RELEASE: New Report Looks at How Policymakers Can Boost Student Engagement by Elevating Their Voices

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report describing various strategies for elevating student voice in education. Student voice, defined by the authors as authentic student input or leadership in instruction, school structures, or education policies, can promote stronger educational engagement and performance as well as meaningful change in education systems, practice, and policy. The report includes examples and analysis for eight strategies used to incorporate student voice in education, including: student surveys, student perspective on governing bodies, student governments or councils, student journalism, student-led conferences, democratic classroom practices, youth participatory action research, and personalized learning.

Schools are preparing to welcome students back to school at a time of great unrest on domestic issues. This report outlines recommendations that they, along with district and state policymakers, should consider to bolster student voice and develop the next generation of leaders. Recommendations include:

  • School-level recommendations: Empower students to drive their learning and foster a positive school climate; create student newspapers and empower student journalists; provide student governments with meaningful authority; offer professional development to help teachers and administrators shift mindsets and build skills to effectively implement student voice strategies; restructure school schedules to build in time for students and teachers to share perspectives and discuss school policies; and administer student surveys in a strategic manner to increase participation rates, utilize the results to inform strategy and operations, and create informal information-gathering tools and polls to inform classroom decisions
  • District-level recommendations: Support state-required surveys and develop district-level student surveys to gather information about instruction and school climate; include students on governing bodies and create student advisory committees to engage more student perspectives in important decisions; create specific initiatives to engage student groups that are historically marginalized; encourage schools to build time for student-educator collaboration and enable personalized learning; and offer student-led conferences and provide training to teachers on how to conduct them.
  • State-level recommendations: Include a voting student member on the state school board; create student advisory committees for state policymakers; require statewide surveys to collect information on students’ attitude toward school and their community and make the results public; and encourage student-centered learning.

“Providing students with opportunities to grow as leaders in the classroom and on campus is not just an effective strategy for boosting their academic engagement, but it also prepares them for success in the workforce,” said Meg Benner, senior consultant for K-12 Education Policy at CAP.

“This report is a how-to guide for making schools more engaging for students,” said Catherine Brown, senior fellow at CAP.

“Elevating the voices of students in marginalized communities is especially important to ensure that instruction and schools are welcoming to students of all backgrounds and needs,” said Ashley Jeffrey, policy analyst for K-12 Education Policy at CAP.

Please click here to read “Elevating Student Voice in Education” by Meg Benner, Ashley Jeffrey, and Catherine Brown.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202.741.6292.