those often not “tapped” for such opportunities.
Student participants were asked to:
- Attend quarterly network convenings as a member of the school improvement team
- Engage in the regional student network for improvement
- Improve the school experience by better understanding the problems in their context and designing/implementing small changes with a team of students
- Speak about what works/doesn’t work, how adults might better center students, and how other students might get involved
The student network began with relationship building and learning about how to “see the system” in their own context. Students learned how to conduct and analyze empathy interviews with their peers and use these data to identify a problem and its root causes. Students then worked independently, with other peers and/or with teachers to design change ideas that addressed the needs elevated in the data they collected. They were provided with a participation stipend and an improvement budget for the year.
Students also had access to multiple kinds of support throughout the year. A lead staff person from the network managed the logistics of the student network and helped students learn about continuous improvement. Two Diverse Educator Pathway staff members (interns working on their teaching license) each supported a caseload of network students in ways that ranged from brainstorming empathy interview questions to removing barriers to getting their projects done. These staff also supported student learning around topics such as imposter syndrome, self care, and skills essential to activism such as self love, self compassion and self belief.
9GS Student Network Launch Slides.pdf
Check out some slides from the first student session here.DOWNLOAD
NWRESD Student project 1.pdf
Check out 1 of 2 ideas students designed and testedDOWNLOAD
NWRESD Student Presentation 2.pdf
Check out 2 of 2 ideas students designed and testedDOWNLOAD
Shift the mindsets, power and privilege of adults. Students in this network were surprised to learn that their peers had the same needs that they have and that the educator’s around them did not always have the same priorities. For example, support for students’ mental health became a key focus for students. While teachers named mental health as an issue, it was not always prioritized in their improvement plans.
Defer to students as experts. In this network, students expressed that their unique change ideas (or adaptations to existing ideas) were often more likely to impact their peers than those that only came from adults. The network trusted students and followed their lead.