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Youths show us what they believe 


What do students think are the purposes of school? In addition to the traditional reasons they cite (e.g., because they’re required to attend), why do youth go to--and stay in--school? Even more importantly, what do they believe helps them to succeed in school and what gets in the way of this success?


Founded in 2004, the “Through Students’ Eyes” (TSE) project has worked with high school and middle school youth to address these questions through photographs and written reflections. TSE was begun by veteran teachers, activists, photographers, and teacher educators in response to the consistently high dropout rates common in most urban centers in the United States.


Using “photovoice” and visual sociology methods, TSE researches and documents youths’ and community members’ perspectives on school—our nation’s most important and unifying institution. The project has collaborated with nearly 400 students worldwide, displayed their work at numerous regional and national exhibitions, published articles and catalogues of youths’ images and reflections, and contributed to the dialogue about US schools and their abilities to serve their most diverse and disenfranchised constituents.

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As urban educators, teacher educators, and activists in Cleveland and Washington, D.C.,  we’ve seen dropout (or push-out) rates average close to 60% annually. That means 60% of freshmen in these schools never graduate from high school with the most basic of life tickets: a high school diploma.

We asked over 500 Cleveland, Washington DC, northern Virginia, Sierra Leone, Haitian, and Benin high school and middle school students to consider these questions and answer them with photographs and text. We offer this site to students, teachers and teacher educators worldwide who are interested in increasing student achievement in urban centers, and any educational arena working with the under served.

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project locations







Republic of Benin

Sierra Leone

coming soon

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