Too often, conversations about education policy fail to include the voices of those most affected: students. When we take the time to stop and listen to what students believe is best for their schools, they almost always impress with their insight, thoughtfulness, and maturity.

That is certainly the case with the four students who chose to write about higher standards as part of the Students Rise to the Challenge scholarship competition. The competition was launched by SCORE in connection with the 2013-14 State of Education in Tennessee report to involve students in the dialogue about priorities in education. Below are excerpts from those essays that show, in students’ own words, just how powerful high standards are.

Lindsey Callis, 12th Grade, Jackson-Madison County Schools

  • Most students in High School think “high standards mean more work.” My point of view is a little different… Higher standards mean higher education. The students that are in school now are the future of our community. The harder they are pushed to learn, the better our community will be. A student that is not pushed hard enough in high school will have a harder time after graduation than one that had to work hard to receive a diploma.


Corbin Cowden, 8th Grade, Washington County Schools

  • We need higher standards to give students the boost we need for college and our future careers. Higher standards give a new challenge to students that were previously unchallenged. They allow us to exceed our previous limits in what we were able to do… There are many problems on Earth including pollution, global warming, and poverty. We need to be held to higher standards so we can find solutions to these problems and the many more that will arise. So to me, higher standards are what will help this generation fix the world’s problems.


Cheryl Rodriguez, 6th Grade, Cumberland County Schools

  • At Frank P. Brown Elementary there are very high standards. Many students say, “Why is this work so hard?” There is a very good reason for these high standards. It helps prepare us for our future. Our motto here is “From Crayons to College.” If we follow our high standards and our inspirational motto, we are sure to have a brighter future… The harder you push a student, the better they’ll do. Every time I take the Star Reading Test or Star Math Test, I always do better. My reading has gone from a 6.2 to an 8.5 grade level.


Ashlin Wildun, 12th grade, Metro Nashville Public Schools

  • When asked what higher standards mean to me, I can define my answer in three words: diligence, reciprocation, and versatility. As one seeks to reach a goal, diligence is required. Hard work results in improved productivity, and I believe this to be true from an educational perspective… Learning takes understanding; it requires not only the teacher to communicate the lesson, but the students to reciprocate it… The last word I relate to higher standards is versatility. Not every student learns in the same way, hence, teachers and educators must be able to convey their lessons in multiple manners.