September 15 2016

California parents and students got some great news last week – and just in time for the new school year!

The California State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a new school accountability system that will take effect statewide in the 2017-18 school year—and for the first time in history, it makes student health and wellness a priority. This new accountability system replaces the old Academic Performance Index, or API, which only took standardized test scores into consideration and didn’t look at any of the other factors that lead to academic success. The new system will look at five key indicators, including suspension rates, which are an essential measure of a healthy and supportive school climate.

As a health foundation focused on improving the well-being of all kids and their families, we have gained a greater appreciation of the relationship between social-emotional health and academic performance. Research shows that when schools turn away from harsh discipline policies, like suspensions and expulsions, and turn to alternatives like restorative justice, we see improved school climate and increased academic achievement across the board. Oakland schools, for instance, have seen real academic improvements by focusing on school climate and social-emotional health. These schools create healthy learning environments that keep kids in school while holding them accountable for their conduct. And when students stay in school, they are destined for a healthier future.

I congratulate the State Board on this important vote and applaud the many advocates and community members who helped make it happen. At meeting after meeting we saw students and parents from all across California come before the Board and explain why we need to look beyond test scores at what is really happening in our schools. Together, we stood up for our students and took a critical step in making health happen in schools.

Congratulations California! What a way to start the new school year!