How ESSA Supports Teacher Health and Wellness

October 18, 2016

Positive working environments are important for teacher retention and teacher productivity. And there is a direct link between the well-being of teachers and the educational outcomes of their students.

According to a Gallup poll, teaching is one of the most stressful careers—tied with nursing. High levels of stress are linked to reduced teaching performance and lower student achievement. The new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), allows states and districts to use Title II funds to assess and improve teacher working conditions.

According to a recent report from Pennsylvania State University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “elementary school teachers who have greater stress and show more symptoms of depression create classroom environments that are less conducive to learning, which leads to poor academic performance among students.” Effects of teacher stress range from lower scores on math tests to more behavior problems and lower levels of social adjustment and student engagement.

High stress and poor working environments lead many teachers out of the profession. Turnover is most likely to occur in poorly performing schools, and this leads to a long-term destabilization of low-income neighborhood schools. This cycle deepens existing inequities in the school system.

The report outlined several proven interventions and programs to reduce teacher stress and ensure that school environments are healthier for both teachers and students. These include such programs as mentoring, staff wellness and mindfulness programs.

Per ESSA, Title II funds can now be used to fund those programs. ESSA also allows states and districts to use Title II funds to conduct and publicly report on an assessment of educator support and working conditions. This assessment would be developed through engagement with teachers, leaders, parents, students and the community.

Healthy Schools Campaign has partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to develop a framework for ESSA implementation. The framework, which will be completed soon, will offer guidance for integrating health and wellness into states’ ESSA implementation strategies. The framework will offer recommendations that incorporate student health and school wellness into the state’s accountability system, needs assessments, evidenced-based practices and professional development.

Kaiser Permanente is hosting a series of three webinars about school employee health and wellness. The webinars will feature best practices and practical ideas from national experts and local school districts on how schools can prioritize school staff health and wellness.