The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states new opportunities to more fully integrate health into education policy and practices. In addition, ESSA moves decision-making authority from the federal government to states and school districts. As a result, state boards of education will play a critical role in ESSA implementation. Educating state policymakers about the connection between student health and wellness and the new opportunities ESSA presents for supporting this connection is a key strategy for ensuring ESSA is implemented in a way that supports student health and wellness.
That is why Healthy Schools Campaign partnered with the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) and Trust for America’s Health to write a policy update for state boards of education to highlight the key opportunities ESSA presents for supporting student health and the role state boards of education can play in ensuring these opportunities are fully leveraged.
NASBE represents the country’s state and territorial boards of education and focuses on strengthening state leadership in education policymaking and advocating for equality of access to educational opportunity. The organization takes an active role in educating its members about the latest developments in public policy via various tools, including policy updates. NASBE has been a key partner of ours for the past decade and has played an important role in helping us educate state boards of education about key school health issues including green cleaning and school food.
The policy update, which was released earlier this month, highlights several key ways in which state boards of education and other policymakers can support healthy schools and student health and wellness under ESSA. These include the following:
- Involving state health partners in required needs assessments. States can identify state partners that have data and information to help school districts conduct the needs assessments that are prerequisites for school improvement funding and for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.
- Including health partners in development of Title I state plans. By including broad representation of health professionals, states can better ensure that the plans will incorporate evidence-based practices and strategies for supporting achievement through health and wellness policies, programs, and services.
- Ensuring health-related measures are integrated into statewide accountability systems. For example, measures of school quality and student success might include chronic absenteeism; indicators of students’ physical, social, and emotional wellness; adult/peer relationships or school connectedness; or other health indicators from youth surveys.
- Ensuring that the promotion of healthy schools and student health and wellness are integrated into Title I ESSA policies and programs, state plans to provide comprehensive and targeted support to low-performing schools, and guidance on schoolwide Title I programs.
- Developing and implementing standards for pre-service and in-service training. Such standards for training of school staff should cover the interrelationship of children’s health and development with academic success and student achievement.
ESSA implementation presents states many opportunities for supporting healthy schools and student health and wellness. If they seize these opportunities, they can help transform education to better support the connection between health and learning. That is why we are pleased to have had the opportunity to partner with NASBE around this important issue.