Improving Student Performance by Targeting Non-Academic Barriers to Learning

Testimony to Senate Education Committee

Efforts to improve Texas schools and student academic outcomes must address non-academic factors that are known to significantly get in the way of student learning and long-term and success. National leaders in educator development and public health call for the use of a “whole child” approach for improving students' learning and health in our nation's schools.  Their case for educating the whole child is founded upon research that confirms students do better in school when:

  • Students are emotionally and physically healthy. They miss fewer classes, are less likely to engage in risky or antisocial behavior, concentrate more, and achieve higher test scores.
  • Students feel safe. Feeling safe at school translates into higher academic achievement, increased student well-being, and greater engagement, according to numerous studies. Children who don’t feel safe can’t concentrate on their studies, don’t connect with their classmates, or don’t go to school at all.
  • Students are engaged. To learn at their best, students must be engaged and motivated. Substantial research shows that students who feel both valued by adults and a part of their schools perform better academically and also have more positive social attitudes, values, and behavior. Plus, they are less likely to engage in drug use, violence, or sexual activity. After-school programs can promote academic achievement, but their success requires targeted investment, stakeholder commitments, focused academic support, quality programming, and a process of continual improvement.
  • Students are supported. In addition to improving students’ academic performance, research shows that supportive schools also help prevent a host of negative consequences, including isolation, violent behavior, dropping out of school, and suicide. Central to a supportive school are teachers, administrators, and other caring adults who take a personal interest in each student and in the success of each student.

The full testimony is available here.