The National Association of State Boards of Education said 33 states currently have more than 400 students serving as members of state school boards or state advisory councils.
Maryland has a student member of the State Board of Education, D.C. has four students on its Student Advisory Committee and Virginia recently enacted legislation to have one.
This year, there’s an effort by NASBE to make certain that students who serve on school boards are not only heard, but that they also get a running start on addressing issues that matter to them.
Celina Pierrottet, a research and policy associate with NASBE, said student input “is incredibly important in education policymaking because they are the primary stakeholder in education.”
Under NASBE’s Student Engagement Collaboration initiative, Pierrottet said, “We have recruited state board mentors to pair with the students so that students have a trusted adult on the state board” to guide them through the processes to address areas of interest.
She said the move to make sure students get assistance stems in part from what she calls “tokenism,” the sense that some boards would invite students to serve, and then “check a box” to say they had student input.
There’s real value in having meaningful student participation on state boards, Pierrottet said.
“They’re usually pretty honest about what should happen, and have a very good sense of how different policies affect them,” she said.