Featured Insights May 8

3 successful ways to improve school culture by listening to students

At our recent school leader meet-up, attendees connected with each other at the start of the day by sharing a “win” at their campus from this school year. These winning stories were not only inspiring and impactful, but they shared an important link. 

All of the strategies, though different, were successful because they incorporated student voice. When educators connect with their students to find out how they think and feel, and then incorporate those insights back into the classroom and campus, students feel seen and heard. This loop forms the essence of Along, and works to uplift school environments into communities with positive culture. 

Here are 3 ways that school leaders are successfully using student voice on their campuses:

1. Principal’s Cabinet: At Middle Park High School in Granby, Colorado, school leader Cindy Rimmer has implemented a Principal’s Cabinet that “elevates student voice and empowers students to take action.” The Cabinet is made up of students, who identify and lead projects to improve the school facilities and support a thriving culture. The students also write grant proposals for the projects themselves. Some of the recent projects spearheaded by the Cabinet include upgrading classrooms with additional furniture, creating a storage supply cabinet near the multi-purpose room, and offering higher-end hand soap in student bathrooms.

2. Restorative Practices: For Joe Dan Lovato, school leader at Turquoise Trail Middle School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it is important to “create an environment where everyone feels safe to connect with each other.” His multi-pronged approach for maintaining this culture starts with his staff using Along during advisory time “to help students get comfortable by modeling vulnerability.” And from there, he said that when there is a larger disciplinary concern, he is using a restorative practice approach instead of a more traditional approach. Rather than centering on punishments for misbehavior, restorative practices are focused on resolving conflict through circles and conflict-resolution led by students themselves. 

3. Wellness Wednesdays: Designating one day a week to focus on your staff’s mental health and wellbeing can help create a consistent culture on campus, said Malcom Connor, assistant principal at Brooklyn Collegiate High School in New York. Every week, Connor sends out a newsletter to staff centered on practices that can benefit their health. “On Wednesdays, I send out the Along question we are working on in class, and activities for staff members, even a quote,” said Connor. “This keeps the environment warm and inviting.” In conjunction with using Along, he has focused on how to keep students connected to campus beyond academics. Noticing the pride and success that the school’s basketball program brings to the campus, he has worked to bring more activities to students including a barbering and nail program, and a chess program. The choices are a direct result of working together with students and listening to their needs.


Is there a program at your school that incorporates student voice? We’d love to share your success stories with others in the community. Please reach out at media@gradientlearning.org!

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