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Quick Guide: The Whole Child Initiative

Monday, April 20, 2015 -- Scott Sterling

The Whole Child Initiative was launched by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in 2007 as a way to organize resources around the idea that schools and communities should work together to create successful students. ASCD has partnered with dozens of wide-ranging organizations and governmental agencies to formulate best practices and provide those resources to schools and districts in an effort to reach some pretty big goals.

The tenets of the Whole Child Initiative are:

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

ASCD has created infographics called Whole Child Snapshots for every state, which places statistics with the tenets to show where a state needs to improve and how it compares with the other states. This helps educators gain insight into their students’ progress by enabling them to ask and answer questions. For instance, “We know a certain number of our students are living in poverty or are being bullied, but how does that compare to the rest of the country?”

What can a school do about some of these huge issues? A school isn’t going to solve poverty by itself, but it can connect parents to community services and free or low-cost education resources so that they can start moving up the ladder.

Schools can’t make sure that every student is eating right or seeing a doctor, but they can educate the children and parents about a healthy diet, connect them with health providers, and make sure to serve healthy foods in the cafeteria.

The first step in making dents in any of these issues is often parent and community engagement. Is your school or district really doing all it can do in that area? Are there other, more creative ways to get parents involved that have shown to be successful in other schools and districts?

But, as expected, this also has a lot to do with implementing educational best practices in your school. Just like students, teachers are much more likely to grow and succeed when they are properly supported and challenged. There are recommendations on that front as well.

The Whole Child Initiative gives educators reason to think about how their work truly affects the greater community and, in turn, what that world can do to help them improve their work. It encourages asking difficult questions and considering outside-the-box solutions—which is exactly what we all need to do to keep moving education forward. Want to learn more about schools in your area who are already using this program with success? Check out this interactive map!