Holistic Approach Leads to Improved Education Outcomes: Testimony Regarding the ESEA’s Renewal

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At a recent hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, youth development and education advocates implored lawmakers to advance measures that address “the whole child,” as Congress prepares to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Testimony included representatives from Communities in Schools, the nation’s largest drop-out prevention organization, Harlem Children’s Zone, and the Forum for Youth Investment. Speakers emphasized the importance of comprehensive, integrated care in advancing education and closing the achievement gap; many cited how holistic approaches have successfully improved outcomes for our nation’s under-resourced youth and revitalized communities.

Increasingly, lawmakers and the Obama administration, including Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, are working to reshape policy and move towards a paradigm that expands the support services available to students, meeting critical health and other needs.  “If our children aren’t safe, they can’t learn,” Secretary Duncan told a forum on health sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “If our children aren’t fed, they can’t learn. If our children can’t see the blackboard, they can’t learn.”

Children’s Aid believes that the holistic approach is the right approach.  Our Community Schools model is grounded in the “whole child” approach and effectively targets critical social, emotional and health barriers to academic achievement. In fact, 16 years of research has highlighted what we’ve seen since our first Community School opened in 1992this approach works. Our model has been shown to increase academic achievement and improve student attendance[i]&[ii]; improve student social and emotional development[iii]; increase parent and community engagement[iv]&[v]; and improve mental and physical health.[vi]

You can download testimony and watch the United States Senate’s Full Committee Hearing on the ESEA reauthorization here.  For more information about Children’s Aid’s Community Schools, please visit our website.

Jane Mabe
Development Associate
The Children’s Aid Society

[i] 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings, prepared by Kira Krenichyn, Heléne Clark, Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel and Lymari Benitez of ActKnowledge, September 2005.  See also Summary of Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999, prepared by ActKnowledge.

[ii] Op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.  See also Op cit., 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings.

[iii] Op cit., 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings. See also op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.

[iv] Op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.

[v] Op cit., 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Six New York City Middle Schools Year One Findings. See also op cit., Fordham University Research Findings 1992-1999.

[vi] The Children’s Aid Society’s Community School Mental Health Services Analysis of Progress in 4th Year of the New York State Education Department’s VESID – Effective Practices Contract. Evaluation conducted by Heléne Clark and Robert Engle of ActKnowledge, November 2003.  See also PS 50 Evaluation of the Health Component in its First Year. Evaluation conducted by Heléne Clark, Melissa Extein, and Robert Engle of ActKnowledge, September 2003.