Any formal rules, regulations, provisions and control in education happens through school governance. The many levels of governance can be confusing for adults and students similarly.

However, it is important to consider the depth of governance and the potential for Meaningful Student Involvement throughout. (Flutter & Rudduck, 2006; Fielding, 2001)


Student Voice in the Structure of Schools for


What It Is

Student/Adult Partnerships can and should happen at every level of governance, starting from the layer of student-led governments. At that level, students should have substantial opportunities to direct significant activities and partner with adults on larger decision-making. Building level governance can include a variety of policies affecting students, parents and the neighboring communities. District governance, including grant administration and assessment, can also focus on student support, curriculum, personnel and building design. The district governance is administered by professional staff, but led by publicly elected school board members who determine policies, enact legislation and enforce compliance of district programs.

On the state and provincial levels, school governance happens through a government agency that determines how districts and local buildings comply with federal and state/provincial rules. Those rules are made by a school board, a state school leader or provincial minister of education, and by the state legislature or provincial parliament. The federal government also makes rules, enforces compliance and manages funds sent to states and districts. They are the most authoritative governing force in schools, regulating the basics of how schools should operate and educate.

Each of these levels of governance should engage students as partners who constantly assess, improve, maintain, and regulate the institutions within schools. Meaningful Student Involvement moves students from simply informing school policy with student voice. Instead, it infuses active Student/Adult Partnerships with the power and purpose they need to affect learning, teaching and leadership for all students in every school, everywhere, all of the time.

What It Can Do

Across the United States today there are two states, California and Maryland, that currently engage students as full members on state school boards. There are 18 states that do not allow students to actually serve on district or state school boards in any form. The remaining states vary in the amount of authority and impact they allow students to have. Some of these districts wrestle with some key questions, including:

  • What are the rights of student school board members?
  • Which decisions should students be allowed to participate in and which should they be excluded from?
  • How can school boards secure effective student board members?
  • Who from local schools is best positioned to be a student board member?
  • Why should student board members reflect anyone other than high-performing, high-achieving students?
  • When other members are elected for two- or four-year terms, why should students serve any different terms?

For districts and states that are interested in expanding board membership to include students, consideration must be given to the issues of different legal considerations, practical implementation, resources needed, and other areas. (Fletcher, 2014)


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Published by Adam Fletcher

Adam is the founding director of SoundOut. An author, speaker and consultant, he has worked with K-12 schools, districts, nonprofits and others for more than 15 years. Learn more about him at

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