A national nonprofit organization hosts a nationwide program for students to determine how teaching and learning works better, modeling Meaningful Student Involvement.
With major support from a national foundation, a nonprofit organization called What Kids Can Do funded organizations to engage students as researchers in their schools. The project was active in 2003-04 and again from 2011-12. Funding projects in Chicago, Houston, Oakland, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, the Students as Allies in School Reform project sought to answer these questions:
- What if teachers and students became steady allies rather than frequent adversaries in their daily classroom encounters?
- What would it take for students to become stakeholders not just in their own success but also in that of their teachers and schools?
Students led the studies at their schools, surveying students and teachers and presenting their findings to a variety of audiences. What Kids Can Do provided the survey and supporting materials, and students created recommendations based on their findings.
An eighth-grader student was a member of the high school building design committee for a small school district in rural Texas. The committee, which reported to the school board, was creating plans for a new high school building.
One of the main issues the student raised was the monotony of the current school’s environment. “Why does the library have to have plain tables and chairs? They are so boring. Why cannot we have sofas or armchairs? And why do all the tables in the cafeteria have to seat ten people? Can there be tables for four?”
The student said the experience helped them “understand how the school board and planning committee works.” It also changed the students’ self-perception and made them want to be more involved in what was going on in the school. (Borden, 2004)
A growing number of schools are providing “regular” students with the opportunity to be involved in individualized education planning after recognizing the effectiveness of the approach. In these situations, student-designed learning practices require flexible goals students can take ownership in.