NC ESSA Blog and Call to action
What will it take for America to finally address obesity in schools? When we needed to save the environment, we taught recycling. We need kids to balance checkbooks, so we pass laws and teach finance. We pass laws about substance abuse and create DARE, abstinence and even activity in the day! But if we truly teach NC Healthful Living standards by a certified specialist so that students receive a minimum of 150 minutes per week at the elementary level and 225 at the secondary level, we would not need so many varying laws. Our children’s lives are at stake. If students do not spend time in an effective physical education class, where and how will they learn the skills to be active adults? If students do not learn nutritional, personal safety, communication and mental health concepts how will they know they need help or where to go for help for someone else?
The truth North Carolina has slid backwards. We were making great progress towards implementing more PE in the school day, until schools were forced to choose between subjects due to lack of funding for education. No Child Left Behind devalued all subjects except what was tested and so much pressure was placed on students and schools to perform. The health of our children was sacrificed for test scores. Even though we know that the life expectancy of our children may not be as long as their parents. (Olshansky, S. J., Passaro, D. J., Hershow, R. C., Layden, J., Carnes, B. A., Brody, J., . . . Ludwig, D. S. (2005). A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(11), 1138-1145. doi:10.1056/nejmsr043743)
Schools now will be asked to focus on chronic absenteeism. The DOE recognizes three major effects of chronic absenteeism:
- Chronic absenteeism may prevent children from reaching early learning milestones.
- Irregular attendance can be a better predictor of whether students will drop out before graduation than test scores.
- Frequent absences from school can shape adulthood.
Furthermore, a meta-analysis of 177 primary prevention programs designed to prevent behavioral and social problems in children and adolescent’s showed the following findings:
- Modify the school environment, provide individually focused mental health promotion efforts, and attempts to help children negotiate stressful transitions yield significant mean effects ranging from 0.24 to 0.93.
- Mental disorders often arise for the first time in adolescents or young adults. If they are recognized and treated early, this may increase the chances of a better long-term outcome.
- Professional help is often not sought at all or only sought after a delay.
- Early recognition and appropriate help-seeking will only occur if young people and their “supporters” (eg, their family, teachers, and friends) know about the early changes produced by mental disorders, the best types of help available, and how to access this help.
Psychology, 283-318. doi:10.1007/978-1-4757-9035-1_8)
Healthful Living Standard Course of study address each of these and can play a major role in chronic absenteeism.
In a research article by National Association of Elementary and Secondary Principals (NAESP), they site six (6) causes for chronic absenteeism:
- Bad Grades
- Caring for another family member
- Mental or emotional issues
- Difficulties w/housing or food
- Instill confidence and after school programs, to be involved in something that matters
- recognize signs of bullying and what to do
- provide/ encourage good health in and out of school
- recognize signs and what to do while caring for others
- recognize and know what to do for mental or emotional issues
- students and parents for assistance and understanding how and where to get nutritional foods, provide school meals, and safe environments
The Healthful Living Standard Course of Study touches or teaches all of these when taught appropriately.
Education is extremely important, but not at the expense of our health. Our schools should welcome the physical and health educator. Our subject area is the only one that teaches students to value their bodies. This alone touches self-esteem, nutrition, fitness, abstinence/ protection, social and emotional mental health, and healthy weight which includes skills to use to be physically active and more. Isn’t this important for your child to have a certified specialist who has professional development to stay updated and enough time to measure your child’s growth in these areas? How can people not see that offering an effective health and physical education course most days of the week can help academics, anti-bullying, less discipline problems, and absenteeism? NC Healthful Living offers so much more than simply giving kids a break.
It’s time. Let our health and PE teachers play their role in addressing skills, concepts, confidence and knowledge for their students. It’s good for the students. It’s good for the school. It’s good for the community and eventually the workplace. This is an urgent call to action. Please help us take these simple steps to help our children.
We are asking the state to include an already collected measure, the Healthy Active Children Plan, as an accountability measure for school quality in the ESSA State plan. This is already being collected and adds no new assessments on the school’s part. But it will help to hold schools accountable for addressing the health needs of our students.
- Scroll to the bottom and click on the “Every Student Succeeds Act”
- Choose "comment"
- Fill in the subject and description with your comments (see talking points handout)
- Attached your comments in a PDF
- Please email Morgan Whittman Gramann to let us know you submitted comments! (firstname.lastname@example.org)