Innovation Spotlight: Iowa

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All 21 high schools in Iowa’s Safe and Supportive Initiative are trained and implementing Youth Leadership Teams (YLTs), through a partnership with the Iowa State University Extension (ISU) Office and regional Consultants. YLTs consist of 5-7 students representing the student population and adult sponsors. They are tasked with learning about the school climate data and meet regularly with school staff as well as their peers, to have conversations on what the data mean. Once students fully understand the data, they are able to develop plans and are empowered to make recommendations that will result in positive change for their schools. YLTs have had discussions with the Lieutenant Governor and have been spokespersons to the local media. The following are a sample of items accomplished by YLTs in their schools:

What does the data say?

The mean score for survey items that measured (positive) Student to Student Relationships increased from 2.86 in 2011 to 2.97 in 2012 (on a 4-point scale).

  • Locker178– A locker was painted blue for students to anonymously submit reports of wrong-doing, including bullying, to school administration. School counselors and administrators check the locker every other day and take action.
  • One YLT wanted to change the cell phone usage policy. They interviewed students, researched other school districts’ policies, and presented their findings to the school board. The school board honored their request and amended the policy. Another YLT made a presentation about changing the late-start schedule to their school board and changes were made to the schedule.
  • YLTs go into classes, talk about the S3 grant and the data collected, and the importance of all students participating in the annual survey.

They are making a difference!  Students have talked about the benefits of the grant and the survey data and encouraged parents to get involved in taking the survey by writing letters to the editor and appearing in television news features.

“There are a lot of good kids at our school, not just bad… only the bad kids get talked about.”

~Student talking with Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor Reynolds about Safe and Supportive Schools

What are the Next Steps?

Two youth teams are co-presenting with the Youth Student Engagement Specialist this spring at the Iowa Association for Alternative Education conference on involving youth voice to improve conditions for learning. Youth are extremely excited about this opportunity and are assisting with developing the presentation.  As part of the ISU partnership, students will participate in a second summer leadership camp designed specifically for them, “From Individual Passion to Community Action.” This fall youth will work collaboratively to develop and host the Youth Voice Strand for the annual conference.

For additional information, contact Cyndy Erickson, S3 Project Director, at

American Institutes for Research

U.S. Department of Education

The contents of the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments Web site were assembled under contracts from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools to the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Contract Number  91990021A0020.

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