Why Do American Students Have So Little Power?

reposted from: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/why-do-american-students-have-so-little-power/387634 Article by: Amanda Ripley, Published March 12, 2015.

A group of Kentucky teens is struggling to get a modest bill passed, revealing just how difficult it is to convince adults that kids' opinions matter.

For the past four months, a group of Kentucky teenagers has been working to make a one-sentence change to a state law. In the history of student activism, this is not a big ask. They want local school boards to have the option - just the option - of including a student on the committees that screen candidates for superintendent jobs.

That’s it. They aren’t asking to choose the superintendent; the elected school board does that. They just want to have one student sit among the half-dozen adults (including two teachers, a parent, and a principal) who help vet candidates and make recommendations to the board.

"I thought everyone would view it as a no-brainer," said Nicole Fielder, 18. She said this on Tuesday from Frankfort, the state’s capital, where she was missing classes in order to advocate - for the sixth time - for this bill.

Policymakers should be begging students to serve on committees and school boards, not the other way around. That’s because students are their secret weapons: Kids can translate abstract policy into real life with a speed and fluency that no adult can match.

To date, Fielder and her fellow students have testified before lawmakers, written op-eds, consulted attorneys, and collected piles of research. When a snowstorm threatened to keep them from traveling to appear in front of a committee last week, they asked if they could sleep on the floor of the Capitol rotunda. (The answer was no; they stayed in a nearby hotel.) As of today, the bill appeared in danger of dying a sudden death.

In the eight years I’ve been writing about education, my best sources have been students. An 11th grader in Washington, D.C., named Allante Rhodes told me that, while it was nice his high school offered a Microsoft Word class, only six of the campus’ 14 computers worked; he often spent his computer class reading a handout given to him by the teacher. That was good for me to know.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brennen, a 12th-grader who had moved five times as a teenager, told me that his grades depended on his zip code. In Georgia, he was at the top of his class; in Maryland, the very next year, his grades plummeted and he had to retake Spanish altogether. In Kentucky, he did fine in science but struggled with math. And that’s why he thought adopting the Common Core State Standards made sense. "Honestly," he told me, "you spend 35 hours a week in a classroom, you know what kind of things work and don’t work."

Students are the most valuable and least consulted education-policy experts in America. Before they graduate, they spend roughly 2,300 days contemplating their situation, considering how their schools and neighborhoods could be better—or worse. And unlike many journalists, teachers, principals, and school-board members, most couldn’t care less about politics.

Keep reading at: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/why-do-american-students-have-so-little-power/387634