Elena M. Silva and Beth C. Rubin
Without the voice of students, schools serve no purpose. They are nothing but institutions where adults run and tell you what you need to know in order to continue this tradition of, this cycle of "we have master's degrees and we know what's best for you so just shut up and deal with it."
(High school senior)
What could students, who confront, resist, and affirm both the problems and reforms that characterize their schools, offer to the traditionally adultdominated conversation about school change? Despite a small body of research emerging on the significance of "student voice" in school practices and processes (Cook-Sather, 2002; Shultz and Cook-Sather, 2001; Fielding, 2001; Rudduck and Flutter, 2000; Oldfather, 1995), embracing or empowering the voices of students is not a well-practiced approach to understanding or implementing school reforms.
Within a growing wave of reform in public schools, calls for and claims of "student-centered" goals and "student voice" initiatives pervade the process and practice of school reform efforts (Wasley et al., 1997; Olsen, 2000). Yet, more often than not, the student perspective is often represented in fixed and uncomplicated terms that undermine the true agency and diversity of students and student experiences.
Why is the student perspective of reform important? Public high schools boast greater student diversity than ever before in the history of this country (Nieto, 1999; Garcia, 1999). At the center of this diversity are hundreds of thousands of students who experience a reality relatively unknown to the adults who govern their school experience. Students' daily lives in school take place amid the richly interwoven webs of friendship and romance, the heated pulls of emerging racial, ethnic and social identities, the demands and expectations of teachers and parents, and the constructions of academic competence. Particularly in schools confronting persistent problems of racial, class and gender inequity, the significance of students' experiences