KOCO is a member of the Voices of Chicago Youth in Education (VOYCE) Coalition. VOYCE is a multi-ethnic coalition of youth leaders who are working with their peers to reduce the high school drop-out rate, and increase college enrollment through curriculum and college preparatory reforms. VOYCE has been recognized by the Chicago Community Trust; recognizing its prestigious Collaboration Award.
VOYCE has recently won a significant victory. Former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, agreed to partner with VOYCE and implement its recommendations in a series of pilot projects: freshman orientation retreats, VOYCE leadership teams, personalized 4-year graduation plans, and focus groups to review curricula and textbooks for relevance.
VOYCE developed its recommendations utilizing the “participatory action research” model, which included a statistically significant survey of 1,325 CPS students, in-depth interviews with 208 additional students, 110 teachers, and 65 parents, and site visits to successful schools in six states. During the research process, student leaders envisioned improved schools and learning environments, developed survey questions based on their own educational experiences, identified appropriate data collection methods, performed ethnographic mapping of school communities, made site visits to successful school in Illinois and across the country, reviewed relevant literature, and triangulated all data and responses to identify common themes and perspectives.
In its report, “Student-led Solutions to the Nation’s Dropout Crisis,” published November 2008, the key findings were: (1) students recognize systemic causes for the dropout rate; (2) students’ decision to drop-out happens over time; and (3) the relevance of curricula is critical to student engagement.