There are two groups that can’t be attacked by corporate reformers as greedy and self-interested: parents and students. The fake reformers automatically dismiss the voices if educators, but they can’t dismiss parents and students.

No, wait, Arne Duncan ridiculed parents in Néw York as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to find out their children weren’t so bright after all.

But so far he hasn’t tried to dismiss the students, and no voice is more powerful than that of knowledgeable students.

In Providence, Rhode Island, high school students have stood up bravely against the misuse of a standardized test as a graduation requirement.

The Providence Student Union held a mayoral forum, and every candida date, from both parties, endorsed the student platform. We can all take lessons from these brilliant young people.

They wrote:

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“Did you hear?

“Last week, the Providence Student Union partnered with Young Voices and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to organize a 100% youth-led, youth-moderated Mayoral Forum.

“As Friday’s front-page Providence Journal story put it – students “grilled” Providence mayoral hopefuls on the issues important to our city’s young people.

“With a packed house, critical discussion, and a Twitter conversation on the forum’s #pvdymf hashtag that trended top 10 nationally, it’s safe to say students successfully pushed their concerns into the conversation around this year’s election.

“More than anything, however, this forum illustrated just how far we have come in building student power in our community. Three things we learned:

“1. Every mayoral candidate – Democrat and Republican – announced their opposition to using the NECAP as a graduation requirement. It would have been hard to imagine when we began our “More Than a Test Score” campaign, but in the course of a year PSU youth leaders have truly turned this into a consensus political issue.

“2. Every mayoral candidate voiced their support for the Providence Student Union’s campaign to reduce the district’s walking distance and provide bus passes to more students.

“3. Every mayoral candidate agreed to sign our youth platform, The Schools Providence Students Deserve, pledging their commitment to fighting for more student-centered and hands-on learning, support for the arts, an emphasis on restorative practices versus punitive discipline systems, and more.

“The forum was a success, but it was just the beginning. Whoever wins this election, our task remains the same: bringing together impassioned student leaders who can hold adults to their promises and deliver the schools Providence students deserve.

“Thanks for all of your support. And if you want to be a part of this critical work, please make a donation and help students as they stand up, again and again, to have a fair say in their education.

“Sincerely,

Zack Mezera
Executive Director”

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