Student-run survey calls for school improvements

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Philadelphia high school students say they want more activities in class that get them excited about learning, more individual attention from teachers, and safer school environments, according to a recent survey of more than 239 high school students representing 55 high schools, conducted by students themselves.

The survey was conducted this summer by participants in the Youth VOICES Summer Academy, a six-week summer program for youths from across Philadelphia run by the University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia at Temple University. Students in the summer program researched issues in education and developed short-term projects that responded to what they found.

Projects included running a summer program for elementary school students, researching and writing a pamphlet on student perspectives on how to improve the Philadelphia public schools, and filming a video on gang conflict.

The survey findings won’t have time to collect dust – VOICES students will work with Temple students this year to develop plans to address the issues raised in the survey.

Students’ research has been revealing for youth participants and adults alike. Summer Academy Director Catie Cavanaugh said the project has shown students the power of research in making change. Moreover, Cavanaugh said, "It’s given a voice to those who are least consulted yet most profoundly impacted by education policy."

For more information, please contact Catie Cavanaugh at or 215-204-6185.