California State Board of Education Student Member

The California State Board of Education Student Member has been a fixture since 1969. They have been full-voting members since 1983.


Starting in 1969, the SBE appointed a student to serve as a board advisor. In 1983, the Legislature and Governor granted the student full participation and voting rights.


In order to become student members of the SBE, students must be:

  • Any student enrolled in a California public high school who will be a senior in good standing
  • Be available to attend a statewide conference in November
  • Serve a one-year term from August through July
  • Attend all SBE meetings held during that time, which includes a minimum of two days every other month for approximately six meetings per year
  • Vote on educational policies vital to California’s students and schools

According to the State School Board of Education, the position provides a wonderful opportunity to influence educational policy in areas such as curriculum, standards, assessments, accountability, and Local Control Funding Formula.


  • California law requires that school district governing board student members select six of the 12 semifinalists for further consideration by the SBE
  • The SBE uses the annual Student Advisory Board on Education, or SABE, conference to perform this function.
  • Twelve semifinalists must attend the Student Advisory Board on Education (SABE) Conference.
  • Semifinalists will participate in all SABE activities.
  • Semifinalists will make individual presentations to all other SABE participants about their interest in, and qualifications for, the student member position.
  • Following a secret ballot by the SABE participants, the names of six candidates will be submitted for further consideration by the SBE’s Screening Committee.
  • The decision of the SABE participants is final.
  • Each of the final six candidates will be interviewed by the SBE’s Screening Committee.
  • The Screening Committee will recommend three finalists to the SBE.
  • Following the Board’s action to select the three finalists, the names of the three finalists will be sent to the Governor.
  • The SBE’s recommendations to the Governor are final. Interviews and the selection of three finalists will occur before and at the SBE’s November meeting.
  • Representatives of the Governor will interview the three finalists, probably in the late spring or summer.
  • One of the finalists is be appointed by the Governor to be the Student Member.

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Mindsets and Meaningful Student Involvement

mindset is the way someone thinks about something. A growing body of research and literature has shown that students’ mindsets determine educational effectiveness, school culture and much more. Mindsets affect student voice and Meaningful Student Involvement as well.

A Meaningful Mindset

By focusing on the intersection between mindset and strategy, educators can help students learn a practical framework for identifying opportunities so they can proceed from promising ideas to practical actions in schools.

Whether seeking to start a school improvement campaign or infuse a meaningful mindset into their current classrooms, SoundOut offers products and services that allow students to learn directly from the firsthand experience of students who’ve experienced meaningful involvement throughout education while immersing them in school improvement activities that share knowledge, build skills, and launch students into student/adult partnerships that transform learning, teaching and leadership and own their own education.

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Student/Adult Partnership Activities

As the banner of student voice is unfurled in an increasing number of education arenas across the U.S., we’re seeing young people stand up in unprecedented numbers to demand what is rightfully theirs: High-quality education. Here are 30 student/adult partnership activities for schools.

Yet, just as this movement is beginning to pick up steam, its getting derailed from its true potential, which is student integration. We have to explore the realities of student/adult partnerships, and this article is designed to do just that. Students need new roles throughout education. Instead of being passive recipients of adult-driven education schemes, students need to be active partners in schools.

30 Student/Adult Partnership Activities

  1. Build student power by teaching them about multiple perspectives regarding issues in education
  2. Engage students as facilitators to train educators about the difference between Students as Recipients and Students as Partners
  3. Teach students about the education system, including what it is, how it operates, who is in it, where it fails and when it succeeds
  4. Develop opportunities for students to share student voice, especially unfettered concerns, about schools and education with adults
  5. Create formal positions for students to occupy throughout education
  6. Engaging students as partners, create curriculum for your classes that teaches them to identify, plan, critique and challenge educational practices and leadership activities
  7. Co-design learning plans with every student
  8. Assign all students a mentor to introduce them to the culture and traditions of the school.
  9. Activate student planning power in year-long school day calendars that affect them and others
  10. Engage students as school designers and curriculum reformers
  11. Encourage nontraditional student leaders to co-teach regular classes with adults
  12. Position students as education budget specialists and partner them with adult decision-makers to make more effective fiscal choices for school systems and individual buildings.
  13. Students teaching classrooms can reach their peers more effectively and give other learners opportunities to see themselves as teachers and become active learners
  14. Partner student teams to teach courses
  15. Acknowledge students teaching other students in with classroom credit
  16. Co-create and facilitate professional development with students to teach teachers about students
  17. Assign students to create meaningful classroom evaluations of themselves, the curriculum, classroom climate and teachers
  18. Partner with students to create building-wide evaluations of classes, curriculum, teaching styles, and school culture
  19. Train students to evaluate teacher performance
  20. Create student-led parent-teacher conferences
  21. Create student-inclusive curriculum committees including critique, review, selection and design
  22. Give students on school boards full-voting positions
  23. Create equal student representation with enough positions for students to be equally represented in every education committee and meeting
  24. Help students create and enforce behavior boundaries, expectations and outcomes for the entire school
  25. Partner with students in school personnel decisions
  26. Work with students to organize public campaigns for school improvement
  27. Create opportunities for students to fully join all existing school committees
  28. Give students data and information so they understand why and how schools are changing
  29. Allow students to educate policy-makers about challenges in schools
  30. Encourage students with formal and informal opportunities to present their concerns

The very best thing about all this? Its all backed up by research and practice from across the United States and around the world! For more than a decade I’ve been finding examples, collecting tools, and sharing best practices and findings from researchers, teachers, and students.

Avoiding Adult-Driven Student Voice

Wrangled into adult-driven student voice, students are often only asked about things that adults are concerned with in schools. Like never before, we can hear students’ opinions about topics like the achievement gap, charter schools, privatization, rural education, violence and safety, and year-around schools. They’re rallying outside state capitals, speaking in school board meetings, and demanding change specifically from students’ perspectives.

However, many of these perspectives are blinded at best.

Many of the very organizations, programs, and agencies that are engaging student voice are oftentimes blindsiding their targets. Without concern for authenticity, ability, or desire, these student voice activities are focused on listening to “students in the raw”, meaning learners who haven’t been taught about what they’re trying to change.

Programs often remove students from their communities or schools, sit them in a room, and drill into them the importance of an issue that adults have determined they need to hear student voice focused on. They teach them the adults’ perspectives, or they teach them nothing at all. After that, they ask students to stand up for that issue, and with or without being conscious of it, students eagerly comply.

Student/Adult Partnership Activities

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Citizenship Education and Meaningful Student Involvement

Tools for Teachers
Tools for Teachers

Citizenship education provides opportunities for students to learn the values, ideals, actions and outcomes of shared social, political, cultural and economic lives.

What It Is

The elements of citizenship education include:

  • Awareness: Students are aware of the rights and responsibilities of shared society.
  • Knowledge: Students are informed about the world around them and learn about what matters to the people around them, too.
  • Conscientious: With opportunities to grow their concern about the welfare of themselves and others, students develop their capacities for caring.
  • Sharing: Students develop their abilities to share their beliefs, knowledge, arguments and ideas.
  • Compelling: By exploring their knowledge and conscientiousness, students expand their capacities to influence and change the world.
  • Active: Students can take deliberate actions to create change, make opportunities and explore different ways of being throughout their communities.
  • Responsible: Knowing and understanding their roles in society, students share their capacities in their families, neighborhoods, communities and world.

What It Does

At the center of citizenship education is student voice, which is any expression of any student about anything related to learning, teaching and leadership. Student voice can drive each of the elements listed above, and should be extensively entwined throughout all citizenship education activities.

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Pupil Consultation and Meaningful Student Involvement

2013EngagethruMSIOver the last 20 years, schools across the United Kingdom and throughout Europe have practiced an increasingly refined practice focused on pupil consultation. Pupil consultation is positioning students as significant contributors to school improvement efforts by listening to student voice.

What It Is

There are many ways to solicit student consultation. Here is one possible process:

  1. Before beginning, spend time with students to ask how much they know about the given topic you’re seeking consultation on. Record that information and use it to frame questions for the next steps.
  2. Using active teaching methods, engage students in a dialogue about the large topic at hand.
  3. Through triads and small groups, encourage students to share their views, thoughts and feelings about the large issue and smaller topics.
  4. Throughout the remainder of the consultation, use large groups, small groups, and mixed age groups to consult students in different configurations.
  5. The facilitator or large group notetaker should collect responses throughout the process(es).
  6. Student responses, which constitute data, should be collated, returned to school for students to review and amend if needed.
  7. Using the original student language, this data should be written as a draft report and submitted to students again for their review, editing and approval.
  8. The final report should be shared with participating students, their peers, teachers and school leaders, or other people involved.
  9. Students should be informed as to the outcomes of their consultation, including if nothing happens because of what was shared.
  10. The report shouldn’t be limited to the immediate setting that supported the data collection. Instead, the report should be posted online, shared with colleagues throughout the field and distributed as wide and far as possible, no matter what the subject.

What It Does

Many people can benefit from consulting students. They include:

  • State and district superintendents
  • Education agency staff
  • State and district school boards
  • Teacher leaders
  • School committees for curriculum, classroom management, school improvement, etc.
  • Classroom teachers

Where You Can begin

Pupil consultation is reflected on the Ladder of Student Involvement by recognizing how the practice can move student/adult relationships towards becoming genuine partnerships.

However, the potential for projects and schools to stagnate on students as consultants is high. That’s why its important for adults to stay aware of their perspectives of students, while students are deliberately taught about thoughtfulness.

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Student Agency and Meaningful Student Involvement

Middle school students in a SoundOut planning workshop in Washington State.
Middle school students in a SoundOut planning workshop in Washington State.

Student agency is the ability of learners to create, change, transform, move and mold the world around them.

Researchers, policymakers and others it the term to describe when students experience power, control and authority in learning, teaching and leadership throughout schools. Student agency is a key outcome of Meaningful Student Involvement, and is a long-term investment in student learning all schools should work to foster.

Throughout this website, there are several references to characteristics, elements, activities and outcomes that some would say reflect student agency. The Cycle of Engagement is a key tool others would say fosters student agency. None of them are wrong; however, none are right, either.

Establishing and Sustaining Student Agency

Student agency is a deeply seeded understanding that drives learner experiences in schools. Five things have to be present in order for students to establish their sense of agency:

  1. Awareness—Students of all ages have the capacity to be aware that they are intentionally learning, deliberately being taught and are part of a larger process that is happening. Student agency requires awareness of that.
  2. Determination—Fostering student ownership of education can bring forward determination and deliberation in learners of all ages.
  3. Strategic ability—Once learners have 1) established a firm sense of place and 2) taken opportunities to understand their engagement style, they should have opportunities to identify their own educational goals. Establishing a sense of strategic ability can emerge from these understandings.
  4. Critical thinking—The assumptions, beliefs and ideals behind much learning lay unchecked in many educational experiences. Those that foster student agency effective make critical thinking central to the learning process.
  5. Re-creation—In order to experience authentic control over their learning, students need continuous opportunities to connect, apply and recreate what they have learner. Creating experiences in the classroom and throughout education where they can do that is essential to sustaining student agency.

Other elements of student agency that are important to remember include mutual respect; positive relationships with peers and adults; whole child awareness; and safe and supportive learning environments.

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Mindfulness and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut students deliberate on important issues in a Seattle high school.
SoundOut students deliberate on important issues in a Seattle high school.

Mindfulness can be a key to Meaningful Student Involvement.  When students learn to be deliberate, take time, and understand multiple perspectives they are using mindfulness. It can be a key because the student/adult partnerships at the core of Meaningful Student Involvement are reliant on mindfulness from both sides of the equation. With so much of the onus for classroom relationships are placed on adults, it becomes vital to teach students about their part of the equation, too. Teaching mindfulness can be one step in that direction.

Ways to Foster Mindfulness

Whether in the classroom, through afterschool programs or anywhere students and adults work together in education, mindfulness can always be invoked and supported. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Reflect: Provide learners with opportunities to reflect on what they already know about the topics they’re about to engage in
  • Connect: Facilitate opportunities for students to connect what they already know with what the goal is for learning right now
  • Apply: Provide plenty of opportunities to test, apply, critique and recreate prior learning in current experiences
  • Question: Teach students to think twice about what they think they know, how they learned it, and what it means
  • Visualize: Encourage learners to visualize different opportunities to apply new knowledge, no matter how they acquired it. Share out loud and open group conversation this way.

Mindfulness can provide a logical, meaningful and substantial gateway into deeper learning, more significant classroom connections and Meaningful Student Involvement.

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Student Motivation

SoundOut students presenting their findings about the perfect school.

Student motivation is a learner’s interest and commitment to anything throughout learning, schools or education.

Long seen as a “warm and fuzzy” part of learning, today motivation is being recognized as an essential and enduring part of success in education. Without student motivation, all learning strategies are moot, all school improvement efforts are nil, and all attempts at student engagement are irrelevant and pointless.

Student motivation is the main way to improve schools.

One of the most challenging parts of student motivation is the reality that its not as simple as either students are motivated or they aren’t. Instead, there are many shades of grey involved. Some learners show motivation by simply showing up for class every day, whether or not they’re prepared to learn. Other students have to be loudly, actively and hands-on involved in learning to show their motivation.

An important note about motivation comes from Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher in Sacramento, California, who suggests student self-motivation is the key to learning. In an excellent article, he summarizes what it takes for students to become self-motivated, and says there are four qualities of student self-motivation: autonomy, competence, relatedness, and relevance.

Student voice and choice does not automatically increase student motivation, either. By addressing barriers deliberately, educators for all levels of students can begin to motivate all learners in positive, powerful and effective ways towards Meaningful Student Involvement.

Many strategies for Meaningful Student Involvement, student voice and student engagement can increase student motivation, too.

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Student Participation

SoundOut students presenting their findings about the perfect school.

Student participation is the act of learners taking part in something in visible, observable and active ways.

Adults can engage students; adults involve students; but adults cannot participate students. Instead, students have to choose to participate for themselves.

As a practice, student participation asks that students show up to class, pay attention to the teacher, studiously take notes, answer questions when asked, and leave when it’s time. However, some practitioners promote student participation as more than that, too.

Instead, they see student participation as the vibrant, brilliant and spectacular interaction of students, between students and adults, and between schools and the larger communities. Many of these same advocates suggest that student participation relies on student voice, leads to Meaningful Student Involvement and ultimately causes student engagement.

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Reasons Why Meaningful Student Involvement Matters

Meaningful Student Involvement takes task with learning that does not position students as partners in learning, teaching and leadership. Here are three more reasons why it matters.

Building Classrooms

More than ever before, there is room within classrooms for students to lead learning. With flipped classrooms, student-led lessons and student-driven parent-teacher conferences becoming more popular, it is increasingly important to contextualize what is happening for both students and adults, including teachers, parents and others.

Students leading learning is not about students getting to do whatever they want, however, whenever and wherever they want. It is not about spoiling children, making incapable citizens or under-producing workers. However, without context a lot of these activities lose their potential effect on both students and educators.

Meaningful Student Involvement positions these activities as central to building student ownership in education, community and democracy. Given that relevance, all of these activities allow students to build classrooms and co-design education so that its sustained throughout their lives. Experienced self-actualized learning in the youngest grades may be best, since students will take the habits formed throughout their learning careers and well into their adult lives, if not all their days.

When students teach, guide and direct their peers and adults while building classroom learning, they can show educators many things. They actively show all of the information they know about a topic. It can build students’ sense of pride, sense of efficacy and feelings of accomplishment when they participate in building classrooms. If a student teaches their parents or siblings it can strengthen their courage and build their self-esteem in healthy ways.

When planned and implemented in age appropriate ways, Meaningful Student Involvement can allow educators to see specifically what students do and do not know, what they fully understand, and where they have learning gaps. Obviously, students’ oral communication and presentations skills can improve, too.

Students can also help build classrooms and other learning environments by participating in what used to be called classroom management, but is increasingly recognized as good facilitation and learning leadership. Engaged as partners in the classroom, students can help build classrooms with everything from keeping the classroom tidy to seating arrangements. Beyond that, students can be engaged in “decision-making… when managing issues pertaining to safety of students and moral issues such as racial and sexual discrimination.” (Lewis & Burman, 2008)

A Story About Student Ownership

At Park Forest Elementary School in State College, Pennsylvania, students experience a great deal of opportunities to build classrooms. Students experience such depth of ownership in building the culture of their school that during a service project for a homeless shelter, they intervened when adults began exercising too much control in the project planning. The students recommended that the group find out exactly what the families at the homeless shelter needed, and then proceeded to survey the shelter. When the group found that the families wanted Easter baskets, the students then focused their efforts on making baskets for the shelter. (Dickinson, 2014) Because of the culture fostered by Meaningful Student Involvement in their school, the students felt such ownership over their experience in the classroom that they called out adults for disrupting that experience.

Transforming Schools

Rather than being the passive recipients of school transformation, students can be meaningfully involved as partners throughout action. All the roles in learning, teaching and leadership can be co-facilitated with students, while all the outcomes can be measured by student/adult partners working together. Meaningful Student Involvement is a key to learning through transformation.

All students in every school should understand and be actively engaged as partners in the transformation, reform, improvement and other change processes going on around them. They are not the ineffectual, incapable objects of change that many educators and school leaders inadvertently treat them as. Instead, every student of all ages is capable of informing, forming, driving and critiquing school transformation efforts of all kinds.

The real question is whether adults want to engage them through Student/Adult Partnerships, which are required for this work, and whether adults are actually capable of that. For more than 100 years of schooling and more than 30 years of the current education reform movement, students have been written about, targeted, studied, analyzed, debated over, challenged and sought after repeatedly as the subjects of school improvement.

This has not been an easy road to cross. The best reformers, including Kozol (1991), Fullan (1991), Kohn (1993) and Goodlad (1984) have all called for student voice. However, the resounding response has been to simply listen to student voice, no matter what it has to say. Spanning as far back as the 1980s to the present, education researchers like Goodlad and others, along with critical pedagogues like McLaren (McLaren, 2003) and Shor (Shor, 1996) began examining the positioning of students in schools, either as passive recipients or practical informants for adult-driven agendas.

In the late 1990s, well-meaning education-oriented nonprofit organizations began seeding youth-led programs focused on students’ opinions about schools. These students learned community organizing techniques and methods, and after more than 15 years of funding from large and small philanthropic foundations across the United States are still leading organizing campaigns across the country.

With the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2001, state education agencies had a mandate to hire school improvement coaches and experts across the nation. Over the next several years, a few of these individuals led the next wave of student voice activities, including myself. Today, these activities are transitioning again from focusing solely on school improvement towards classroom practice, school leadership and beyond. Meaningful Student Involvement shows how all these disparate activities are related, and moves one step beyond.

Meaningful Student Involvement in school transformation positions students as active co-creators who actually learn from improving education. It gives educators and school leaders the onus for creating Student/Adult Partnerships they can benefit from in their jobs, as well as students themselves. Everyone can win through Meaningful Student Involvement in ways that student voice initiatives can never aspire to.

The fragmented nature of a lot of student voice work neglects the interconnected nature of these efforts; Meaningful Student Involvement weaves this diversity together into intricate tapestries that show the future of schools in a clear, un-enigmatic way.

A Story about Understanding Expectations

An example of engaging students as partners in school transformation comes from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, under the leadership of Greg Williamson. Working with more than 100 high schools across the state, Williamson launched Student2Student to empower students with knowledge about many of the school improvement initiatives affecting them every day. Essentially a peer mentoring program, Student2Student trained 12th grade students in a train-the-trainer model focused on what school improvement is, what specifically happens in their schools, and why students should care about it. Then, these 12th grade students trained incoming 8th and 9th grade students at their high schools and feeder middle schools. The new high school students learned about new graduation requirements and much more. School leaders quickly noticed the amount of awareness and enthusiasm among incoming 9th grade students, and supported the program as it spread further. While they were excellent teachers, participants also provided powerful proof to education decision-makers that engaging students in school improvement is key to transforming learning, teaching and leadership.

Creating New Knowledge

The final area covered in this section related to teaching students about schools is creating new knowledge. With the proliferation of education media through the Internet over the last decade, stories of students generating powerful learning and teaching among themselves have gone from interesting anomaly to average occurrence. Flipped classrooms and other approaches to student-generated learning experiences are more common than ever, and a loud minority of educators seem genuinely excited about students creating new knowledge.

Early in his writing, Freire (1970) explained a new concept called “banking education”, in which educators treat students like empty vessels waiting to be filled with the knowledge of the educator and the textbooks they employed in the classroom. Freire railed against this approach, challenging that it was disingenuous, inauthentic and oppressive to students of all stripes. Freire wrote that as an educator, “I am not impartial or objective; not a fixed observer of facts and happenings.” (Freire, 1998) Yet, this is what banking education attempted to treat educators as.

Instead, Freire—and many since him—have posited that education needs to be created and recreated for every student in order to reflect the dynamic nature of humans. Freire believed that education should focus on problem-posing; that is, examining a challenge until you can name a problem, and upon naming it going about addressing it. He believed that as humans who are learning we are changing, and because of we are changing our learning should address the world as changing, too. (Freire, 1970) This is reflected excellently in many educators’ commitment to creating new and exciting ways to foster student learning in their classrooms today.

It is equally important, however, to situate students as change agents in the larger discourse of society. This is about more than voting and media discourse; its about learning as a democratic right and responsibility. Schools should always aspire to such powerful goals.


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