Tennessee is a state that is making great strides in bringing together education and health stakeholders to form a truly comprehensive vision for improving student success. That commitment was on display last month at the “Better Health, Better Learning” conference, sponsored by SCORE, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, and Nashville Health. Our new Vice President of National Policy + Advocacy, Jeff Kirsch, was fortunate enough to attend.
One of the truly special elements of the conference was the wide range of eminent education and health experts who spoke out on the urgent connection between these two issues. Among these was former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who chaired the event on behalf of SCORE and Nashville Health, and Dr. Richard Besser, President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The event was closed out by Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of former Vice President, Joe Biden, who talked about her lifelong commitment to teaching, most recently in the community college system. She helped to hit home the basic concept that it takes many inputs from many directions to lead to successful outcomes for students, key among them the emotional and physical health of students, and their ability to show up at school rested, healthy and ready to learn.
Tennessee stakeholders have focused a great deal of attention on the importance of cross-sector collaboration in moving forward on improving student health and student achievement, and panels featuring representatives from different fields, including public schools, state health agencies and private insurance companies, really helped illustrate the progress being made in the state.
We’ve written before about Tennessee’s efforts to leverage the opportunities in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to address chronic absenteeism and related student health issues. Tennessee is fortunate to have such strong leaders forging the critical connection between education and health as a strategy to improve students’ performance and their chances of success in school and in life.