As policymakers continue to rethink, reshape and reform systems, it has become vital to involve the appropriate voices in these conversations. Inclusion of the people who are directly affected by policy and funding actions in their communities leads to equitable growth.

This report centers student voices in the conversation about how we can transform educational systems. Students are most affected by education policy decisions. Their experiences and perspectives are invaluable to shaping the future of education. In learning spaces, uplifting student voice and leadership through arts education instruction can provide students with the transferable skillsets to express, advocate and have ownership over themselves and their actions. Educational institutions collaborating with families and communities to create safe learning spaces for students can open the door to students feeling as though their voice and perspective are valued.

About the Author

Krystal Johnson

Policy Analyst

As a policy analyst for the Arts Education Partnership, Krystal conducts research on pressing arts education policy issues, contributes to AEP’s publications and provides support for AEP convenings. Krystal comes to Education Commission of the States with experience in education, legislative tracking and management. Krystal is dedicated to helping kids gain access to learning opportunities that match their learning styles; and she hopes to advance equity through her work researching and convening leaders to address pressing arts education policy issues. Contact Krystal at


The Arts Education Partnership would like to thank the following students for lending their experiences to drive this report:
Katie Berglof, Washington
Ananya Bhargava, California
Meenakshi Kutty, Hawaii
Faith Lopez, Kansas
Martin Smith, Maryland
Mia Strickland, Florida

The Arts Education Partnership appreciates the generous support from the Hewlett Foundation for the preparation of this report.

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits