In 2005 I completed a booklet called the Meaningful Student Involvement Guide to Students as Partners in School Change. After working with a dozen schools over the previous three years, studying hundreds of examples from literature and in schools across the U.S. and talking with students and educators about engaging student voice, I wanted to pull it all together. In that publication I wrote that,
“Meaningful student involvement is the process of engaging students in every facet of the educational process for the purpose of strengthening their commitment to education, community and democracy.”
For the last few weeks I have been beginning my work here in New York in conjunction with Learner-Centered Initiatives/Communities for Learning, and the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. It has been exhilarating traveling across the city and getting out into the suburbs and learning about other peoples’ interpretations of meaningful student involvement and engagement of student voice – there really is a grassroots movement among educators and administrators here!
Today we are here in Morristown, New Jersey and I with Jaimie Cloud meeting with teachers and the principal from a K-8 charter school here, learning about some good examples of MSI in action. Jaimie’s expertise is focused on sustainability education and systems thinking. Jaimie has a spectacularly complex and broad perspective that I definitely have a lot to learn from.
I love this exposure. As my own analyses are deepening I am discovering that meaningful student involvement sinks in throughout the learning environment. I believe there are deep connections between meaningful student involvement and sustainability education, and I look forward to the combination of those. So deep. Send me your thoughts about where and how meaningful student involvement should happen throughout the educational system, including which places within the educational system should be treated as learning environments that are not currently.
My first opportunity to work in a NYC school was yesterday. The Kingsbridge neighborhood of The Bronx is home to the Walton High School building, a massive pile of mortar that was built a long time ago. Housing as many as 5,000 students only 20 years ago, over the last several years the school has been broken into small learning communities via the Gates Foundation. Contention there has continued throughout the last 30 years, recently embodied by community organizing efforts led by Sistas and Brothas United in 2005.
Today there are five academies operating at Walton, including the International School for Liberal Arts, or ISLA. Earlier this school year Giselle Martin-Kniep, the founder and president of the organization that now houses SoundOut, started a participatory action research project at ISLA. Focused on students perceptions of respect, yesterday I observed the student researcher team as they began aggregating data from almost 500 surveys, representing 3/4 of ISLA’s student body.
I will tell you more about the results as the project progresses; all the same, this was an awesome introduction to a powerful experience. Let me know if you have any thoughts about it.
BIG NEWS! As of today I’m starting a new track here in New York City. I’ve accepted a position with a great organization and moved across the United States to work for a group called Learner-Centered Initiatives. For the last 15 years they have provided professional development programs for K-12 schools across the state, with great leadership and excellent programs. I am joining their team as the “student engagement” guy, and will be working closely with Communities for Learning and the Cloud Institute.
I WILL CONTINUE to operate SoundOut and Freechild, as well as offer training and technical assistance to schools and youth-serving organizations across the country. I especially want to dig further into the excellent schools and districts across New England and the East Coast who have shown a lot of interest in my work.
If you are in the city and want to get together, send me an email or give me a call. Otherwise, wish me luck! It turns out NYC is a pretty big city to a guy used to the Wild West…
For three years from 2006-08, Adam contracted with the New York State Student Support Services Center in LeRoy, New York to provided expert guidance on Meaningful Student Involvement in school improvement. Adam provided ongoing training and consulting to the NYS Student Support Services Center as they implemented a statewide initiative focused on meaningful student involvement.
Working with dozens of K-12 schools statewide, Adam’s activities included keynote presentations and individual school consultations at workshops across the state, as well as ongoing consulting and writing for the Center.
Outcomes included the development of a replicable statewide strategy for engaging and sustaining meaningful student involvement in school improvement. Adam also worked with a number of BOCES focused on student voice, student engagement, and related topics as part of this project.