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NASBE Launches Project to Help States Ensure Supportive Learning Environments for Students


Alexandria, Va. – The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has launched a Whole Child Policy Study Group to deepen the content expertise of state board members to lead on whole child policymaking in the wake of COVID-19. This project advances NASBE’s focus on developing equitable education systems that provide safe, healthy, supportive learning environments where all students can thrive and achieve academic excellence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a brighter light on long-existing inequities and presents an opportunity to improve the many systems, policies, and practices contributing to student success. State boards play a vital role in ensuring that this education ecosystem is based on sound research, partnership, and equity so that students of all backgrounds and circumstances are prepared to succeed in school, work, and life. The Whole Child Policy Study Group is part of NASBE’s rapid response to state needs and areas of interest in rebuilding from the pandemic. The Learning Policy Institute is supporting the project with research and policy expertise.

NASBE is proud to have a strong, diverse cadre of state board leaders participating in the study group. Members of the study group include the following: Candice Fifer (Delaware), Christine Benson (Illinois), Claire Batt (Kentucky), Darren Fleischer (District of Columbia), Deanna Townsend-Smith (North Carolina), Elaine Bobrove (New Jersey), Erin Benham (Connecticut), J. Wendell Hall (North Carolina), Janice Mak (Arizona), Jeffrey Van Hulten (Utah), Jenna Ahner (Delaware), Jo Allison Slone (Kentucky), Kathy Busch (Kansas), Lisa Fricke (Nebraska), Lu Young (Kentucky), Max Mickelson (Wyoming), Michael Phillips (Maryland), Nedd Johnson (New Jersey), Pamela L. Davis-Vaught (Virginia), Patricia Rucker (California), and Steve Durham (Colorado).

“State boards of education play a critical role in creating a state policy ecosystem within which schools and educators are supported and empowered to meet the individual social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs of every single student in their state,” says NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull. “Long before the pandemic, state boards recognized the interconnectedness between a student’s well-being, sense of belonging, and health to that student’s ability to learn. At this time, especially when state budgets have been decimated and need for student supports are higher than ever, it is paramount that we equip state leaders with sound research to champion policies that contribute to student success.”

“Kansas’s work on social, emotional, and character development and student learning will be enhanced through NASBE’s Whole Child Study Group,” says Kathy Busch, chair of the Kansas State Board of Education. “By working with experts and partners from other states, I can bring this expertise to our continued efforts to ensure students succeed, even with the pandemic’s impact on our schools and children.”

“I’m excited about this opportunity to serve on the Whole Child Policy Study Group,” says Dr. Nedd J. Johnson Sr., member of the New Jersey State Board of Education. “The work that the group will engage in is crucial to helping the children that I serve as a member of the New Jersey State Board of Education.”

“Illinois has spearheaded initiatives to support schools in becoming more inclusive and holistic—from protecting the rights of transgender students to expanding culturally responsive teaching,” said Dr. Christine Benson, member of the Illinois State Board of Education. “I joined the Whole Child Policy Study Group to build on Illinois’ efforts with research and best practices from across the country. Students will return to school this fall having experienced trauma, grief, anxiety, and loss during a global pandemic. We need to nurture the whole child now more than ever.”

“This past spring, students, families, and teachers were thrown into an uncertain world of remote learning—ready or not.  As policy leaders in our states, we must seize this opportunity to turn the coronavirus crisis into a call to action to better meet the holistic needs of all our learners,” said Dr. Lu Young, chair of the Kentucky State Board of Education.

Learn more about The Whole Child Policy Study Group.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.

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