Truancy and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

For more than 100 years, schools have wrestled with truancy. Anytime students are intentionally late for class, late for school, or skipping class, they are deemed truant by schools. There are a lot of rules and regulations in schools governing truancy. Most schools and school districts use punishments to enforce those rules and regulations. Meaningful Student Involvement can play an important role in overcoming the challenges truancy presents in learning, teaching and leadership in K-12 schools.

Opportunities for Meaningful Student Involvement

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Students can become partners in addressing truancy in a lot of ways. With adults as allies, they can learn a great deal about why truancy happens, what it does and means, how it affects them and their schools, and why it matters so much. In schools and district offices across the nation, students and adults are working together to transform truancy through research, evaluation, planning and decision-making.

  • BOSTON: Working with district administration and their superintendent, the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) investigated why students do not stay in school and became disengaged. BSAC created a survey, interviewed students, collected data and presented their findings to the School Committee. BSAC has combined their solutions with those of the dropout rate research and created a document that is still alive.

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Jefferson County Open School

The Jefferson County Open School is a public preK-12 school in Edgewood, Colorado, that embodies Meaningful Student Involvement.


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.


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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Park Forest Elementary School

Elementary students are often lost in the fray when it comes to substantive student voice. Not so at Park Forest Elementary School in State College, Pennsylvania.

Through her school’s work focused on Meaningful Student Involvement, a school leader in Pennsylvania has successfully engaged students as policy-makers who are molding school culture and driving positive Student/Adult Partnerships every day. Donnan Stoicovy, the lead learner at Park Forest Elementary School, created a student-led constitution process at her school in 2012.

That year, students from kindergarten through fifth grade attended eight all-school town hall meetings focused on their ideal schools. Working with adults who had a variety of jobs, over the following six months a schoolwide constitution was created.

Adults and students received training, were guided through the process and worked together to build the democratic environment of their school. (McGarry & Stoicovy, 2014)

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Meaningful Student Involvement in Grades K-5

Adam Fletcher works with student leaders who are improving their schools in Arizona.

Meaningful Student Involvement in elementary schools is experiential, tangible, and focused. Action is generally based in the classroom, where students work in small groups and gradually build their skills. (Thiessen, 2007) Meaningful Student Involvement requires specific skill building that can lead to important learning connections for young people. Following are generalized examples of activities where students have been meaningfully involved in elementary schools, and what they have learned.

Elementary School Students

Engaging students as partners in the elementary level can begin in kindergarten, gradually increasing in scope, purpose, intent, and outcomes throughout the fifth and sixth grades. Introducing students to education planning by installing them as members on school improvement committee is an excellent activity. Students can learn cooperative leadership and project planning skills. School improvement can introduce them to the depth of issues in education, and contribute to developing their communications, reading, and writing skills.

Through meaningful involvement in teaching, elementary students learn to co-design, deliver, and evaluate lesson plans. Their knowledge of learning styles, teaching skills, and evaluation methods can increase. Skills in writing, communication, and the specific subject area they are teaching can increase too.

There are several ways elementary students can participate in classroom evaluation. Student evaluation of themselves and their teachers teaches self-awareness and critical thinking skills, and reinforces their communication skills. Meaningful Student Involvement in evaluation through student-led parent teacher conferences is an increasingly popular way to engage students as partners in education. They learn to present their own learning through small group facilitation. This increases their communications skills, including writing, speaking, and reading.

In elementary school, engaging students as partners in decision-making can take the form of student-led classroom governance. This happens as students learning about creating consensus, teambuilding, and applied citizenship. They learn relational skills and communication through application, and understand how they are part of something larger than themselves. When these students are meaningfully involved in education advocacy, such as supporting the school library, they can learn active listening, problem solving, and communication skills.



Students in elementary schools can also experience Meaningful Student Involvement through school organizing. For instance, a student-led signature-collecting campaigns promoting their interests can help elementary students learn about creating petitions, as well as understanding the school system and democratic process. Their writing and relational skills increase while they have an applied experience in social studies.


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