The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires schools to give parents a School Report Card. Schools need to collect and report information about school policies and practices including teacher qualifications and how well students perform on standardized tests. ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND NCLB
Because NCLB allows schools to add additional goals and measures to the NCLB Report Card, advocates for Healthy High Performance Schools can use the NCLB Report Card as a tool to develop information about school facility conditions and to improve school environmental health and safety.
A NCLB GLOSSARY
NCLB creates "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) as a measure of a school's progress toward a goal. For example, one goal is that "all students will be proficient in English and Math by 2014." Standardized proficiency tests are used to measure AYP. High schools are also required to report graduation rates and elementary schools are required to report attendance statistics.
NCLB requires schools to report progress for each group of students within the student population. The goal of NCLB is to close the achievement gaps for students with disabilities, low-income, and limited English proficiency and according to gender, racial and ethnic group. All groups are expected to show progress toward the proficiency goals.
If a school does not achieve AYP for two years in a row, the school is identified as a school "in need of improvement." NCLB has special rules for Title I schools. (Title I schools receive funding to help low income students and those at high risk for falling behind.) Parents of children in Title I schools "in need of improvement" are entitled to supplemental services for their children and may have the option to transfer the child to another school.
INCREASED ACCOUNTABILITY TO PARENTS
The NCLB School Report Card gives parents key information for making good decisions about their children and to involve parents in improving schools. NCLB recognizes parents as key partners in school improvement.
Parent involvement goals and standards from the National PTA and the US Department of Education are based on overwhelming evidence that parent involvement is a key to student achievement. For additional reports and resources on community and parent involvement go to
1) Review your school's NCLB report card. Attend school meetings where report cards are discussed. Create opportunities for discussion with parents and community members.
2) Work with other parents, the student council, and parent-school organizations to identify goals and measures to add to the report card. Some schools include information on class size, enrollment in advanced placement classes or parent involvement. (Go to National PTA (http://www.pta.org) for PTA's criteria for evaluating the quality of parent involvement.)
3) Ask the principal or superintendent to add goals and measures related to indoor air quality, cleanliness, pest control, and compliance with health, sanitation, fire and occupancy codes. Ask to add data about your school's absenteeism rate, especially for subgroups such as students with asthma and allergies. Ask to add data about nurse visits and/or early dismissals for asthma, headaches, sore throats, and other common health problems. This information can help you identify areas of the school where health, safety and learning is at risk.
See the stories below for examples of how health and environmental data can help to correct environmental health problems. THE POWER OF DATA
In one Massachusetts school, parents of two elementary schools combined forces to address parents' concerns about injured students not receiving proper medical attention, the lack of nursing standards or health room procedures, and poor home-school communication.
They conducted a survey that compared their school's nurse/student ratios, policies, and other indicators of quality (or lack of it) with thirty surrounding towns. Their suggestions for improving school health services included adding two additional nurses. The nurses were hired.
ACTION LONG OVERDUE
In the same school district, three schools had very different absence rates for students with asthma. The disparity in asthma rates led to the inspection of the three schools' heating and ventilation systems.
The inspections revealed that one school's ventilation system had not been installed properly and, in fact, had not functioned properly for over twenty years.
The data helped show the impact of one school's inadequate ventilation system on student illness and school attendance, especially for students with asthma.
The absence data gave parents the evidence they needed to influence school officials to make improving ventilation a priority. The fact finding empowered parents to resolve a long standing school environmental problem.
For a complete list of the recommendations from the survey report, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for "RAISING STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL HEALTH: WHAT DO PARENTS WANT?" Your PTA or school council may want to adapt the recommendations for your school.
POSITIVE CHANGES: Promoting a collaborative approach for identifying and addressing school health problems
These checklists helped parent and staff to evaluate conditions in a Massachusetts school where students and teachers seemed to have a lot of colds, sneezing, sore throats, and headaches, and two children had been recently diagnosed with asthma.
Prior to the support group's involvement, parents had observed a "Second Floor Syndrome" but felt school officials were not taking their concerns seriously.
In fact, the school administration had asked the town building department and the local Board of Health for help but the inspectors reported no defects. The school principal did not give parents the written report. The principal, with no prior experience in environmental trouble-shooting, hadn't realized the limits of a "visual inspection" or that more could be done.
The asthma support group was a resource to both parents and school officials. The support group also involved a state health professional who had the knowledge to interpret their checklist results and to develop recommendations for immediate improvements and managing future environmental concerns.
One example of positive change is how quickly the principal responded the next time a parent wrote to her about the crumbling walls, mold, dust and dirt in a basement room that was being used for testing students for special education services. As a result, the principal shut down the room and the room is no longer being used.