|This image was created in 2002 in Seattle.
We’ve come A LONG way since then!
Over the years I’ve made the case for Meaningful Student Involvement in a lot of different ways. I’ve found hundreds of examples from schools around the world where students are engaged as partners, with astounding results that includes powerful school transformation, engaging disengaged students, and fostering whole community ownership of education.
Following are some of the most powerful examples of Meaningful Student Involvement today. They represent the high bar, meeting the purpose of “engaging students as partners in every facet of school change for the purpose of strengthening their commitment to education, community, and democracy”. I always get excited sharing these examples, if only because they are where this work should go.
State and District Levels
In Oregon, the Portland Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council is comprised of student body presidents and/or their representatives from every middle and high school in the city. Several SuperSAC members have been integral members of the district’s strategic planning core team and other committees. A student representative to the Portland School Board is chosen every year.
The San Francisco Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council is a citywide, student-led program that is committed to providing a voice for the students of the San Francisco Unified School District by representing and presenting the interests of the students to the administrative and policy-making bodies of the San Francisco Unified School District.
In Boston, the district’s Student Advisory Council is a citywide body of student leaders in Boston, Massachusetts, representing their respective high schools as the voice of students to the Boston School Committee. Student participants offer their perspectives on high school renewal efforts and inform their respective schools about relevant citywide school issues. A program administered by the Office of High School Renewal in partnership with our friends at Youth on Board.
The NOVA Project is a small alternative high school in the Seattle Public School District. Created in 1970 by students and teachers, Nova is an alternative school whose mission is to be a democratically governed learning community of broadly educated, diverse, creative and independent thinkers who work collaboratively and demonstrate a high degree of individual and social responsibility.
In the Bay Area, the Alternatives in Action High School is a youth-created public charter high school that engages students as intelligent and committed citizens who want to see change in their world and are assertive about achieving those changes.
Projects, Programs, and Organizations
Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together, or YATST, has been working in schools across Vermont for the last several years to promote meaningful student involvement. Many of the schools in the program could be highlighted here for their powerful examples. With a goal of “Increas[ing] student engagement learning and voice in decision making by creating a partnership between students, faculty and the community to increase relevance, relationships, rigor and shared responsibility in Vermont schools,” YATST is uniquely positioned to have a major role in the national student voice movement in the near future.
Student Voice is using technology and events to grow a support network for student voice. A movement for students, by students, it wants “not to change a culture that ignores student voice, but rather create a culture that embraces it.”
The Philadelphia Student Union has been working for more than a decade to promote a student-inclusive vision for school reform. PSU “exists to build the power of young people to demand a high quality education in the Philadelphia public school system”. Their work is powerful, effective, and deep.
After spending decades working with young people in education, Charlie Kouns founded Imagining Learning to “…work with individuals and communities to co-create a new education system for all children – a new seed if you will – that sees the healthy, internal world of a child as vital to the future of humanity and the planet.” His powerful project takes the visions of youth and shares them across the country.
Hope In Growth
The examples above are just a sample. Collecting work from across the U.S. and around the world, I have seen this movement explode over the last decade as educators, administrators, and students themselves realize the roles, opportunities, and possibilities for integrating students as partners throughout education. Compared with five years ago, the world has come a long way.
There is hope in the growth of this movement, and these examples represent some of it. Stay tuned for more!