States Making Health and Wellness a Priority

June 02, 2014

Health indicators in the education setting

Report cards, grades and test have long been part of the student experience in school. But as we wrote recently, it’s no longer just the students that are getting evaluated — the schools and districts themselves are reporting out information on their successes and challenges. However, for the most part, the metrics that are being collected and reported are almost entirely limited to specific academic competencies. As we wrote:

Data on school health 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.

If… 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.

While it’s not common to see health indicators in the education setting, it’s not a brand-new idea either. There are many innovative health leaders who have worked to integrate health and wellness metrics into data systems. These include efforts to implement statewide fitness assessments, efforts to integrate health and wellness measures into state school report cards and efforts to integrate health and wellness into statewide student data tracking systems. A few examples include :

  • Texas: A 2007 Texas state law led to an annual assessment of students in grades three through twelve on their physical fitness. The results allow stakeholders to compile school district results and analyze the relationship between student fitness level, academic achievement, attendance, obesity, disciplinary problems and school meal programs.

  • Colorado: The Colorado Department of Education publishes a performance report for each public school and school district in the state which includes whether students are required to take a comprehensive health education course; whether students have access to a school-based health center; whether recess is offered in grades kindergarten through six; and whether the school participates in the federal school breakfast program.

  • Oregon: In 2012, the Oregon Education Investment Board identified chronic absenteeism as a health and wellness indicator for its achievement compacts and its state report card. Now schools across the state are reporting the percentage of students that are chronically absent. There are efforts underway to now include chronic absenteeism in Oregon’s longitudinal data system as well.

To make sure this work doesn’t continue to happen in isolation, HSC is co-chairing with Trust for America’s Health, the National Collaborative on Education and Health. Working through the Collaborative, HSC is partnering with education and health leaders across the country to build off these innovative examples to identify best practices and models for other states and districts to learn from. By leveraging the great work already going on, we believe we can create health and wellness measures that can help us better understand and support student health needs.