Health and Education Leaders Meet to Identify Health Measures for School Report Cards

August 26, 2014

Integrating health and wellness metrics into education

Over the next four months the National Collaborative on Education and Health , in partnership with the Data Quality Campaign, will be bringing together education and health leaders from across the country to discuss the use of health and wellness metrics by the education sector. This Metrics Working Group, which includes over 20 representatives from federal, state and local agencies and organizations, will work together to develop health and wellness measures that can be used in school report cards and public reporting tools to help states, school districts, schools, the public and policymakers prioritize health within schools and better understand and support student health needs.

For the past several years, discussions in the health and education sectors have focused a great deal on metrics. Report cards, grades and tests have long been part of the student experience — but within the past decade, these gauges have also been used to evaluate schools and school districts. Under No Child Left Behind, in order to receive key funding for schools, states must prepare and publish annual report cards for each school that detail performance, promote transparency and accountability and empower both parents and educators to hold schools to higher standards.

The vast majority of these report cards focus on academic indicators without measuring other social determinants that we know influence learning, including student health and schools’ ability to promote health among students. If school report cards and other public reporting systems recognized the full experience of a student — including health conditions that might impede learning — educators could develop a more comprehensive understanding of student performance, and could deploy resources to schools and students at greatest risk.

This was the driving force behind the Metrics Working Group of the National Collaborative on Education and Health. By the end of the year, this working group will develop a set of principles for health and wellness metrics in public reporting systems used by the education sector and will identify strategies for addressing barriers to integrating health and wellness metrics into these systems.

At the first meeting, participants discussed what they want to know about a schools’ health and wellness environment and began to think about the key criteria that make a school report card metric effective. Participants also heard presentations by representatives from Colorado and Oregon; states which have successfully integrated health and wellness measures into their school report cards. For example, the Oregon model school report card includes a measure on student chronic absenteeism (the percentage of students who miss 10 percent or more of the school year regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused). The Colorado state school report card requires schools to report on nine health measures including whether or not a school has a school nurse and whether or not a school offers PE.

The Metrics Working Group will build on the lessons learned from these case studies and work to identify strategies that can support the adoption of strong health and wellness measures by the education sector in states and districts across the country. The goal will be to identify school health measures that can inform decision-making in a major way, not stigmatizing parents and students but instead helping schools and school districts make the right changes to support students’ health and learning.

The Metrics Working Group includes representatives from national organizations including the National Education Association, National Association of School Nurses, Attendance Works and GreatSchools; federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education; and state and local groups, including the Colorado State Board of Education, the Ohio Department of Education and the LA Fund for Public Education. A list of working group members is available [pdf]. To learn more about the issue of health and wellness metrics in education, read the Metrics Working Group background paper [pdf].

The National Collaborative on Education and Health was launched by Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health in February 2014. The Collaborative brings together advocates, policymakers, school stakeholders and funders to identify opportunities for the health and education sectors, individually and together with others, to ensure that all children have the opportunity to be healthy and academically successful, allowing them to reach their full potential as productive members of our communities and our nation. The Collaborative is overseen by a steering committee of more than 20 health and education leaders and is co-chaired by Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health.

Special thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Kaiser Permanente for their generous support of the National Collaborative for Education and Health.