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As of 2022, more than 400 students serve as members of state boards of education or state advisory councils in 33 states. Over the last five years, eight states have added at least one student member on their board, a state student advisory council, or a combination of board membership and advisory council, with Virginia’s council being the most recently created.

Although the number of students engaged in state policymaking in this manner has grown nationally, 18 states lack any student representation. More can be done to build on the momentum toward elevating student voice and leadership.

Dana Mitra, a leading student leadership researcher and founder of the International Journal of Student Voice, describes student voice as a pyramid, where agency increases as students approach the top of the pyramid. The base of the pyramid is the need for being heard, followed by collaborating with adults and building capacity for leadership. Methods for engaging youth range from soliciting student opinions through student surveys, opportunities for civic engagement at public meetings, focus groups, leadership roles alongside adults, and shared responsibilities to achieve agreed-upon goals, according to Mitra. However, each method has trade-offs. For example, selecting a few students to occupy leadership roles may limit the perspectives heard by adults. …


[Correction: This piece originally lacked reference to a student advisory council in Michigan.]

Engaging Youth in Education Policymaking

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