What is the Role of Public Schools in Helping Children Succeed in and Out of School?

Study of schools' roles in resolving health and social issues confronting youth

From 1999 to 2000, the National Association of State Boards of Education, Alexandria, Va., studied the roles and responsibilities of public schools in addressing health and related social problems confronting today's children and youth.

Many educators believe that they are compelled to intervene in the health and social environment affecting students, their families, and the community, even as a strong "back-to-basics" reform movement denies any role for schools outside of academics.

Key Results:

  • The National Association of State Boards of Education—which represents state boards of education nationwide—formed a 16-member study group (including 15 members of state boards of education) to conduct the study, which included three formal meetings and the preparation and dissemination of a project report.

    During its first meeting in January 1999, the group discussed the impact of family, community, and social dynamics on child and adolescent development and educational achievement.

    At its second meeting in March 1999, the group explored the budgetary implications of schools' attempts to address these health and social issues, and to develop strategies for building partnerships needed to form a common understanding and vision for the schools.

    At its third meeting in June 1999, the group drafted recommendations on the role of state boards of education in promoting school attention to health and other social issues affecting students. At each meeting, the group heard presentations from a number of educators, practitioners, and researchers.
  • In its final report, entitled The Future Is Now: Addressing Social Issues in Schools of the 21st Century, the study group concluded that:
    • Schools have an important role to play in addressing the needs of students by helping them succeed academically and by supporting the growth that will enable them to lead successful, productive adult lives. The question is not whether schools should address nonacademic barriers to learning, but instead, what can schools do both alone and with others to support learning?
  • The group recommended that state boards of education:
    • Set standards for creating positive school environments that foster academic achievement and support the development of children and youth.
    • Take a leadership role in creating a shared vision and sense of responsibility with others for helping children and youth to succeed academically in school and to become productive members of society.
    • Work collaboratively with other policymakers in the development and implementation of early childhood and prekindergarten programs.
    • Work with schools and others to combine and coordinate resources across agencies and public/private sectors in support of children's success.
  • As of November 2000, the National Association of State Boards of Education had distributed or sold approximately 1,300 copies of the report, including 750 copies to members of state boards of education and 100 to state departments of education across the country.