Press Release

In Their Words: Student Reflections on High-Quality Schools

Publication date: May 28, 2014

New Paper in Echoes From the Gap Series Highlights Lessons from High School Transfer Students

WASHINGTON (May 28, 2014) — Tuning into voices of students who transfer from low-performing to high-performing high schools,“The View From the Lighthouse”” -— released today by The Education Trust -— sheds light on key differences among schools. Full of lessons for educators, this piece is intended to help spark conversations in schools working to change outlooks and outcomes for students, particularly those struggling the most.

“”School environments and educators powerfully impact students,”” said Ed Trust Director of Research Christina Theokas. ““These stories show how students’ learning and perceptions of themselves as learners are shaped by their educational environments, and the huge changes that can occur when schools meet students with the rigor, supports, and guidance they need -— and want.””

The second installment in the Echoes from the Gap series, this piece highlights student insights on school practices that work from those who have also experienced what hasn’t. ““The View From the Lighthouse”” offers valuable lessons for educators from the candid voices and stories of students. Among them:

  • Anchor relationships in instruction and learning: Yes, kids want caring teachers. And for students with few supports outside of school, caring adults are especially critical. But students like Keisha will be the first to say that they want teachers who care about them enough to demand good work and provide real, honest feedback so they can improve.
  • Build knowledge and agency with structured support: For students who are academically struggling, even caring relationships anchored in rigorous instruction can unmoor if they aren’’t simultaneously buoyed with clear guidance and support. Paula’’s story offers an inspiring image of what’’s possible when high expectations are paired with support.
  • Make rigor relevant: When educators connect rigorous learning to student goals beyond school and make students feel worthy and capable of real rigor, students don’t complain about the work or question why they are being asked to do it. Just ask Miguel.

“In over a decade of talking to students in schools about their education, some of the keenest insights I’’ve ever heard have come from transfer students who have experienced the drastic differences that can -— and do -— exist between schools,”” says Brooke Haycock, Ed Trust’’s senior playwright-researcher and series author. ““Their words and ideas offer a fresh perspective to the conversation on quality schools.””

The Echoes From The Gap series showcases 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. The first report, ““The Writing on The Hall,”” released in January 2014, examined 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.

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