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Critical Literacy and School Reform: So Much to Do in So Little Time

Student voices have largely been absent from the development of school reform efforts. This essay argues for the inclusion of these voices, noting that youths often have important insights into efforts to improve their schools. The essay reports on a participatory research project conducted during the mid-1990s that involved students, parents, and educators at the Academy for the Middle Years (AMY), a middle school in Northwest Philadelphia. During the course of this research, participants became aware of gaps between student and adult perspectives on AMY initiatives. Helping students develop their critical literacy skills can encourage them to become full partners in reform. The experience of working with these youths taught many of the adults involved that including student voices is a necessary but not sufficient aspect of efforts to improve schools.