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States Can Seize Opportunity to Prioritize School Staff Wellness


Alexandria, VA—The pandemic increased educator stress and burnout, according to recent surveys. Yet only 10 states required or encouraged staff wellness programs in schools as of September 2019. Sparked by a recent webinar series cohosted by Child Trends and NASBE, a new report offers five questions state boards of education can ask to foster staff wellness.

  • How did the pandemic worsen or change school staff wellness? The pandemic heightened awareness of teacher stress: A fall 2020 survey by the RAND Corporation found that over half of teachers are working more hours per week than they did before the pandemic, and 80 percent feel burned out. States can use this information to build a case for intervention.
  • What partners should state leaders engage to address staff wellness? State leaders can leverage existing employee well-being and incentive programs, such as Staywell in Kentucky or Oregon’s OEA Choice Trust, to help meet staff wellness needs. Engaging school staff is important for assessing needs and identifying partners.
  • What policies prove effective in supporting staff wellness? Policymakers must consider how proposed wellness initiatives are received. Where are the gaps between policy and practice, what evidence exists for effective wellness programs, and what resources are needed for implementation?
  • How can state leaders address staff trauma? Students and educators are returning to the classroom with trauma brought on by the pandemic. Tiered wellness plans and trauma-responsive training and guidance can help schools target supports for staff accordingly.
  • How can state leaders communicate about prioritizing staff wellness? At root, schools cannot function if staff do not have their needs met. State leaders can help school districts make a shift in culture and articulate the return on investment from wellness programs.

As part of their overall push for healthy, safe school environments during reopening, states can take advantage of the new opportunity that the American Rescue Plan Act presents to prioritize staff wellness, the report says.

“As frequent fliers understand, you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. The same is true for educators,” writes NASBE associate editor Joseph Hedger. “As states reopen and recover from the pandemic, they must ensure that school employees are able to help themselves first so they can better meet the needs of students in the long run.”

Read “Five Questions to Ask About Staff Wellness in the Wake of COVID-19.”

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 www.nasbe.org.

Child Trends is the nation’s leading research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives of children and youth, especially those who are most vulnerable. Our work helps set the national agenda on child well-being, shapes policies that affect children and their families, and elevates important issues for vulnerable groups of children and youth. Learn more at www.childtrends.org

This publication and the related event series are supported by cooperative agreement NU87PS004367-01-01, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views or endorsement of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.

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