As part of the implementation for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states need to submit plans for how they’re going to implement the new education law.
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provided an opportunity for interested parties to comment on the proposed Illinois state plan. Our recommendations focused on the new opportunity presented by the implementation of ESSA to further support student health and school wellness. Illinois recognizes the inextricable link between health and learning. Existing state policies require or encourage schools to address a range of issues including social and emotional learning, school climate, PE and fitness, chronic absenteeism and discipline practices.
We recommend incorporating student health and school wellness into the Illinois state plan through accountability systems and school report cards. The accountability systems and report cards should be supported by needs assessments that consider health and wellness and identify evidence-based policies, practices and programs to lead to school improvement. Schools and districts should also provide appropriate professional development to support efforts to better meet the needs of the whole child. This comprehensive approach will create a state plan that supports school districts and schools and, most importantly, students.
Specifically, we recommend that chronic absenteeism rates and student fitness should be incorporated into the accountability system for determining school quality. These two data points provide important insights into school culture and the health and wellness of its students.
We also recommend that school report cards, needs assessments, evidence-based practices and professional development programs be designed to support improvements on these two metrics. Neither of these indicators will create an additional data collection burden on schools. Chronic absenteeism data is already being collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. And the state already requires schools to collect student fitness data.
We also recommend:
- Including other health-related indicators on school report cards to provide school stakeholders with important information on how the school is addressing chronic absenteeism and student fitness
- Designing and implementing assessments for health, physical education (PE) and social and emotional learning that are aligned with the state’s standards to ensure that school districts are offering students a well-rounded education
- Creating supportive environments to promote staff wellness, reduce stress and improve teacher satisfaction and retention
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the proposed Illinois state plan. We look forward to seeing ESSA fully implemented so that every child is in school and ready to learn. You can download and read our complete recommendations.