For most of us who work in education reform, we strive to pursue education equity and eliminate the opportunity gap so that all students can flourish. But predominant policies and approaches persistently fail to move the needle on student outcomes. Within all these efforts that aspire for equity and inclusive excellence, what role do students play who are supposed to be at the center of it all? Instead of speaking for them, how can we help amplify student voices so that they are truly transformative?
We are thrilled to announce the launch of a new project: Youth Action Researchers at the Intersection (YARI). Along with our partners in Providence, Rhode Island, we have designed and built the YARI Project to showcase student-centered approaches, integrate inclusiveness in design, and advance the struggle for equity. We are committed to the project’s goal: to provide a robust structure of supports that enable youth researchers to investigate teaching and learning issues that matter to them and to provide a real space to communicate those findings to responsive audiences. The youth researchers will conceive, carry out and share the results of their investigation informed by their unique experiences in school.
Because each youth researcher identifies as a member of a marginalized group (race/ethnicity, LGBTQ, low socio-economic status) and also possesses a learning difference, the research questions they pose and the methods they will use to gather and analyze data will be uniquely responsive to the insights they bring. The topics they pursue will help move their communities — and the education field writ large — to more intentionally build on the assets and address the needs of learners who live and learn at this intersection.
We are deeply grateful for our partnerships in Providence that have been instrumental in this project from the very beginning. We also would like to acknowledge the critical support we have received from the Oak Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and our home institution, KnowledgeWorks.
We can barely suppress our anticipation of the powerful stories that center the youth researchers as they investigate the education ecosystem. On behalf of the YARI Project Team, we invite all of you to listen and learn with us.