YOUTH and ADULTS TRANSFORMING SCHOOLS TOGETHER
GOAL: Increase student engagement learning and voice in decision making by creating a partnership between students, faculty and the community to increase relevance, relationships, rigor and shared responsibility in Vermont schools
How do we achieve this goal?
Relevance, relationships, rigor and shared responsibility are nationally recognized as the building blocks of student engagement. YATST schools conduct ACTION research to first establish a baseline for the presence of these qualities in their schools. They bring this data out to “stakeholders” (students, faculty, school boards, community members) and lead discussions about their findings to better understand causes and explore possible actions. They then commit to a change effort and carefully track the impact of their work.
What are the specifics of a Full YATST school commitment?
YATST schools agree to:
1. Create a youth-adult team which will commit to this work for (at least) two years. Students on the team represent a cross-section of the student body
2. Embed this initiative within the school day to the greatest extent possible (ideally a credit-bearing class)
3. Participate in multi-school retreats for training and team planning purposes 5 days a year
4. Enroll in a graduate level course (adult team members)
5. Institutionalize this working group so that it becomes a permanent decision making body within the school
In all instances, the principals are members of the team and strong advocates for this work.
Not all schools are ready to make this "Full YATST commitment" and need a start-up year or seek alternative ways to be involved. YATST is fully supportive of "differentiated membership" and willing to explore with any interested school what that might look like. A brochure which offers a basic explanation of YATST is attached below.
What does YATST look like in action? One example....
The Peoples Academy YATST survey revealed that one in three students disagreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that, “Teachers check in regularly to see if I am learning and adjust instruction based on what they hear”. In marked contrast, 97% of teachers “agreed” or strongly agreed” that they “regularly check in with students to see if they are learning and adjust instruction based on what I hear”. The team was struck by this discrepancy, and concerned by the widespread student perception that they have so little voice in classroom curriculum and instructional choices. They brought this concern to faculty and together decided to institute a mid-semester student feedback survey and classroom discussion process. In this way, at least once a semester, every student at PA has the opportunity to share how the class is working for him or her, witness the teacher's response to feedback, and set personal learning goals.