The only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.

New Issue of NASBE Journal Urges State Leaders to Address Student Disengagement

Alexandria, VA— Amid widespread concerns about persistent student mental health challenges, poor behavior, and disengagement at school, authors of the September 2023 issue of the State Education Standard urge state leaders to take steps that will help schools and districts increase students’ engagement and connectedness. They detail ways to draw chronically absent students back into regular attendance and create learning environments and support systems to better engage all students.

Union College’s Jennifer Fredricks makes the case for addressing the problem head on, writing that a disengaged student can become engaged when provided the right supports. Efforts to increase engagement can change students’ trajectories academically, socially, and behaviorally, she says.

Given the shorter time horizon for high school students to catch up on learning missed during the pandemic and the relevant dearth of data on their performance, Travis Pillow and Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education say states should pay particular attention to the challenges these students face, find ways to help them recover, and design systems to better-support future generations.

School staff know whether students are connected at school and can help those who are not, writes Bob Balfanz, Johns Hopkins University professor and head of the GRAD Partnership collaborative. He gives examples of high schools that have set up student success teams to identify and nurture students’ relationships at school.

Ohio State University’s Edward Fletcher urges state leaders to keep an eye on career academies in their states. He cites four elements that make academies successful in engaging high school students in learning that is project based, hands on, and relevant to their aspirations.

Two experts address chronic absenteeism. Hedy Chang, founder of Attendance Works, urges state boards of education and district leaders to take a systemic approach to shoring up the conditions of learning that ensure children will show up for school. She details the good work Connecticut is doing to reduce chronic absence. Bellwether’s Hailly T.N. Korman delves into the question of who is missing from school and why. She cites systemic actions by three districts and the state of Utah to analyze data, improve interagency coordination, and ensure that students with the most challenges get the adult mentoring and high-dosage tutoring they need.

Researchers Nicole Reddig and Janet VanLone review the evidence on students’ experience of trauma, especially during the pandemic years, and suggest actions state boards can take to ensure that teachers and school social workers are prepared to address these students’ needs.

Finally, the issue offers perspectives on student engagement from the Kentucky, Maine, and Washington state boards of education.

Read and share the “Engaging All Students” issue of the State Education Standard.

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. Learn more at



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