1. Background As part of the Province of Ontario Ministry of Education’s Student Success Program, a Student Success Advisory Committee was mandated for each school board to identify and promote programs that will result in improved success for students. This Committee and the TDSB Trustees had been exploring the question of what student success really meant. TDSB is the 4th largest school system in North America, with over 600 school, 18,000 teachers and staff and 285,000 students. More than 80 languages are represented and spoken in the system with 41% of the students speaking English as a second language. In May 2004, representatives from this committee – a cross-section of stakeholders, including parents, trustees, and staff – discussed this issue, resulting in the collection and synthesis of many ideas. Members agreed at that time that it was critical to hear the student voices and present a balanced view. This prompted the TDSB to investigate and identify what student success means from a student perspective to support the development of a TDSB vision of student success – effectively to put students first. 2. The Project: Imagine Student Success In September 2004, the TDSB embarked on an exciting project called Imagine Student Success intended to: – identify student success from a student perspective – broaden our understanding of what constitutes student success – support the Student Success Advisory Committee in its overall development of a TDSB vision The project covered the period September 2004 – May 2005. The implementation began with a pilot (see point 3) in October. Schools with students in grades 7, 8, 9, and 10 were invited to select six students who were trained as interviewers, and one teacher supervisor who monitored and assisted the students. From November to March students paired up to interview a selection of other students, parents, school staff, and members of the working community. They were equipped with a defined set of questions and an interview protocol structured around Appreciative Inquiry. The iCohere web site supported the capture and management of interview information. Ultimately over 2,000 interviews were documented with at least 50% being students. 3. Pilot Project Seven schools across the TDSB were part of a pilot project in October. These schools tested the interview questions and techniques. Students involved in the pilot project said that they felt excited and important to be involved in Imagine Student Success. They said that Students are eager to share and be acknowledged as an important piece of shaping the future of education and want their diverse voice heard. Some of the side benefits reported after the pilot were: • I developed a greater understanding the influence other people have – e.g. family, friends • I learned about myself – e.g. – interviewing skills • I had some surprises – learned more about teachers as people • I learned that a lot of kids have opinions and good ideas if we would just listen to them • The feeling of everyone being equal is very important • Some students felt more appreciated – after the interview, they started joining into school activities – they had never done this before • There were some stimulating results that provided insights – helped to understand the meaning of some of the buzz words that students use: • “easy” – when a student says a course is easy they are not referring to the complexity/ease of learning; they are talking about the environment, they felt comfortable, at ease; when they talked about a course being “hard” – this meant that they felt uncomfortable, judged, and ill at ease • “Success” when students talk about success – they refer to their marks; when adults talk about “Success” they refer to milestones in their lives 4. Summit – May 3, 2005 Phase I of Imagine Student Success was completed when close to 1,000 students, teachers, and guests participated in an AI Summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 3, 2005. We were fortunate to have our mentor – Jane Magruder Watkins, author of Appreciative Inquiry – Change at the Speed of Imagination, join us in both the planning and facilitating of the summit. Students further refined their ideas through interviews, identifying themes, and creating images of the future of education in TDSB. The event was attended by the Minister of Education for the Province. The students presented their ideas at the summit and within 3 weeks of the summit were invited to present specific recommendations to the board about how they can help students become more successful. Many stories of success are continuing to unfold in individual schools and with individual students.