For more than 20 years, the US Department of Education has been funding a program called the 21st Century Community Learning Centers across the country. Focused on supporting student learning during out-of-school time (OST), the program has a lot of students of color, low income students, and other learners who face disparities in learning, teaching and leadership throughout their educational experiences. This article is about the role of Meaningful Student Involvement in these programs.
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers, or 21st CCLCs, are working in almost every state across the country to help students in high-poverty and low-performing schools get more academic enrichment. Focused primarily on providing a safe and supportive learning environments, the 21st CCLCs focus on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math. 21st CCLC also help in other subject areas in schools, including language arts, social studies, heath and art, as well as other topics, too. All of this is intended to improve student learning,
One of the most ambitious aspects of some 21st CCLCs are their efforts to foster student-centered learning. Student-centered learning often includes student-driven interests, personalized learning, and other strategies that place students in the middle instead of educators. There are missed opportunities hiding in plain sight that can enhance 21st CCLCs though, and one of them is Meaningful Student Involvement.
Meaningful Student Involvement is the sustained systemic infusion of student voice throughout education in order to foster student engagement in school, communities, and democracy. Meaningful Student Involvement can be a key to successful 21st CCLCs. Since 2008, I have worked in dozens of schools across Washington state and beyond, including supporting the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the New York State Student Support Services Center as they implement their 21st CCLCs programs in the past. All of my work through SoundOut has focused on Meaningful Student Involvement.
In each of these programs, I have taught educators of all stripes different ways Meaningful Student Involvement can improve their programs. This includes…
- Meaningful Student Involvement in learning and teaching
- Meaningful Student Involvement in program design
- Meaningful Student Involvement in program staffing
- Meaningful Student Involvement in program evaluation, and
- Meaningful Student Involvement in the climate of 21st CCLCs
Each of these has allowed educators in these programs to improve student-driven learning in many ways. For instance, actively fostering Meaningful Student Involvement can empower learners of all ages with the skills and knowledge they need to investigate, engineer, and implement solutions as they create new knowledge and learning for themselves and their peers. Implementing Meaningful Student Involvement to improve the climate of 21st CCLCs can look like embracing social-emotional learning through practical steps reflecting the values and perspectives of schools, families, and communities students belong to.
I have discovered that embracing Meaningful Student Involvement doesn’t always come easily to 21st CCLCs staff though. Despite their best intentions, it can be an uphill climb for educators who’ve never experienced positive, proactive Meaningful Student Involvement to do the same.
That’s why SoundOut provides a variety of tools and supports to scaffold educators’ learning to support Meaningful Student Involvement in 21st CCLCs. Through my workshops and keynote speeches, 21st CCLCs staff can find practical ways of understanding Meaningful Student Involvement, effective implementations of Meaningful Student Involvement in programming, and powerful ways to measure the impact and outcomes of Meaningful Student Involvement in 21st CCLCs.
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