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Case Study: Learner Voice at Maine West High School

Amplifying learner voice is a priority for Maine West High School in Illinois. The school has created multiple pathways and supports for students to lead, collaborate with their peers, and to advise and engage with school leadership. For example, students, through a formal application process, can join the Principal’s Leadership Team (PLT). Currently, this advisory board includes 47 Further Opportunities to Advance Adoption While the efforts previously described can help drive adoption of broadband and technology tools for learning, long-term investment and capacity is essential to sustain efforts to advance adoption. For example, hotlines and help desks often have insufficient staffing. However, learners need no-cost, readily available, and on-demand support after typical business hours that is provided by the district, local government, or another organization. This technical support is necessary even when learners and families/caregivers have strong digital literacy skills, as they will inevitably run into issues they cannot troubleshoot themselves. For learners with disabilities, once an appropriate device is identified and acquired, the learner, family/ caregiver, and professionals who work with the learner should receive training to use the device and ensure access to learning platforms and course materials. Support from educators, related service providers, and families/caregivers is critical to ensure every learner with a disability has access to a free appropriate public education. Furthermore, for justice-involved learners, participants suggested states and territories should share information about affordable broadband and device programs and digital literacy building opportunities within reentry programs. Digital communication methods (e.g., social media, videos) are important to reach some learners and families/caregivers, but by themselves, they are insufficient to reach learners and families/caregivers who do not have access to broadband or digital skills development opportunities. Analog communication methods should also be considered. However, they require more people power and greater time, resources, and effort. Leaders should collaborate with community anchor institutions and community-based organizations to sustainably support both digital and analog communication methods to reach all learners and families/caregivers. Lastly, there needs to be trusted support at every stage of the sign-up process, such as translators for multilingual communities, resources highlighting eligibility criteria for services, explicit guidance on 40 students who report directly to the principal, providing advice and feedback solicited from their peers on a monthly cadence. The PLT solicits feedback from their peers every Friday, inquiring on a variety of topics such as school lunch prices, the current advisory model, school schedule, and the hours of operation of their test retake center. The PLT also has a podcast committee that serves as a platform for students to share about their experiences academically and personally at Maine West. The school has also sponsored a Student Voice Committee, open for any student to actively partake in. The Student Voice Committee comes together weekly, where during this time, no club meetings or teacher meetings can occur. The meeting is dedicated to providing feedback to teachers on the listed agenda items and creating action items to follow up on. The committee also solicits feedback from their peers through surveys embedded in QR codes, inquiring on what the committee is doing well and what they could improve. This support for learner agency and the cycle of continuous feedback has promoted trust among peers and school leadership. To date, Maine West has worked to ensure that all students have access to the devices and internet access they need, but the PLT is a location where students could raise concerns about digital equity and voice their needs as further needs arise.