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Student Insights Guiding Districts on Policy and Practice

When leaders of the 63,000-student Washoe County school district in Reno, Nev., sought to bring down a high dropout rate, they found limits in relying solely on research and strategies used in other school systems.

What was missing, they determined, were real, unvarnished insights of their own students who’d faced challenges with finishing high school. So they went straight to the source for answers, and what they got was an honest, student-produced video that featured a series of interviews with students who had dropped out and later returned to school.

Done well, efforts to tap into students’ experiences and opinions—the Washoe video is one example—yield numerous benefits for all participants, researchers say.

For students, participation leads to increased engagement and a chance to build social and emotional skills like self-advocacy.