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A Whole Child Approach to School Improvement Under ESSA

A growing body of research shows that students succeed when schools embrace a whole child perspective that integrates social, emotional, and academic development. Many schools do not have dedicated staff to help students and their families access and navigate the maze of public and private services that might be available in the community. Furthermore, many staff are not provided with training required to meet the diverse needs of their students. However, additional resources, including use of funding under ESSA’s Title I, Part A, 7% set-aside, can be used by schools to embed integrated student supports into the existing programs and structure of low-performing schools.

In schools nationwide, students face challenges often associated with living in poverty or exposure to trauma—such as food insecurity, inadequate physical and mental health care, exposure to violence, and lack of stable housing—which can make it difficult to show up in the classroom ready to learn. Research shows that schools can support student success by providing high-quality academics integrated with student supports that meet their social, emotional, and physical needs such as medical and dental services, mental health supports, tutoring, mentoring, and resources for families. State and local education agencies and schools can develop these robust, whole child systems using funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Learn more in this new resource for policymakers, administrators and educators from Communities In Schools and the Learning Policy Institute.

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