School Well-Being in 2016-17: Why School Advocacy is a Greater Priority
Education policy for 2016-17 – The federal government and States are fumbling in their attempts to prepare their students for the world they will enter.
By Katie Rios
Program Director, MindShift
Why did it take the federal government so long to invest in school climate? Why is it so difficult to get states to put money into non-instructional changes?
Two recent, informative studies tell us that school climate is a much bigger issue in education than we might believe. As part of an education policy for 2016-17, MindShift wrote a report with expert resources to explain what research shows about how schools are experiencing a shift towards emphasis on student well-being. While a handful of studies have shown that well-being does indeed bring better academic outcomes, there have been too few of them to make changes in policy, until now.
MindShift’s research findings not only show which states are furthest along in helping students feel good about themselves, but also provide an overview of how school policies can help the achievement gap and meet the very real needs of students. This research can inform the federal government on how to increase federal investment in education and how they can better align with state and local priorities.
The increase in adult diabetes and obesity in the U.S. has been a major public health issue for decades, and is projected to get worse. But what does that mean for school students? Part of what makes a healthy school environment is addressing the problem with student health.
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) conducted a study examining the link between low physical activity and how it affects physiological changes, such as the amount of blood that flows throughout the body, and physiological outcomes like cognitive, mental, and emotional functioning.
This study found that when students were physically active in school, they had better physical, emotional, and academic well-being. In addition, exercise by students in school lowered their body fat levels and improved their blood glucose levels, making them more susceptible to diabetes and physical injury. These positive health outcomes for students may benefit students during school as well as in their off-time, and when combined with other interventions, should help students decrease the risk of becoming obese in the future.
There are solutions available in schools to help students maintain and increase their levels of physical activity, such as: providing local, healthy foods; reducing waiting times for recess; and teaching safe ways for students to get around school. This research on how physical activity influences student well-being is another step toward this goal.
The federal government recently acknowledged the need to fund physical education for school children, but there are many other aspects of school climate that can benefit student health, such as providing students with humane working environments and fostering a supportive environment for them. In this research, we identified schools with peer support systems for students with disabilities that were effective in reducing violence and suicide and in providing students who were overweight with encouragement and positive social relationships.
Well-being can also positively affect student achievement. Studies have shown that students who are living in healthy environments tend to do better on standardized test scores and are able to recover faster from stress. All of these factors help students prepare for the world they will face in the future.