Public Policy Updates: Rennie Center on Student Voice

Each year, the Rennie Center presents a report on "Conditions of Education in the Commonwealth" focusing on a different issue. This year, that focus is student voice shaping the future of public education. The launch of this report at an event on January 24 featured student speakers and a panel discussion.

After an opening address by Adria Goodson of the Pahara Institute, in which she spoke of "raising their voices and using their feet to spark action on issues they care about," Rennie Center Executive Director Chad d'Entremont noted that the Center plans this year to rework their data dashboard to create a more holistic picture of student experience in schools.
Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education student member Maya Mathews spoke of the "very short but meaningful time with students before they graduate" that schools have and of the importance of teachers amplifying student voice. She said, "there's already plenty of doubt growing in hallways" and what may seem little moments to adults can have a significant impact on students.Middlesex Community College student Carla Duran Capellan spoke of being discouraged earlier on; she was made to feel she didn't have a voice because she was an immigrant and not an native English speaker. Through the work her history class did through Generation Citizen, she learned she and others could make actual civic change. "It was up to us and the work was real," she said; now,"so many empowered young people like me are out there advocating for what needs to be done," she said.
A panel discussion followed, moderated by Bianca Vázquez Toness of WGBH, and including Amanda Fernández of the Board of Elementary and Secondary education, Commissioner Carlos Santiago of the Department of Higher Education, and Joan Wasser Gish of the Board of Early Education and Care. Santiago spoke of the Higher Ed Departments looking through the lens of equity in making decisions for the future. Fernández noted, "Diverse leaders in education matter. Diverse teachers in education matter.” Gish spoke of the importance of individual relationships and how those can impact the trajectory of the larger group. 

The event closed with Secretary James Peyser speaking on the recently released FY20 budget proposed by Governor Charles Baker.