In Alief, Giving Students a Voice

shutterstock_68256589School district communications is locked in a perpetual cycle of improvement. Administrators know they must do a better job of including parents in conversations about reform. Teachers want — and, by all accounts, should have — more input into district decisions. Taxpayers foot the bill for the school system, which entitles them, like it or not, to a seat at the table.

But, amid all the jockeying for influence and say so, one key group of stakeholders is often overlooked: students.

At the Alief Independent School District in Texas, administrators have made a concerted effort to bring students and their opinions into the fold.

Alief ISD Superintendent HD Chambers says his mindset, and that of his district, began to change with the passage of House Bill 5, a sweeping reform bill that brought about big changes in how the state manages and tracks student success and performance. In addition to structured academic pathways, the legislation introduced new programs designed to give students more control over their own educations.

“I was the biggest supporter of HB 5 that there is,” Chambers told the Texas Tribune at the time. “But I’m under no illusion that was the answer to everything. I do believe it was the beginning of allowing opportunities for students to engage in their own education as opposed to being told what they’re going to take, when they’re going to take it in a one-size-fits-all curriculum for all students.”

Empowering students
An important part of allowing students to control their own educations is empowering them to share their questions, concerns, and ideas with teachers and staff, and providing them with timely, relevant responses.

In late 2014, Alief ISD implemented a new communication platform and actively encouraged students to become early and enthusiastic adopters of the solution. District administrators say the response they received was positive and overwhelming.

By giving students a voice in their own educations, administrators achieved two goals: they increased academic engagement and demonstrated to students the power of listening and responding to others.

Is your district engaged in programs intended to give students a louder voice in their academic pursuits? Is it interested in improving stakeholder communications? Let’s Talk! can help.

Author: Corey Murray

Education writer and editor

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