For more than a decade, California has measured school achievement solely through standardized tests. I’ve been teaching in California high schools and middle schools for 15 years, and I know: our test-heavy system doesn’t work for students or teachers.
Now, after years of protest, California has agreed to change. Our state is completely overhauling the way it measures school success, and for the first time in history, California will incorporate measures besides test scores in the Academic Performance Index (API).
And here’s the best part: California’s education leaders are asking for the public’s help in deciding what should go into the new API. It’s a historic opportunity to redefine what we want from our schools.
I believe that great schools and healthy students go hand-in-hand. By helping children eat right, get plenty of exercise, and treat others with respect and courtesy, schools aren’t only helping students succeed academically, they’re also teaching healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Please sign our petition asking the California Department of Education to include student health in the revised API. Tell them you believe that healthy students are more successful in school and in life, so health should be part of every school’s plan for success.
Davidson Middle School
6th Grade Math
If health is included in the revised API, education leaders will pay attention. Principals will prioritize physical education and help students get the exercise they need throughout the day. School districts will make health a greater priority—maybe they’ll even hire more school nurses and counselors to reach out to students at risk for dropping out.
Here’s why I feel so strongly:
- Health problems are often behind the reasons kids miss school—and kids need to be in school consistently in order to succeed academically. That’s why the API should track how many days individual students are absent (chronic absence) so that schools can clearly see when a child is missing a lot of school and figure out why.
- Too many students are missing school because they have been suspended, often times for minor misconduct that used to be handled on campus without kicking them out. California schools issued more than 700,000 suspensions last year and some schools suspend more than 25% of their students every year. Often times, mental and physical health issues lie behind student misbehavior. There are better ways to handle misbehavior than suspensions, and many schools that adopt alternative approaches have seen significant gains in academic achievement.
- Physical fitness also is important to student success. Unfortunately some schools have made P.E. a lesser priority because they believe it takes time away from academic studies. Research shows the opposite is true – kids who get exercise every day are better able to focus and less likely to cause behavior problems. That’s why I believe that student fitness—as measured by California’s FitnessGram—should be included in the API.
- Lastly, schools must pay attention to graduation rates and include them in the API. Making it across the high school graduation finish line is a major milestone on the road to future success and health. Studies show high school graduates live nine years longer than dropouts and experience fewer serious diseases as they get older.
California should make a strong statement that it supports student health by including health measures in the revitalized Academic Performance Index.