The Jefferson County Open School is a public preK-12 school in Edgewood, Colorado, that embodies Meaningful Student Involvement.
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All students focus on personal identity, social interaction and intellectual inquiry. This holistic curriculum is reflected in the twenty-four graduation expectations and the incorporation of personal goals in an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) which is carried out in mutually agreeable programs worked out between each student and advisor.
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At this school, students of all ages interact and learn from each other. Self-direction is a fundamental principle, and every student is engaged in and in charge of their own learning. The Open School provides a dynamic environment that fosters the development of the unique potential in each individual by nurturing and challenging the whole person. There is an emphasis on self-direction, learning through experience, shared responsibility, and the development of life long-skills. Students experience a lot of out-of-school learning opportunities, with overnight camping trips for elementary students and trips for older students to travel the world.
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Students 4 Justice was is the youth-led youth organizing arm of Denver-based Colorado Progressive Coalition. They worked in three of Denver’s public high schools, fighting for greater public school accountability and student voice.
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Here are different facts about roles for students on school boards in Colorado.
- There are 7 voting members of the Colorado State Board of Education. There are no student members or student representation.
- In 1972, the Colorado state department of education reported that they encouraged local school boards to consider roles for students on school boards.
- Today in Colorado, students cannot legally join district school boards or vote on them.
The Denver Student Board of Education is a group of 30 students who represent the fifteen high schools in the city.
The Denver, Colorado School District hosts a group of 30 students who represent the 15 high schools in district called the Denver Student Board of Education. They are charged to serve as leaders in their schools and represent all students at the district level. Students create projects that affect their local schools and report back on them to the district. They have also created a curriculum that is used in several high school leadership classes.
These students have to ask permission to speak to their regular board, and that does not happen frequently. According to a recent local newspaper article, the district has trepidations about giving students a regular voice in school policy-making. A school district attorney was quoted saying, “The law does not provide for a means by which to create a student position on the board, whether it’s a voting position or not.”
When they researched hundreds of their peers and suggested powerful transformation, students moved from sharing student voice towards Meaningful Student Involvement.
Students with a nonprofit program called Jovenes Unidos in Denver, Colorado, explored why many of their peers didn’t graduate. Their goal was,
“…to change statistics, and to make [our]… school of excellence where all students learn, graduate, and have the opportunity to go on to college.”
Their report outlines findings from more than 700 student surveys, national education research findings, and a proposal for school transformation. (Jovenes Unidos, 2004)
Since then, Jovenes Unidos have gone on to continue researching student perspectives, gathering middle and high school students who want to improve schools, and building powerful coalitions for education transformation across Denver Public Schools. Their most recent publication is the Colorado School Discipline Report Card, and its findings are causing serious conversations throughout the state.