How can we fit RSVP into the school day?

The RSVP summits can be completed within six weeks and require as little as 2.5 hours of school time over that entire period. RSVP is designed to be flexible enough to fit any school schedule. Some schools have used social studies/civics periods, advisory or homeroom periods, assembly time or other models. The first and second summit require the most amount of focused time (approximately 35-45 minutes) but summits 3 and 4 can be accomplished in approximately 30 minutes. If your school absolutely cannot offer assembly or other time that is best suited to achieving results with this educational program you may wish to look at other summit models. These are recommended only as a "last resort."

How does RSVP work?

  • Student council members, with the support of their principals and advisers, are trained on the RSVP process. They organize and facilitate student summits.
  • Students identify their key issues and concerns through a series of four summits. The student council shares the results of the summits with the school administration to seek permission to pursue a course of action.
  • Student council leaders invite other student body members interested in addressing the issues to serve on the RSVP Leadership Team, which can serve as a committee of council.
  • The RSVP Leadership Team works together to create civic action plans and sponsor one or more projects designed to solve the problem identified from the summits.

Why participate in student council summits?

The United States is experiencing high levels of apathy, distrust, and disengagement among young people. RSVP attempts to reverse this trend. Schools offer a unique opportunity to reach a large number of young people at a time in their lives when they are developing their core views about public life and civic engagement. This project gives students a chance to talk to each other about things that matter to them and to come up with new approaches to school and community change. National Student Council hopes that RSVP student summits will begin a process that leads to real engagement and involvement. RSVP is about students working together with adults to change your school and community. It's also an opportunity to practice the skills needed to participate every day as active citizens. By leading RSVP in your school you'll be joining thousands of students nationwide to promote student voice.

How can I order RSVP implementation guides

RSVP implementation guides can be ordered from the online  National Student Council Store. Guides can also be ordered by calling the NASSP Sales office at 1-866-647-7253 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday.

What is the principal's role in RSVP?

Involvement and support of the school principal is crucial to RSVP's success in your school. This does not mean that she or he is leading or directing the project—this is truly intended to be a student-led effort. It means the principal can help influence and guide the process in a way that is consistent with the goals of the project and mission of the school. A key role of the principal is to get buy-in from the faculty for the project. This is especially important because it will be necessary to spend class time on the RSVP process. However, the overriding concern of developing active citizens who take part in civic affairs can justify the class time spent. RSVP can meet other curricular objectives as well. Principals will not control the exact outcomes of the civic action plan, but they can be an important resource for students organizing for school and community change. This is why it's important for the principal to schedule regular check-ins with the RSVP Leadership Team to hear about how the process is working and to learn about any potential issues he or she may want to take action on prior to the presentation of the civic action plan. It's likely that an issue may arise early in the summit process, sparking more immediate action by the principal. By responding to or taking action on an issue early in the process, principals can demonstrate to students their willingness to listen and engage as partners in school improvement. Another key role for principals is to sustain the support of local policy makers and community leaders. This includes frequent contact with the superintendent and school board to include them in the process. Presentations by participating students could be made to the school board. The school's PTA/PTO, and parents at large, should be kept closely informed as well. Parents should be brought into the process very early on, as their involvement can assist in the implementation of long-term recommendations. Principals can also recruit local government officials and other community leaders, inviting them to visit with and serve as consultants to the students leading the project. RSVP cannot succeed in your school without support and encouragement from the principal.

What is the RSVP adviser's role?

The role of the student council adviser is vitally important and multi-faceted. The student council adviser (or another designated faculty member) oversees all of RSVP's processes and products and serves as the primary point of contact in the school. Since the project is student-focused and driven, it is also important that this individual be prepared to guide the work, not direct it. She or he is wonderfully positioned to ensure that the process gives students both the confidence and skills to develop effective decision-making. The RSVP adviser is also in the best position to keep the rest of the faculty informed about the project, to arrange the necessary space and time for student summits, and also to request and arrange any release time required by other faculty members involved in the project. The student council adviser may want to consider finding another faculty member to work with the student leadership team and oversee the RSVP process. The time commitment required for RSVP may be too great considering other projects the council may already be undertaking. The RSVP process represents an excellent opportunity for already busy student council advisers to engage other faculty members in the work of the student council—perhaps a government or social studies teacher would be interested in RSVP as a practicum for civic education and be willing to serve as the RSVP adviser. The student council or RSVP advisers' responsibilities include:

  • Attending state or regional trainings and helping familiarize the school community with the resources, training, and information received there
  • Working with the RSVP Leadership Team to launch the program and introduce it to the school and community
  • Guiding the work of the school's RSVP Leadership Team
  • Assisting students on the RSVP Leadership Team with the student facilitator training
  • Making sure regular progress updates are submitted to the national NatStuCo staff
  • Organizing—with the RSVP Leadership Team—the presentation of the civic action plan and any end-of-year celebration conducted in the school.

The student council or RSVP adviser is also the individual who sets the tone for youth-adult partnerships at the heart of this initiative. As the primary contact for students and school staff, she or he is in an ideal position to encourage supportive and nurturing relationships between all project participants. The adviser will be the person most able to ensure the contributions of all students, not just a subset of student council or some other segment of the student body. To provide additional coaching, we recommend that the adviser recruit at least one other adult to serve on the RSVP Leadership Team.

Who administers the RSVP program?

RSVP is administered by NASSP (est. 1916) and National Student Council (est. 1931). NASSP and NatStuCo support the program because the nation's principals understand that RSVP can have a profound impact on student engagement and the culture of the school.

How many students should be involved in RSVP?

Every student in your school should be involved in the summits.

How does RSVP support learning?

RSVP supports many areas of student learning including the specific academic areas of civics and/or social studies as well as supporting critical student activities and student leadership programs (e.g., student council and other student leadership organizations). In addition, RSVP can support other learning efforts within your school such as the service learning curriculum, presentation skills, project organization and development skills and others. RSVP has its foundations in research and recommended practices for civic engagement of students.

Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform cites a study completed by the Education Alliance at Brown University that identified six developmental needs students have. The study by Clarke and Frazer suggests that (1) students need to express their personal perspective, (2) they need to create individual and group identities, (3) they need to examine options and choose a path, (4) they need to take risks and assess effects, and (5) they need to demonstrate mastery. (Clarke and Frazer, 2003; Breaking Ranks II, p. 70)

The Civic Mission of Schools, a joint project of the Center for Information and Research on Civic learning and Engagement and Carnegie Corporation of New York, identifies general principles that should guide civic education, including:

  • A deliberate, intentional focus on civic outcomes such as students' propensity to vote, to work on local problems, to join voluntary associations, and to follow the news.
  • Explicit advocacy of civic and political engagement. In the process of teaching civic education, educators should encourage their students to participate personally in politics and civil society, including at the local level, although without advocating a particular position or party.
  • Active learning opportunities that offer students the chance to engage in discussions of issues and take part in activities that can help put a "real life" perspective on what is learned in class. These activities can range from collaborative or independent research projects and presentations to … service-learning projects, and participation in the student government.

Among other qualities, The Civic Mission of Schools states that the most effective programs occur in schools that:

  • Consciously promote civic engagement by all students, with special attention to those who might otherwise be disengaged
  • Give students opportunities to contribute opinions about the governance of the school—not just through student governments, but in forums that engage the entire student body or in smaller groups addressing significant problems in the school.

The National Council on Social Studies has set forth guiding principals for student councils that reflect the responsibility of student council to take the lead in student voice. 

  • All students should be participants in the governance of their school community.
  • Students participating in student government should be advocates for the ideals and interests of students first and foremost.
  • Students participating in student government should work for the common good of the school community.
  • Students participating in student government should serve as members of substantive decision-making bodies at the school and at other levels of the school community where students' interests are at stake.
  • Students participating in student government should have regularly scheduled opportunities to communicate with and seek input from their fellow classmates.
  • School administrators should work with and support student government.