Antwan Wilson Advocates for Expanded Student Voice to Help Improve School Climate

June 2015

An Education Week article features insights from Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Superintendent Antwan Wilson on building student voice as a form of engagement in school systems. According to the article, student voice enables school leaders to elicit honest feedback and learn from the students they seek to serve. Wilson describes this power through the student lens, noting that as students, “begin to feel agency, they begin to feel effective in their ability to make a difference at school.” District leaders featured in the article posit that this in turn results in higher student engagement and positive outcomes such as reduced suspension and dropout rates. Wilson and other superintendents argue that school leaders should be intentional about the ways they incorporate student voice into school improvement efforts. The article identifies three strategies to help meaningfully incorporate student voice: (1) conducting climate surveys analysis with school leaders and students, (2) hosting student and teacher discussions about school related problems, and (3) facilitating the development of student-produced mixed media to communicate personal experiences. OUSD is an example of how districts are taking these strategies and other methods to incorporate student voice into policy decisions and, equally important, develop engaged populations in and out of the classroom.