Navigator Blog

3 Important Ideas for Listening to Student Voice and Building Hope

January 10, 2022

by Emma Kapp

Hope never gets old. We love these three powerful reminders from superintendents who lead with hope.

Now, more than ever before, we must intentionally cultivate hope in our students and staff. At the 2021 Ohio School Boards Association’s (OSBA) Capital Conference, three superintendents joined Battelle for Kids’ Jamie Meade to discuss the importance of measuring and responding to student voice to foster this essential mindset and skill in their students’ 21st century learning experiences. 

There is no question that education leaders have had to navigate many challenges. And despite the day-to-day demands this pandemic presents, visionary superintendents all agree that now is a critical time to check in on students and lead with hope. 

Here are three insightful perspectives that hopeful visionary leaders share:

1. Hope always matters.

Leading with hope is a difference-maker in districts. When superintendents prioritize hope, they can cultivate it in staff, students, and the broader community. Modeling hope builds positive momentum for the future and inspires everyone connected to a school community.  
“Hope is the vehicle for helping educators change outcomes for students. It fuels our work and brings our vision to life,” said Dr. Danielle Prohaska, superintendent of Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools. “If we continue to invest in the wellbeing of our students intentionally, we can have an enormous impact.”

2. It’s essential to check in with and listen to our students.

Now, more than ever, listening to student voice is essential. When educators have the tools and strategies to respond to what students share about their learning experiences, they can make a lasting impact.
“The pandemic presented many challenges for our students, and we needed to hear how they were doing,” said Dr. Tom Bailey, superintendent of Washington Court House Local Schools. “When we listen to students, we can start to build stronger relationships with them.”

3. Student voice and a vision for a better tomorrow are crucial when implementing a Portrait of a Graduate.

A vision of 21st century learning—a Portrait of a Graduate—articulates a collective vision for all students in an education system. With input from stakeholders, including students, a Portrait gives district leaders a North Star for system transformation to create learning experiences that intentionally cultivate the skills, mindsets, and literacies for students to become lifelong learners and contributors in the 21st century.
“We’ve changed our schedule to allow for more intentional relationship building between students and educators,” said Dr. Dave Hire, superintendent of Coshocton City Schools. “This time helps our students develop the competencies we’ve outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate.”

How did these superintendents help their educators elevate and respond to student voice?

They participated in a unique research study of TheStudentExperience21 (TSE21), a suite of tools designed to help measure hope, engagement, and belonging in 21st century learning experiences. TSE21 includes a 24-item student perception survey and the field study collected from more than 15,000 students across 11 Ohio school systems during the pandemic.

Battelle for Kids partnered with the Center for Research and Reform in Education from Johns Hopkins University to evaluate the field study of TSE21 suite of tools.

  • Overall survey analyses showed that students expressed high levels of agreement with all TSE21 survey items.
  • These findings were consistent for all four subscales, and across school levels, content areas, and instructional modes (e.g., in-person, hybrid, or virtual).  
  • Overall survey scores showed very strong reliability, with observed reliability for the entire survey, and subscale reliabilities. 

Learn more about TheStudentExperience21, which includes real-time reporting, a research-based action response guide, and an interactive data analysis dashboard to reveal trends, strengths, and growth opportunities across the system.