Sign for the Whole Child
By Gene R. Carter, Executive Director, ASCD
ASCD is petitioning the Obama administration to establish a President's Council on the Whole Child to help the nation's students be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. We urge you to add your name to this petition by going to www.ascd.org/signforwholechild.
A President's Council comprising educators, community members, national leaders, state officials, and other experts would facilitate greater collaboration among the education, social, health, and safety agencies that support children and the coordination of programs at all levels to benefit families.
We have made great strides over the past several years in increasing awareness about the value of a whole child approach to education. Moreover, initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels have begun to put this approach into practice.
Indeed, the Obama administration's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Blueprint includes entire sections on the importance of a complete, well-rounded education and safe, healthy, and successful students.
At the state level, Illinois adopted social and emotional learning standards; the Arkansas legislature approved a resolution endorsing a whole child initiative; and New Mexico implemented the Healthy School Report Card to help all schools in the state support the health and well-being of staff and students to optimize teaching and learning.
Schools such as Malcolm Price Laboratory School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Quest Early College High School in Humble, Texas, have been nationally recognized for their engaging, student-centered learning that imparts 21st century skills in nurturing, community-based environments.
These examples are just highlights of the many encouraging developments that are occurring across the country. Yet for all of these successes, much more remains to be done. Pending ESEA reauthorization bills in Congress would continue the No Child Left Behind Act’s legacy of elevating reading and math test scores above all other core academic subjects. At the federal and state levels, agencies and programs that serve children remain overly bureaucratic and compartmentalized. And too many schools narrowly view parental involvement as simply hosting back-to-school nights and bake sales.
A President's Council on the Whole Child would address these issues as well as serve several other purposes. First, it would be a natural evolution of the administration’s ESEA Blueprint and the president’s interest in serving students in a more comprehensive and effective manner. Such a council could strategically consolidate the hodgepodge of programs and services for children that have been assembled in an ad hoc fashion over the decades.
A President's Council would also help coordinate all of the existing federal programs that support children and serve as a model for similar state-level advisory panels. The need for and importance of such coordination cannot be overstated. 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 is just as important as the economy, the environment, or national security, and the president deserves similarly expert counsel to marshal the education, health, and social service sectors in support of our nation’s youth.
Finally, a President's Council on the Whole Child would help promote the new vision of what is expected and needed for children to succeed in the 21st century. It would also highlight the mutual obligation educators and noneducators alike have for such student achievement.
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 information age require a new approach to education to fully prepare our nation’s youth for college, career, and citizenship. A whole child approach to education enhances learning by addressing each student’s social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through the shared contributions of schools, families, communities, and policymakers.
If you agree, please join thousands of whole child supporters like yourself by signing the petition to create a President’s Council on the Whole Child.
- The Obama administration’s We the People initiative provides citizens with a new way to petition the administration to take action on important issues facing our country. If a petition garners at least 25,000 signatures within 30 days, White House staff will review it, send it to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response. Learn more at www.whitehouse.gov/petitions.