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Beechwood senior serving on council that gives Ky. students a voice in state government

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Posted at 12:00 PM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-20 12:19:13-05

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. -- Education leaders across the nation rely on input from myriad partners to help make all kinds of decisions relating to K-12 students, but they sometimes overlook feedback from some very important stakeholders: the students themselves.

Beechwood High School senior Roop Patel aims to help be that voice for Kentucky students. Roop, 17, is part of a small group of public high school students from throughout the commonwealth selected to serve on the Commissioner's Student Advisory Council.

The group meets with Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt throughout the year to discuss critical issues impacting Kentucky students. It also works with the state’s Department of Education to help develop ideas that could improve education.

This school year marks Roop’s second year on the council.

"I believe students should have a voice at every level," she explained. "The advisory council is a diverse group, and the students come from all different regions across the state, so we each bring a different perspective."

Since joining the council, Roop said she has had the opportunity to provide feedback on a variety of important issues facing Kentucky students. Meetings take place both face-to-face and virtually.

Much of the feedback has centered on the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into federal law in December, and Kentucky’s new K-12 assessment and accountability system. Every Student Succeeds replaces No Child Left Behind and shifts much of the oversight and responsibility for schools from the federal government to the state.

Pruitt has been collaborating with the students, as well as state legislators, educators and the public, to produce a new accountability system that he promises will be "fair, reliable, valid and easier to understand than what we have now."

"Together, we will create a new system that will ensure we do the very best for all our kids and provide them with a well-rounded education that will prepare them to be successful, productive citizens of the commonwealth," Pruitt announced earlier this year.

Roop Patel, fourth from left, interacts with fellow members of the Commissioner's Student Advisory Council during a meeting last November at the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort. Photo by Mike Marsee, courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Education

In order to do that, Roop said, schools need to address the "whole" student.

At the student advisory council's recent fall meeting, Roop and fellow council members tackled pressing student topics beyond academics and assessment, including academic opportunity and equity in schools, student motivation and apathy, and even mental illness and stress.

"These are important issues in every school," Roop noted.

Kentucky students couldn’t find a better representation, according to High School principal Alissa Ayres.

"Roop has a unique perspective," Ayres explained. "She sees the big picture and seeks to have a big impact."

Roop’s impact goes beyond the Kentucky Department of Education. She serves Beechwood in a similar capacity and provides student feedback at both the school and district level. She’s also a member of Beechwood’s academic team and serves as debate team captain.

Her time on the debate team has taught her to look at issues from all sides. That experience has served her well as a member of the council, Roop said.

She'll continue to serve on the council until she graduates next May. Her goal is to ensure the student voice is a powerful one at the state level.

The Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council is a yearlong program for Kentucky public school students in grades 10-12. Some students, like Roop, are selected to serve for more than one year.

High school students from all different backgrounds and education pathways are encouraged to apply, as the council is designed to represent the "diverse academic, geographic, demographic and school-size variables” particular to the commonwealth," according to KDE. For details, click here.