- The National Association of State Boards of Education has issued a policy update entitled “Involving Students in State Education Governance,” which touts the advantages of increasing student voice and representation on state boards so they have greater input concerning education issues directly impacting their lives.
- According to the analysis in the new policy update, 20 states and territories currently have at least one student on their state board of education, two more are in the process of adding students to the state board, and at least seven have a student advisory council to give input on policy decisions. Students are selected in a variety of ways, ranging from governor appointment to election by student councils.
- The policy suggests that boards ensure an equitable selection process and diversity of representation on the board. It also encourages boards to actively involve students in the process rather than merely having them present at meetings.
State boards of education are not alone in looking for student input. More local school boards are seeking greater student voice in decisions, as well. Students often provide a different perspective on educational issues because they are the ones most affected by the policies. Though students may not always have a vote on a school board, they still can provide fresh eyes on the topics at hand. And their presence helps remind other school board members that education is ultimately about the students themselves.
Schools have a tremendous impact on students during some of the most formative years of their lives. Most students have no choice about where they attend school. Those decisions are left up the adults in their lives, primarily parents and politicians. However, they should be allowed greater voice and meaningful input into how schools affect their lives.
Involving students more actively in educational decisions not only benefits school boards, it also benefits the students themselves. Students learn leadership, critical thinking, and other soft skills that will stand them in good stead in the job market and beyond. They also gain confidence because their opinion is valued, and they can act as liaisons between school boards and the student community. By participating in educational decisions early on, some of these students may find a passion for education that can draw them to teaching as a future career.