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Amplifying Student Voices: Baltimore City Public Schools’ CEO Student Cabinet

The Fund for Educational Excellence (Fund) is proud to partner with the district’s Office of Engagement, Enrollment & Communications in facilitating the City Schools’ CEO Student Cabinet. This initiative, co-planned and co-facilitated by the Fund’s Program Director of Analysis & Engagement, Kwane Wyatt, and the district’s Youth Engagement Specialist, Haley Tilt, brings together a diverse group of ten students from both middle and high schools across the City. Students conduct participatory action research on topics that prompt improvement within the school system. They meet with Dr. Santelises four times throughout the year to present their research and advise her on critical issues from City School students’ perspectives. “The goal was to have the input from young people to give Dr. S insight on certain key issues… It’s important to get youth input if we’re going to do right by the young people,” explained Kwane during the interview.

Facilitators Haley Tilt and Kwane Wyatt are instrumental in steering these students through a comprehensive process that includes research, peer feedback collection, and presentations to the district’s leadership. Haley describes her role as critical in aligning the students’ research efforts with the district’s priorities, ensuring that their work is both relevant and actionable. “My role is to ensure that students’ research topics align with the CEO’s priorities and with critical areas for district decision-making where student input will be most impactful and actionable,” Haley states. She emphasizes the importance of providing students with a strong foundation in research methods, critical thinking, and public speaking, all aimed at amplifying their voices within the educational system.

The CEO Student Cabinet not only empowers students to contribute to meaningful changes in policy and practice but also fosters significant personal growth among its members. Reflecting on the progress made from the initial meetings to subsequent cycles, Kwane highlights the students’ enhanced ability to confidently present their findings to Dr. Santelises. Haley further elucidates the impact of the initiative on the students, noting their quick mastery of research techniques and their adeptness at integrating personal experiences with empirical data to advocate for their peers. “This group of students has taken to research like a fish to water… They’ve demonstrated a facility for data analysis and for presenting that information to the CEO in a manner that speaks to trends among the student population while also speaking to their personal experience,” Haley shares.

Through the CEO Student Cabinet, Baltimore City Public Schools exemplifies the power of youth participatory action research as a transformative force within educational institutions. By valuing and incorporating student feedback into decision-making processes, the district is not only recognizing the importance of student perspectives but is also committing to actionable change based on their insights. Haley’s final reflections underscore the program’s success in fostering a sense of empowerment among the students, proving that when young people are given the tools to engage with and influence their educational environment, the potential for positive change is boundless.

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