STUDENTS AS DECISION-MAKERS Starting in the kindergarten classroom and extending throughout the rest of their educational experiences, students can - and should - be actively involved in decision-making.


Meaningful Student Involvement Def: Engaging students as partners in educational planning, research, teaching, evaluating, decision-making, advocacy, and more.

POSSIBILITIES for Students as School Decision-Makers

  • Students choosing and designing curriculum

  • Students participating in new building design

  • Students as members of local and state school boards

  • Students writing grants

  • Students creating and enforcing discipline policies

  • Students participating in personnel hiring and firing

EXAMPLES of Students as Decision-Makers


Old School Practice/New School Thinking In Anne Arundel County, Maryland students here have participated as voting members of the district board of education for more than 25 years.  The student member is a high school senior who votes on all issues, including all areas of the school budget, discipline, and fiscal issues.  In addition, every advisory, curriculum, and study committee, along with special task forces in the district includes students, working on everything from grading policies to alternative learning.


Developing Democracy Federal Hocking High School, located in rural Stuart, Ohio, gives students an equal place at the table when faculty hiring decisions are made, when curriculum is chosen, and when class offerings are determined.  Former principal George Wood said, “Students often find themselves preached to about values instead of practicing them.  That’s why our efforts have been to focus on practice rather than exhortation.  Everything we do, including classroom teaching practices, school governance, students’ experience both inside and out of school, assessment, even the organization of the school day, is done with an eye toward developing democratic community."


Positive Possibilities for Practice A recent report from the Kentucky Department of Education about student involvement was a national survey of student involvement in state-level decision-making. The young person who conducted the research found that only 20 states nationwide engage students in their boards of education in some way.  He also found that only five states give students voting rights on the state Board of Education, and just seven states include more than two student advisors. The rest of these positions are non-voting, and most of the positions across the nation are appointed by adults without student involvement.


Northern Exposure A Canadian researcher conducted a country-wide survey of school, school district and departmental education systems and found that there is a growing interest in student involvement in education decision-making on all levels, especially among district administrators and classroom teachers.


Students Want to be Involved A study in Tennessee found that the majority of students want to be involved in more than 14 areas of school decision-making, including selecting textbooks and instructional materials, selecting a new principal when there is a vacancy, consulting with the principal when other vacancies are filled, deciding what is to be taught, deciding which teaching methods will be used, deciding how time will be used during the day, and determining how available funds are to be spent.


LINKS TO LOCAL EXAMPLES of Students as Decision-Makers


Indiana Students on School Board


California Law Mandates Student Representation


Rockville, MD: 25 Years of Students on Board


Vermont School Boards with Students


Washington State Student Representative


D.C. Student Representative Bio



RESOURCES for Students as Decision-Makers


Guide to Students on School Boards


Student Voice in School Building Leadership


Who Makes Decisions in Schools Tracks the flow of decision-making from individual students to the President of the United States.


Overcoming Barriers to Student Voice
















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