The Current Landscape of School District and Charter Policies that Support Healthy Schools

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Author(s): Child Trends

  • Elizabeth Piekarz-Porter
  • Rebecca M. Schermbeck
  • Julien Leider
  • Deborah Temkin
  • Jonathan Belford
  • Jamie Chriqui

Published: Nov. 6, 2019

Report Intro/Brief:
“Education policy making in the United States occurs at the federal, state, local education agency (e.g., district), and school levels. Although policies often pass from one level to another, levels may approach topics differently or prioritize some topics over others. District-level policy may, for instance, be a precursor for broader state-level policy to be enacted in the future.

In January 2019, Child Trends, in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Health Research and Policy (IHRP) and EMT Associates, released an analysis of how state laws and regulations address key school health topics aligned to the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) framework. This study, led by IHRP, complements that initial work by exploring how local education agencies (LEAs), including both public school districts and charter LEAs, address a selection of school health topics in their policies, and how LEA policy coverage compares to coverage in the laws and regulations of 20 strategically selected states. The goal of this study is to begin to understand whether certain topics have momentum at either the state or district levels, and what opportunities may exist to better align and integrate school health policies.

This report focuses on the extent to which public school districts and charter LEAs across 20 strategically selected states address healthy schools through the lens of the WSCC. To date, no previous study has comprehensively identified and classified district and charter LEA policies around all WSCC domains. Although states set the framework for education, implementation is the responsibility of LEAs. In some cases, LEAs have adopted policies and practices while a state is silent on an issue; in other cases, LEAs help reinforce existing state law on the given issue. Prior research has demonstrated that a combination of state laws and LEA policies contribute to a more supportive school environment and/or higher likelihood of implementation.

This report focuses on three primary research questions:

  1. To what extent are elements of WSCC addressed in public school district policies across the 20
    selected states?
  2. Are WSCC topics similarly addressed in both state law and public school district policies?
  3. How have charter LEAs addressed WSCC topics in their policies?”


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