LEXINGTON, Ky. — A group of local high school students want to know how their peers are navigating school at home during the COVID-19 crisis, so they’ve designed a survey to find out.
The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, a statewide group of students who work as research, policy, and advocacy partners in Kentucky’s education improvement efforts, started creating the survey when schools closed for the pandemic in March. Over the past several weeks, the team has developed the survey in consultation with research experts from Kentucky and around the country.
The Student Voice Team will also interview students across the state, seeking out peers who may not have access to the online survey or who have stories to tell that may not otherwise be captured by a survey about their experience learning from home. The team will release a full report of their findings at the Aug. 7 meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education.
“At the heart of our work is amplifying the stories of students who are most marginalized within the public education system. Almost immediately upon schools closing, it became clear that the students who are all too often unheard would be the same ones most severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Emanuelle Sippy, a junior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington and the team’s student director. “Students are the experts on what learning during COVID-19 looks like and feels like. Our goal is to help educators, policymakers, and advocates see students as partners in getting through this crisis and in improving schools beyond it.”
The survey focuses on the Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) environment, the home environment, and personal wellness. It asks for student feedback on the accessibility of remote learning, including internet and computer access and the availability of a distraction-free workspace. Among other things, the Student Voice Team hopes to gain a better understanding on how classwork, motivation, stress, and time commitments changed from before the school closure.
The survey is currently being disseminated through social media and email distribution lists via several school districts across the state. The survey is also being promoted by youth leadership partners, including the Kentucky Student Council Association and the Kentucky YMCA Association. All Kentucky high school students are encouraged to take the 10-minute survey, which can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/svtcovid19. The survey is also available in Spanish at surveymonkey.com/r/svtcovid19espanol.
“It’s been amazing to see the energy around this research initiative,” said Rachel Belin, senior director of the Student Voice Team. “We hope that combining stories and statistics in the way the team envisions will lift student voices around the implications and innovations of the COVID-19 experience and also serve as a scalable model for youth-driven education research.”
The group has previously released several reports that take a similar approach, including a book of student stories about college transitions, Ready or Not. However, those reports each took over a year to produce.
“We’ve set an aggressive timeline, especially compared to our previous reports, because we hope to have the results ready to inform the new school year,” said Krupa Hegde, a junior at The Gatton Academy in Bowling Green. “An upside of COVID-19 is that our team now has more time to commit to this work because of cancelled summer plans.”
The Student Voice Team’s survey design already is receiving high praise from experts. “This is the best survey I’ve seen on this subject,” said Christian Villenas, senior director of research at the National School Climate Center. “Beyond being good and sound, the fact that it is youth driven and youth inspired makes it truly exceptional. From what I’ve seen, no one is asking these questions at the state level. Everyone is asking what schools are doing, but no one else is asking how students are doing.”
The Student Voice Team is an organization made up of about 100 self-selected students, middle school through college, from across the Commonwealth who work to integrate students as research, advocacy, and policy partners in improving Kentucky schools. It is part of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.
Access more information, including a copy of the survey, here.