The only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.

More States Formally Incorporate Student Voice in Education Policymaking

More than 400 students now serve as members of state boards of education or state advisory councils in 33 states.

Alexandria, VA – According to a new analysis from NASBE, more than 400 students now serve as members of state boards of education or state advisory councils in 33 states, up from 25 only five years ago. The analysis highlights ways states are elevating student voice and leadership in education policymaking and how state leaders can build on this momentum.

According to the NASBE analysis, 10 state boards sponsor student advisory councils. The Illinois and District of Columbia Student Advisory Councils identify a focus area each year and present recommendations to the state board. Maine’s student board member reports to the board on student cabinet and advisory council meetings.

In 24 states, the state board reserves a seat on the board for students. In seven of these states, students are voting members, with the latest change coming from Washington State, whose students advocated for legislation giving them a board vote earlier this year. Student members on the DC State Board of Education partner with their adult peers on key initiatives and are voting members on board committees, where much of the policy development occurs.

Student surveys or focus groups are a common means for engaging students in policymaking. At least eight states use school climate or student engagement surveys as part of their reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act’s nonacademic measure of school quality. Seven states require student surveys to factor into teachers’ summative evaluations.

In a few states, students lead initiatives and make decisions under state leaders’ guidance. Connecticut launched Voice4Change, a program in which high school students proposed and voted on plans to invest more than $1.5 million in federal relief funds. Students on the Guam Education Board proposed a curriculum for student mental health training in schools.

While carving out a space for student perspectives is important, states should also diversify representation in student leadership positions and elevate different student groups and underrepresented voices, Pierrottet writes. The Utah State Board of Education, for example, codified diversity as a criterion for its student advisory council, and the DC state board requires student representation from Wards 7 and 8, whose residents are historically underrepresented in DC leadership.

To build peer-to-peer connections and leadership skills of student members on state boards and build state leaders’ capacity to engage youth more effectively and inclusively, NASBE recently launched its Student Engagement Collaborative. “Youth engagement is key to effective policymaking,” writes NASBE’s Celina Pierrottet, who leads the collaborative. “State education leaders seeking to elevate student voices can ensure students are continually a part of decision making.”

Read and share Engaging Youth in Education Policymaking.

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

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at

This publication is supported by cooperative agreement CDC-RFA-PS18-1807, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views or endorsement of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.


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