What is a whole child approach to education? It is an education that enhances learning by addressing each student's social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through the shared contributions of schools, families, communities, and policymakers. It is a move away from the recent knee-jerk reaction to education policy which has seen subjects axed, focus narrowed and achievement measured solely by Annual Yearly Progress via standardized testing.
The true measure of student success is much more than just a test score and such success requires support well beyond effective instruction. The demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education to fully prepare our nation's youth for college, career, and citizenship.
Many schools, such as our Vision in Action Award Winners already do this, but this ideal should not be the occasional school it should be many schools, most schools -- frankly it should be all schools.
ASCD therefore asks the Obama administration to establish a President's Council on the Whole Child to attend to the comprehensive needs of students, ensuring that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Such a Council would comprise educators, community members, state officials, national leaders, and other experts who would provide the president with expert counsel to coordinate the education, health, and social service sectors in support of our nation's youth. Such a council would be tasked with facilitating greater collaboration among the education, social, health, and safety agencies that support children and the coordination of programs at all levels to benefit families.
• It would seek to reduce silo-ization of purpose and funding across these agencies and services, and promote collaborative efforts towards a common goal. Current federal programs and offices that address education, health, and safety of students are too often disparate, functioning in isolation, too frequently addressing the same students but via a myriad of steps, hoops and with different -- sometimes contrary - goals.
• It would strategically consolidate and coordinate the range of programs and services for children that have been assembled in an ad hoc fashion over the decades, facilitating greater collaboration among the education, social, health, and safety agencies that support children.
• It would highlight the mutual obligation educators and non-educators alike have for supporting the whole child and improving student achievement.
• It would involve and engage community members, organizations and agencies in working together towards a common and commonly desired goal.
The White House has a national security council, a council on environmental quality, the council of economic advisors, the council on women and girls, and the council on jobs and competitiveness. Education -- as has been highlighted by the president in both the past two State of the Union addresses -- is a building block for our future success and has undeniable impact on the economy, the environment, and national security. And the president deserves similarly expert counsel to coordinate the education, health, and social service sectors in support of our nation's youth. Commentators from all sides of the aisle talk about the need for a relevant, personalized and meaningful education system building on what we know is needed to fully prepare our nation's youth for college, career, and citizenship. It is not just a short-term focus on proficiency in reading and math but attention on the broad array of factors influencing long-term success required of students after high school graduation.
It is time to put the whole child into focus and to develop systems, processes and policies that promote growth and development.
This month we are asking people to sign on to our White House petition to make a whole child approach to education a national priority.
If you think a child's worth is more than a test score, sign ASCD's petition to create a President's Council on the Whole Child.