The Total Child

ESSA Advocacy and Your Role

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness) Permanent link   All Posts

A guest post by Dr. John Skretta, Superintendent of Norris School District (NE). Dr. Skretta. Dr. Skretta participated in AASA’s School Administrator Training Cadre for Coordinated School Health. 

The new Every Student Succeeds Act federal accountability law replacing the lockstep No Child Left Behind expands the definition of quality education to be more than core and replaces the NCLB narrow emphasis on "core academic" areas. Broader measures of student success are now a part of the equation.This creates a tremendous opportunity for school districts to institute best practice programming in coordinated school health with the support of federal resources and accountability measures. At Norris and in many similar school districts that have robust school wellness councils, that has included the following:

  •  Instituting and sustaining school wellness councils as a part of the broader school improvement effort of our district.
  • Offering a second chance breakfast to increase the number of qualified school breakfast participants getting the nutrition needed to be ready to learn on a daily basis.
  • Incorporating classroom furnishings like movement stools and stability balls for classrooms, as well as pedal desks and standing desks to eliminate sedentary learning environments.
  • Offering integrated professional development for teachers, coaching them on classroom-based physical activity strategies.
  • Providing highly qualified mental health services to students in need of higher level interventions through the services of LMHPs and other credentialed professionals.

 However, the realization of ESSA’s expanded intent and potential for improving whole child education in your district will not happen without purposeful and intentional efforts from advocates. Get involved! How?

 Here are some of the key advocacy opportunities for teachers related to whole child initiatives and ESSA implementation:

  •  Your presence and participation in professional development opportunities that expand the scope of student success beyond core academic areas. Norris will be bringing the Edu-Ninja Jennifer Burdis (an Elementary teacher who has appeared on two seasons of American Ninja) to our district in January 2017 to coach our teachers on modeling positive nutrition practices and PA breaks for the classroom.
  • Your willingness to share the research on the connection between health and academic outcomes. It is important that all educators become aware of the extent to which nutrition and physical health can positively impact cognition.
  • Expand the scope of federal Title services in your school to ensure that systems of support for safe and healthy schools children become a part of the Title block grant program in your district.
  • Participate in state level discussions through your Department of Education and local districts regarding the development of state accountability plans for ESSA to ensure health and physical education are elevated as content areas.

 Undoubtedly, there are many challenges that lie ahead with the implementation of ESSA in our respective states. The President’s request and the congressional authorization of block grants that can help schools institute coordinated school health are currently woefully underfunded – the law authorizes $1.65 billion and currently block grant authorizations are in place for just $275 million.

 The time is now for all of us to get involved and get behind a broader notion of accountability and school performance to nurture the total child. ESSA provides this opportunity, now let's capitalize on it!


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