The “student voice” recent Great Neck South High School graduate Zak Malamed said he hoped to create in the growing state and national education reform debate this week got a lot louder.
As part of his recently convened New NY Education Reform Commission, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to give students the opportunity to testify at each of the panel’s regional meetings.
Cuomo created the commission in April to recommend reforms for New York’s education system. The commission held its first meeting earlier this month in Albany.
“I think the governor deserves recognition for supporting the voice of the students because, really, nationwide you don’t see that happen very often,” Malamed said on Monday. “It’s ground breaking news, I believe.”
Last week, Malamed joined with seven other students from across the state to call upon Cuomo to add representatives of their generation to the New NY Education Reform Commission.
The coalition of eight students sent a letter to Cuomo, which recommended that three New York students - two currently in high school and one in college - be added onto the panel.
Although students were only given the opportunity to testify before the panel, Malamed said it was a victory for the new group he helped found.
‘It’s a big move that hopefully sets a precedent, not only in New York State, but nationwide,” said Malamed, who next fall will attend the University of Maryland.
In conjunction with their letter to Cuomo, the group of eight students also launched the Web site www.stuvoice.org last week.
The Web site was set up to compliment the weekly #StuVoice Twitter chat Malamed helped establish, in what he said is an effort to add a student voice to the growing debate over education reform across the state and nation.
Malamed said it was an exciting moment late last week when he learned that Cuomo had heard the students’ requests for inclusion into the education reform discussion.
“I’m really happy about it,” Malamed said. “I think the governor went about it the right way to make sure all students voices are included. I was excited, but at the same time, I realized there was a lot more work to be done.”
Malamed will be the first student to testify before the panel during its hearing on Thursday at CUNY-Hostos Community College in the Bronx.
“I’ll read my testimony that’s already been submitted to the commission and from there I’ll have the opportunity to speak with the commission afterwards,” Malamed said. “They are fully aware of the students.”
The more than three-minute testimony Malamed said he created will focus on “making the student voice a permanent part of education policy discussion.”
Cuomo also granted students the opportunity to create reports to ensure that their voice is being heard by the commission once its hearings are concluded, Malamed said.
“This is a pivotal moment in youth engagement and education policy,” he said. “New York has an opportunity to set the bar for including students in the decision making process, as it works to fulfill Gov. Cuomo’s mission to put students first.”
Along with his testimony, Malamed said he will continue his efforts on Twitter to keep the student voice involved in education reform.
With the #StuVoice Twitter chat, which has been held every Monday at 8:30 p.m. since the end of May, Malamed has been reaching a very wide audience.
The computer company Dell estimates that the Twitter chat has a “reach” of 2 million people.
Dell is a sponsor of the #StuVoice Twitter Chat.
“It is really exciting,” Malamed said, “but I realize that there is a lot of work to be done.”
Also joining Malamed in his coalition are seven students from across the state, including 18-year-old Syosset High School graduate Joshua A. Lafazan, who in May ran a successful campaign to be elected onto his district’s board of education.
Student represenatives from Norwich High School, Poughkeepsie Day School and Watkins Glen High School have also joined the organization Malamed helped create.
“I applaud Gov. Cuomo for seeing the value that youthful perspective can bring to the commission,” Lafazan said. “I’m excited to start working immediately to help ensure that New York state has the finest public schools that this country has to offer.”