MASB Launches Students on Boards Campaign to Emphasize Importance of Student Voice

As part of its current strategic plan goal to have more student-focused individuals running for and serving on boards of education, the Michigan Association of School Boards is aiming to foster understanding of local governance and cultivate the school board members of the future by ensuring that those most impacted are involved—a district’s students.

“Research tell us that when schools find ways to welcome student opinions—to partner with students ‘as stakeholders in their own learning,’ especially at the secondary level—they do more than equip students with tools for lifelong success,” cites Donna Oser, CAE, MASB Director of Leadership Development and Executive Search Services. “They also wind up creating programs and policies that are more effective at meeting the schools’ own goals for supporting young people in their healthy development.” 1

To that end, MASB has created a Students on Boards Toolkit, masb.org/students, that contains materials for districts that already have student representation on their board of education, as well as information for those that do not, but are looking to implement. Preliminary data gathered by MASB shows that the majority of Michigan public school districts do not have student reps. As the campaign proceeds, the organization will continue to survey districts to see how the quantity and quality of student involvement in Michigan school boards changes.

Dexter Community Schools is an example of the positive impact student representation can have on a board and district. DCS has had two student representatives, one junior and one senior, serving on their board since 2003-2004.

“The connection to students while governing the district is refreshing and rewarding,” notes Julie Schumaker, M.A., Ph.D., DCS Board of Education Trustee. “The student reps regularly provide insights that would not exist if only a group of adults sat at the table.”

A 2015 Harvard study suggested that student voice may be as critical to outcomes of school as basic academic skills and the Quaglia Institute for School Voice & Aspirations cited that when students have a voice, they are seven times more likely to be motivated to learn and eight times more likely to experience engagement in learning.2

“MASB sees this initiative as a way to essentially establish a leadership pipeline,” said Don Wotruba, CAE, MASB Executive Director. “By involving students in district governance, not only will they have a voice in decisions that directly affect them now, but they will likely cultivate a desire to continue giving back to their community in the future, either directly or by encouraging others.”

More information can be found at masb.org/students or by contacting MacKenzie Feldpausch, MASB Learning Manager, at [email protected].


1 Shafer, L. Giving Students a Voice. Harvard Graduate School of Education Usable Knowledge, Aug. 18, 2016. Accessed from gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/08/giving-students-voice, Oct. 2, 2018.

2 McGrath, M. The Importance of Student Voice. Wisconsin School News, September 2018. Access from wasb.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/student_voice_sept_2018.pdf, Oct. 2, 2018.