More than a dozen Michigan and Washtenaw County government officials listened attentively yesterday while students and recent graduates spoke about their experiences in Washtenaw County high schools.
The event, called YouthSpeak, was one of a series of youth public forums organized around the state by youth service organizations.
Some students said school policies do not take into account the poverty, homelessness, and family issues many students face. They said this has a negative impact on their education.
Desiree Trim is a student at Ypsilanti New Tech High School. She loves technology and is happy her school has laptops. But she said the school requires students to pay for insurance before taking one home.
"Some of us don't have the money to pay for our insurance. If you don't have the money to pay for your insurance, you can't take your laptop home. If you can't take your laptop home, you can't do homework. If you can't do homework, you can't get a good grade," she said.
Trim said it can be dispiriting as a student when you feel like the school system doesn't care.
Some students mentioned that inflexible policies surrounding deadlines and absenteeism hurt their education as homeless youth or as students with significant responsibilities at home for younger children and other family members.
Trim and others credit their ability to get through hard times and to achieve educational success to the attention and inspiration they receive from particular teachers.
Mrittika Ghosh is a junior at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. She said there is too much emphasis on standardized tests and curriculum. She believes that hurts both students and teachers.
"Every class period spent with teachers and students stressing over test prep is an hour not spent turning us into critical, curious people who genuinely enjoy the learning process."
Ghosh said overuse of standardized testing leads to depression and anxiety among students and reduces the quality of education.
Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom