What would education funders learn if they spoke directly with those whose lives they seek to improve? What would students say when asked about their experiences in school?
In 2008, those questions were the driving force behind the creation of YouthTruth. Eight years later, the importance and value of those questions still ring true. As the ultimate intended beneficiaries of K-12 education, students have a unique vantage point that is too often underrepresented in conversations about improving education. YouthTruth has partnered with schools and districts across the country to gather feedback from nearly half a million students — and we have seen in our work with schools and districts the powerful impact that listening to students can have.
Beneficiary feedback is not a new concept — most nonprofits are collecting and using feedback from their beneficiaries to improve their programs and services. The Fund for Shared Insight is a great example of how funders can come together to elevate the voices of those they seek to help, but there’s still room for growth across the sector. If you want to be effective in making real social impact, hearing from those who you seek to help is crucial. Beneficiaries are the experts on their own experience and can provide critical insight on what’s working and what’s not.
When that feedback is put into action it can have powerful results. Recent findings from YouthTruth’s aggregate dataset around students’ experiences of bullying are just one example of how beneficiary feedback can be used to drive change. Equipped with direct feedback from students, school and district leaders can more deeply understand how and why students are being bullied and focus resources where they’re needed most.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and findings from this analysis were recently featured in The 74, a nonprofit news organization covering education in America:
“Everyone here is either bullying someone or being bullied. The teachers say if you have a problem, go see them — but they do nothing about it.”
“They say they have a zero tolerance for bullying which is A COMPLETE LIE. People are bullied, they try to get help, and then they get NO HELP and continue to get bullied.”
“I think that the school should be more controlling on cyber-bullying. They are not aware that their students are being bullied or harassed on social media.”
“I wish that the person who sent me those messages knew how much that hurt, and that I would go to sleep crying … and be so tired at school because of crying at night.”
These are four of thousands of anonymous comments from students about bullying in their schools. The pain and frustration they describe are hard to take — but in some school districts, what the students are experiencing is very different from what their teachers and principals think is going on.
Read the entire article from The 74 here.
Hannah Bartlebaugh is marketing and external relations coordinator for YouthTruth. Follow YouthTruth on Twitter at @Youth_Truth.