Press Release

New Ed Trust Series Highlights Student Stories to Engage Educators and Examine Practices

WASHINGTON (January 30, 2014) — To elevate the voices of students in school reform discussions in schools and districts, The Education Trust today released The Writing on the Hall, the first in a series of narratives intended to chronicle the school experiences of students and tell the stories behind the achievement and attainment data.

““There is a huge, untapped vein of valuable information in student perspectives,”” said Ed Trust’s Director of Research Christina Theokas. “”With this series, we aim to examine issues through the lens of student experience to help educators reflect on the ways their words, beliefs, and practices affect students and their preparation for the world outside the school doors.””

This first installment of the Echoes From the Gap series examines the frequent disconnect between the inspirational inscriptions stenciled on high school hallways and the other messages educators send students through what they say — and what they do.

The Writing on the Hall illustrates how, even with the best of intentions, adult practices can:

  • Teach students to take the easy way: Hear from Isaiah, a Latino 11th-grader outside of Washington, D.C., on the real lessons students are taught through low-level assignments.
  • Prepare students for less: Follow Deja, a high-achieving African American senior in Michigan aspiring to college, to learn what happens when educators aren’t honest with students about what classes to take to prepare for college.
  • Misguide students even beyond graduation: Learn from Tre, an African American high school student in Louisiana, about what happens to students when their schools underplay the importance of picking the right college.

The article also presents an alternative, by highlighting stories from students in high-poverty high schools where educators work to reinforce positive messages through their practices. In a high school outside of Queens, NY, Miguel’’s story evidences the power of high expectations in growing students’ notions of what they can do. And 11th-grader Paula’’s experiences in a California high school show what can happen when educators insist that students take the full complement of college-prep courses. And from a school in Worcester, Mass, Dante’’s story shows the power of schools have in guiding first-generation college students to pick colleges that will not just admit them, but also make sure they graduate.

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““There are schools I’’ve visited across the country where educators match their practices with their prose by holding students to high and clear standards and by being honest with students about what they need to be prepared for the world,”” said Echoes author and playwright-researcher Brooke Haycock. “”But in too many places —- and even often with the best of intentions -— educators continue to let truisms suffice for truth. We raise these young voices to remind educators of the real power of their words and practices.””

In the coming months, Ed Trust’’s Echoes From the Gap series will showcase more student stories, anchored in observations, interviews, and lessons gleaned from students and educators in high-poverty high schools, both those serving students well — and those struggling to.