Assessing Youth Voice

The Freechild Project Youth Voice


The following rubrics are designed to help you envision the broadest possible applications of Youth Voice throughout your communities.

Even if you’re on the right track you can still get run over if you don’t move. – Will Rogers

In these rubrics, each track looks like this:

  • Fast Track = Youth Voice is moving in a progressive fashion towards engaging all young people everywhere all the time
  • On Track = Youth Voice is in place, engaged and current
  • Side-Tracked = Youth Voice is in place, but actually stagnated and not growing.

The best way to use these rubrics is as a basis for creating your own rubrics with youth in your program, activity, organization or community.

Rubric One: Youth Voice in Classrooms
Purpose Fast Track On Track Side-Tracked
Stronger Learning Connections Students & teacher partner to design, implement, evaluate classroom learning. Teacher facilitates student-informed classroom learning. Students graded on their engagement in learning without any input into teaching.
Greater Student Authority Classes co-taught by students with teachers as mentors. Solely student-led classes and activities across school day. Teacher self-designs classes to promote Youth Voice.
Whole School Improvement Class dedicated to engaging students throughout school improvement efforts. Students encouraged to use out-of-school time to engage self and others in actions to change schools. Students taught about effects of school reform without knowing how they can do anything to challenge it.

Rubric Two: Youth Voice in Community Groups
Purpose Fast Track On Track Side-Tracked
Secure Public Commitment Organization makes its support apparent in all activities, policies, and publicity. Dedicated, sustainable, focused positions created. One youth is a member of the board of director or the steering committee.
Increase Staff Responsibility Youth self-identify issues and resources they need to create change. Young people engaged as regular staff or volunteers. All staff claim to “support” Youth Voice while none actually engage young people.
Sustain Long-Term Support Adult support for youth is made explicit through fiscal, material, etc. Staff show full commitment through ongoing training, support, activities, and reflection. Resources are not allocated to support Youth Voice in the organization or programs.

Rubric Three: Youth Voice in After School Programs
Purpose Fast Track On Track Side-Tracked
Increase Program Commitment Diverse young people initiate, plan, direct, implement, reflect, and evaluate activities with coaching from adults. Young people guide activities with adult leadership. Adults lead all activities without regard for youth input or feedback.
Secure Youth Support Adults provide necessary guidance through coaching, training, resource-sharing, and networking to all young people. Organization follows through with small group of young people. Adults occasionally seek support of youth when convenient.
Provide Staff Development Staff provided with initial and ongoing training opportunities that grow their commitment and ability. Staff assigned to attend initial training not directly related to Youth Voice. Position filled by unsuspecting volunteer operating without training or materials.

Rubric Four: Youth Voice in Foundations
Purpose Fast Track On Track Side-Tracked
Deepen Youth Engagement Foundation commits throughout policy, practice, leadership, and evaluation. Grantmaking heavily supports Youth Voice through funding practices. Youth Voice is among unstated funding interests.
Prioritize Funding Young people involved in determining all priorities, grantees, monitoring, and reflection. Youth-led funding activities support youth programs. Youth Voice is critiqued among applicants and grantees without offering guidance or support.
Transform Giving Strategy All staff trained in Youth Voice and active programs underway throughout organization. Staff trained and youth focus groups inform grantmaking. Carefully selected young people participate in minimal funding activities.

Rubric Five: Youth Voice in Government
Purpose Fast Track On Track Side-Tracked
Secure Long-Term Government Commitment to Youth Voice Statutes and laws are changed to create permanent positions for young people to propose, influence, and advocate. Community-wide Youth Voice strategies devised and implemented with long-range funding. Community health fairs and city boards with no youth, or a citywide youth summit no adults allowed.
Dedicate Personnel to Youth Voice Young people are engaged through regular (paid), volunteer, elected, and other opportunities. Trained staff develop and coordinate Youth Voice programs with active volunteer youth advisors. “Youth councils” and Children’s Cabinets made of concerned adults without youth themselves.
Secure Broad Support for Youth Voice Activities designed by youth/adult partners to promote Youth Voice throughout government. Adults engage youth in advisory committees without actually affecting youth directly. Youth Voice training for government workers without youth participants or trainers.

Rubric Six: Youth Voice in Organizational Transformation
Purpose Fast Track On Track Side-Tracked
Change the Attitude All members express clear commitment to Youth Voice. Leaders express clear commitment. Youth are only people to express clear commitment.
Modify Procedures All activities reflect deliberate Youth Voice strategy. Staff trained, but given no resources to engage youth. Youth Voice stated priority without any actual change.
Reform Policy All policies are reformed to include Youth Voice. Policies affecting youth reformed to include Youth Voice. Other activity is required to participate in Youth Voice activities.
Transform Culture Youth Voice is acknowledged strategy for democracy-building throughout community. Youth Voice seen as only strategy for democracy-building. Youth Voice seen as novel/tokenistic tool for making young people happy or keep them “out of trouble.”



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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help support youth voice in your community or organization, contact us.

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