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Snapshots Gauge States on Whole-Child Indicators

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Educators and policymakers should be mindful of the noncognitive factors that affect a student's learning and of the nonacademic results that can stem from effective policy, an education association said Wednesday. To promote awareness of those inputs and outputs, ASCD, the Alexandria, Va.-based professional association, released its state-by-state snapshots that show a variety of "whole child" data and policy recommendations.

wcsnapshots_03.pngThe snapshots share some data with the Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual Kids Count report. But unlike many other state data releases, they focus entirely on students' health, well-being, and civic involvement; and they don't include a cumulative score to give states overall rankings. That's by design, said the reports' creators, who said they wanted policymakers to focus on moving the needle on every factor, whether their state falls far below the national average or exceeds it dramatically.

"You have to look at all of these indicators and not just focus on one over the other," said David Griffith, ASCD's director of public policy. The snapshots should provoke conversations not of where states rank compared to their neighbors but of "where are we now and where do we want to go?" he said.

Every state report includes the most recent data available on:

  • Child poverty rates
  • Percentage of students who are overweight and obese
  • Percentage of children who had both medical and dental preventative care visits in the past year
  • Percentage of students who reported being bullied and cyberbullied in the past year
  • Percentage of students who live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, a library, a recreation center, and a park
  • Rate of students who said in surveys that the cared about doing well in school and did all of their homework in the previous month
  • Young adult participation in elections
  • Household educational attainment levels
  • Student-to-counselor ratios
  • High school graduation rates
  • NAEP proficiency rates

You can read your state's snapshot and look at national data here. Or you can look at the national report, which I've embedded at the bottom of this post.

So what now? ASCD included a checklist of policy recommendations centered on the five parts of its whole child philosophy—that students should be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Those recommendations include regularly assessing and reporting school climate with measures that include student, family, and staff perceptions; supporting parent education and family literacy programs; and using multiple measures, including nonacademic ones, to hold schools accountable.

On the state level, the creators of the snapshots point to promising signs of emerging whole-child policies, including:

  • Massachusetts' 2010 Achievement Gap Act requires school turnaround plans to address the physical health and social and emotional well-being of students.
  • An Arkansas state working group is developing the criteria and process for recognizing exemplary whole child and whole community successes; it will provide its recommendations to the Arkansas General Assembly by November 2014.
  • Kentucky requires individual learning plans for all students in grades 6 through 12 that begin with an exploration of future career and postsecondary options. Students then develop learning goals and a related course plan and work with parents and teachers to update their plans regularly.

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