In school after school participating in the Safe and Supportive School Projects in California, Louisiana, and South Carolina, we at WestEd have been facilitators and witnesses to the power that student voice brings to improving school climate and academic achievement. Listening to what students have to say can make a huge difference in the success of school improvement efforts. In a Commentary in EdSource, 11th-grade Oakland High School student Cindy Andrade emphasizes the importance of incorporating student voice as the State Board develops the regulations for the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the need to include student engagement and school climate in the priorities required by the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). Local school boards should also be listening to what their students, staff, and parents have to say about their schools through their Cal-SCHLS data and should directly involve them in developing an LCAP that effectively addresses local needs.
Here’s what Andrade writes about why this is important and what students want. She begins with a depressing summary of conditions in Oakland schools: overcrowding, outdated computers, damaged textbooks, and insufficient resources, AP classes, counselors, and college prep support to help students be successful. “In other words,” she asks, “how can you expect us to succeed when we’re being set up to fail?” She then stresses the importance of asking students themselves how LCFF money should be spent and calls for regulations that prioritize equity, meeting the needs of high-need students, and accountability – not only for achievement but for student engagement, school climate, and other LCAP priorities.
“Without real student and community input into how funding is distributed and spent, we will not be able to hold our districts and schools accountable to us. School districts across California must remember that they are working for us, the students, and that equity must be defined by what we need. After all, their local spending decisions affect our futures…. My peers and I want regulations that require school districts to spend more on the highest-need students; provide more services than they are already providing for these students, and show how this investment is working through increases in achievement and in all the other state priorities, including parent and student engagement and improving school climate. This should be the only option!”