An assumption of Meaningful Student Involvement is that schools have the ability to be meaningful. However, how meaningful can a school be? The following is a brief examination of the best practices educators and students can create, sustain, and expand on in order to herald fully meaningful schools.

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Trait 1: Foster Meaningful Involvement for ALL Learners.

  • This means no more student councils.
  • All students in all grades in all schools need to experience meaningful involvement.
  • Meaningful involvement is a practical, tangible component of every students’ daily educational experience.
  • There are no tokenistic gestures of representation.
  • The passive activity of voting no longer passes for involvement.
  • All students experience concrete activities, including dialogue, peer-driven conflict resolution and interactive learning.
  • A democratic culture and education serves as the decision-making apparatus once facilitated by student councils.
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Trait 2: No More Tokenism.

  • There should be no single seats for high school students on building-, district-, or state-level committees.
  • All school committees at all levels should be operated in a way that deliberately engages all students as equal partners.
  • All education meetings use techniques that are engaging.
  • All education decision-making includes equitable positions for students on those committees, including numbers and representative power.
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Trait 3: Student/Adult Courts Rule.

  • Educators learn to use school rules as interactive educative tools.
  • Schools engage students and adults collectively in determining appropriate outcomes for infractions.
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Trait 4: Student-Driven Learning.

  • Self-guided educational practices are already the norm in some “alternative” schools; let’s make this practice normative throughout all levels of schools.
  • There is a possibility in the relationships between all students and teachers to actually have all K-12 students design their own individual academic programs.
  • Utilize learning experiences as educational and democratic processes.
  • Rather than seeing this as a situation where adults are “handing over the keys to the car” to a 16-year-old, let’s use student-driven learning in a constructivist fashion from kindergarten forward.
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Trait 5: Constructivist Democratic Learning.

  • Engaging students takes a deliberate process that should begin in their youngest years and extend through high school.
  • It should build on students’ previous knowledge and be imbued by their cultural norms.
  • In kindergarten learners can facilitate peer-to-peer conflict resolution, personal decision-making and democratic group learning experiences.
  • By grade four, five and six, students can conduct original research on their schools, complete regular self- and teacher-evaluations, and participate in building-wide decision-making activities.
  • By high school young people should have established clear and equitable relationships with adults throughout schools in order to participate in full student/adult partnerships.
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Trait 6: Reciprocal Accountability.

  • The era of adults measuring student achievement without some form of mutual measurement is over.
  • When ratemyteachers dot come started mocking the power of students in  2007, teachers across the nation flipped out, finding their names and classrooms rated by anonymous users calling themselves students.
  • Educators still haven’t identified a way en masse to use tools like this as teaching opportunities, but there has been some headway.
  • While assessments of student behavior have often been focused on negative perspectives, schools are finding ways to acknowledge positive student behavior and learning through student-led conferencing.
  • Educators must continue to move forward with students as partners.
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Trait 7: Full-Court Press.

  • All student voice – positive, negative and otherwise – must be allowed space and opportunity within schools
  • All student voice can be used towards teaching and learning. By embracing diverse and divergent student voice, educators can embrace the potential of learning led by students and learn new ways to relate to, teach, and encourage themselves and everyone in our communities.
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Trait 8: Equity and Equality.

  • A common assumption among educators is that all student involvement should be actualized as complete equality.
  • Equity is often the just, fair and righteous route to take.
  • Equity is about fairness in schools, equality of access in learning, recognizing inequalities throughout education and taking steps to address them.
  • It is about changing school culture and structure to ensure equally accessible to all students.
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Trait 9: Make Meaning from Living.

  • Curriculum should be based in every students’ experiences of living their daily lives.
  • Curriculum can also preparing students for tomorrow so that schools meet the purpose of enriching the present as well as enlightening the future.
  • This validates the ideas, experiences, wisdom and knowledge young people have.
  • Schools should ultimately positioning their voices as central throughout learning
  • This reinforces the depth and meaning of democracy, which will secure learning for life, and a commitment to democracy that is unparalleled.
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Trait 10: Public Or Nothing At All.

  • Democracy is inherently about inclusion.
  • Private schools and charter schools can be blatantly antithetical to the democratic levers of public control over public schools, as they generally operate with privately elected boards of directors or fully autonomous presidents.
  • Admittedly, public schools generally behave as if they’re out of the purview of the masses; however, forceful, peaceful and powerful advocacy by students and parents will ultimately lead to stronger controls.
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Whole School Meaningful Student Involvement is possible today, and there are a growing number of examples across the United States and around the world. Learn more across our website.

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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 http://soundout.org/Adam