Did you know students could lend their voice as implementation of a historic piece of education legislation is being crafted?

Congress enacted a new federal education law in December 2015, which was momentous not only because it entirely replaced the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act, but because for the first time it requires middle and high school students to help make their schools more successful. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will be fully implemented during the 2017–18 school year, so the next nine months are a great time for advisers to work with their student council and NHS or NJHS chapter on a plan to make sure their voice is heard.

The greatest opportunity for student input is related to the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants under Title IV of ESSA. This is a new $1.65 billion block grant intended to provide school districts flexibility in how they use federal funds to ensure students have access to a well-rounded education, improve school conditions for learning, and support the effective use of technology.

In order to receive funding under this section, districts must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of their schools and develop an application “through consultation” with students and other education stakeholders, including principals, teachers, and community-based organizations. Districts receiving more than $10,000 would have to ensure that funding is spread throughout the three buckets, but the funds could be used for college and career guidance and counseling programs, school-based mental health services, bullying prevention activities, and professional development for school leaders and teachers to personalize student learning through the use of technology, in addition to many other options.

Secondary school students must also be involved in the development of their school’s comprehensive improvement plan if it has a high percentage of low-income students and receives Title I funds. Again, the plans must be based on a comprehensive needs assessment of the entire school and include a description of how the school will help all students meet challenging academic standards. High schools that operate dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment programs, which allow students to graduate with a high school diploma and some college credit or other postsecondary credentials, have the flexibility to use these funds for teacher training, tuition, transportation, and instructional materials.

Engaging student leaders in advocacy is a top priority for the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)—which administers NHS, NJHS, and NASC—so we’ll be developing resources for advisers of NASC student councils and Honor Society chapters to help you collaborate with your principals and other school leaders.

On September 28 at 3:00 p.m. (ET), NASSP will host a webinar with more in-depth information about these provisions in ESSA and tips on how to make sure students are included in the implementation process. Visit www.nassp.org/webinars to register. This is a great opportunity for student leaders to make their voices heard! —

Amanda Karhuse is the director of advocacy at NASSP. Follow her on Twitter @akarhuse.