For more than 20 years, SoundOut has been studying the roles of students on school boards. Based on our own experiences and on research about the practice, we have found many impacts from this type of Meaningful Student Involvement.
Impacts affect primarily four different audiences. Students on school boards can affect the student representative themselves; adult school board members; students throughout the affected education system, and; the larger communities that the schools serve.
Following are some of the impacts of students on school boards. These are drawn from the first significant research on the impacts students have on adults and organizations when they are involved in significant decision-making roles, as well as decades of research from education researchers.
Impacts on Student Members of School Boards: Students on school boards can impact the student representative members.
- Meaningful Student Involvement in school board decision-making “provides them with the essential opportunities and supports (i.e. challenge, relevancy, voice, cause-based action, skill-building, adult structure, and affirmation) that are consistently shown to help young people achieve mastery, compassion, and health.”
Impacts on Adult Members of School Boards: Students on school boards can impact adult school board members.
- Adults experience the competence of students first-hand, and can perceive
students as legitimate, crucial contributors to education system decision-making
- Working with students serves to enhance the commitment and energy of adults to K-12 schools.
- Adults feel more effective and more confident in working with and relating to students.
- Adults can grow to understand the needs and concerns of students, and become more attuned to K-12 school issues, making them more likely to reach outside the
school board and share their new knowledge and insights with the broader community. They can gain a stronger sense of education community connectedness.
Impacts on School Boards: Students on school boards can impact students throughout the affected education system.
- The principles and practices of Meaningful Student Involvement can become embedded within the culture of the education system.
- Most school boards find that students can help clarify and bring focus to the board’s mission, and some boards make this a formal role of students.
- The adults and the school board as a whole can become more connected and responsive to students throughout K-12 schools. This investment and energy can lead to school improvement.
- School boards place a greater value on inclusivity and diversity. They can come to see that their decision-making benefits when multiple and diverse student voices are included in school boards.
- Having students meaningfully involved as decision-makers can help convince voters, state agencies, and other funding sources that the school board is serious about promoting student success for every learner.
- Including students in decision-making can lead school boards to reach out to communities in more diverse and effective ways including community advocacy, policy-making, and direct service.
Impacts on K-12 Schools: Students on school boards can impact the larger educational communities that the school boards serve, including every K-12 school within their districts.
- The culture of schools can reflect Meaningful Student Involvement more substantively.
- The likelihood of students in elementary, middle and high schools of all academic achievement levels being meaningfully involved increases substantially, allowing more students to experience the benefits.
- Classroom teachers, school counselors, building administrators and other educators are more likely to experience the impacts of Meaningful Student Involvement in their roles.
You can see our sources at the end of this page. To find more information, visit our pages about our projects. For more information, contact us »
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- “Elevating Student Voice in Education” by Meg Benner, Catherine Brown, and Ashley Jeffrey for the Center for American Progress on August 14, 2019.
- “Few Student Board Members Can Vote. Should That Change?” by Stephen Sawchuk for Education Week on June 11, 2019.
- “The Student Voice Is Back Where It Belongs in Philadelphia” by Jared Brey for Next City on October 5, 2018.
- “Philly Appoints 2 Students to Its School Board as Students Nationwide Fight to Be Heard” by Mark Keierleber for The 74 on September 25, 2018.
- “Schools creating new structures to encourage student voice” Linda Jacobson for Education Dive on November 6, 2017.
- “Students on school boards bring unique perspective in K-12 direction” by Rafael Guerrero for the Elgin Courier-News on August 9, 2017.
- “Why Do American Students Have So Little Power?” by Amanda Ripley for The Atlantic on March 12, 2015.
- “Should Students Sit on School Boards? Advocates say teenagers deserve a say in policies that affect them” by Jacoba Urist for The Atlantic on April 23, 2014.
- “Youth-Adult Partnerships in Decision Making: Disseminating and Implementing an Innovative Idea into Established Organizations and Communities” by Shepherd Zeldin, Julie Petrokubi and Carole MacNeil in the American Journal of Community Psychology 41:262–277 in 2008.
- “Youth In Decision-Making: A Study on the Impacts of Youth on Adults and Organizations“
- Historical Student Involvement Bibliography
- Meaningful Student Involvement Bibliography