- Educators and policymakers must begin to "unpack the social determinants of education as being the social determinants of health." That was the message shared by American Federation of Teachers Director of Children's Health and Well-being Chelsea Rae Prax at a policy roundtable held during The Atlantic's Education Summit.
- According to research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, students who are chronically absent in pre-school through first grade are significantly less likely to read on-level in third grade. These students are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers.
- Chronic absenteeism, which is addressed in many of the early state plans submitted under ESSA this month, affects more than 6.5 million children nationwide, and is often correlated to health issues.
The impact of factors like poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, mass incarceration, the drug epidemic and other socio-economic conditions on learning and education has been studied exhaustively. Many of these factors compound access to adequate healthcare, and student attendance suffers. Many schools are starting to think more creatively about the wraparound services they offer to take care of the whole child, even in the face of budget cuts and decreasing numbers of school counseling staff. Building community partnerships with social organizations is one way to provide low-cost services to school families.
The other critical part is ensuring an environment that is welcoming and supportive of all students, and which does not put their home situations on blast. New Mexico, for instance, recently outlawed school lunch shaming. Intentional efforts to address students with respect, address them by name, and show their contributions to the classroom are valued go a long way toward building trust between school officials and students. And they help leaders not only to better identify and serve student needs, but push student learning forward in meaningful ways.