While lawmakers seek to make sweeping changes to public education at the national and state levels, some University of Michigan students are looking to reshape K-12 education from the bottom up.
Campus group rEDesign seeks input from students on how best to fix a broken system in which a wide achievement gap remains, and students -- both privileged and underserved -- struggle to be succeed academically and be globally competitive.
"The only demographic who haven't been engaged to systemically transform the education system is young people," the group writes on DoSomething.org.
"College students stand at this powerful intersection, where we're the most recent products of the K-12 system, so we still identify with our roles as students, and our knowledge of the system -- at least from a student's perspective -- is still relatively accurate," Libby Ashton, founder and president of rEDesign, says in the campaign video. "Watch us dream, watch us try, and if history is any indicator at all, watch us succeed -- at least sometimes -- in designing avenues by with schools and the students they serve receive the resources they need to be successful."
rEDesign isn't the first college-level organization of its kind. Three years ago, Catharine Bellinger and Alexis Morin founded non-profit Students for Education Reform at Princeton University, focused on supporting policies the students believe will help close the achievement gap.
As membership and interest grew, chapters sprouted across the country, and the two left Princeton before finishing their senior year to focus full-time on taking SFER to schools nationwide.
So as nearly half of America's public schools failed to meet federal achievement standards this year, states across the country are seeking No Child Left Behind waivers to circumvent what has been called a "broken" and "defective" law.
The waivers aim to give states more flexibility in creating curriculum and standards at the local level -- offering them a chance to improve their individual education systems that are catered to the needs of their localities.
Still, the policy-related reform efforts in government focus on top-down, rigid and methodical assessments and frameworks. When few schools offer the arts as individual courses and 65 percent of high school students don't have access to AP classes in core subjects, what does Michigan's rEDesign want, and what ideas do they have to reverse that trend?