Student Voice in School Reform

Building Youth-Adult Partnerships That Strengthen Schools and Empower Youth

By Dana L. Mitra

Subjects: Educational Assessment And Evaluation
Paperback : 9780791473207, 142 pages, February 2008
Hardcover : 9780791473191, 142 pages, February 2008

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Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Understanding the history and outcomes of student voice initiative
3. Listening to students
4. Developing a voice
5. Taking action and leading the way
6. Making a difference at Whitman
7. Enhancing positive youth development outcomes
8. Student voice as an avenue for youth development and distributed leadership
Appendix: Methodology
Works Cited

Examines a high school that sought to increase student participation in its reform process.


High schools continue to be places that isolate, alienate, and disengage students. But what would happen if students were viewed as part of the solution in schools rather than part of the problem? This book examines the emergence of "student voice" at one high school in the San Francisco Bay area where educators went straight to the source and asked the students to help.

Struggling, like many high schools, with how to improve student outcomes, educators at Whitman High School decided to invite students to participate in the reform process. Dana L. Mitra describes the evolution of student voice at Whitman, showing that the students enthusiastically created partnerships with teachers and administrators, engaged in meaningful discussion about why so many failed or dropped out, and partnered with teachers and principals to improve learning for themselves and their peers. In documenting the difference that student voice made, this book helps expand ideas of distributed leadership, professional learning communities, and collaboration. The book also contributes much needed research on what student voice initiatives look like in practice and provides powerful evidence of ways in which young people can increase their sense of agency and their sense of belonging in school.

Dana L. Mitra is Assistant Professor of Education at Penn State at University Park.


"…an engaging testimony to the possibility for positive youth-adult partnership in challenged urban schools … The book offers valuable insights for practitioners, researchers, and community members interested in positive youth development, youth-adult partnerships, or urban school reform … Thoughtful and engaging, a recommended read. " — The Prevention Researcher

"…[Student Voice in School Reform] presents a general structure and rationale for implementing a means of including students in determining their own destiny in their schools. " — CHOICE

"This is a closely detailed, well-organized case of student voice drawn from extensive time in the field. The story is carefully told and represents an important advance for scholars and their students. Dana Mitra has done a fine job of integrating description, student voice, and theory. " — Steven Jay Gross, author of Promises Kept: Sustaining School and District Leadership in a Turbulent Era