State Boards Weigh Teacher Certification and Student Safety and Wellness in 2018

By Joseph Hedger

In 2018, NASBE’s State Board Insight reveals that state boards regularly addressed broad topics like finance and charter schools as well as more particular initiatives related to teacher certification, implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), student safety and wellness, career and technical education, and literacy.

Teacher Certification. Whether through traditional or alternative programs, teacher certification continues to fill the agendas of state boards of education. Driving this interest is the fact that more than 200,000 teachers leave the profession each year, with nearly two out of three leaving for reasons other than retirement. In 2018, 45 state boards discussed teacher preparation, many seeking ways to alleviate teacher shortages in hard-to-staff areas or subjects of learning.

ESSA. The agendas of 35 state boards of education continued to include items related to ESSA in 2018. Following a string of state plan approvals by the U.S. Department of Education in early 2018, state boards heard updates on ESSA implementation and state report cards. State boards in California and Idaho approved revised state plans for resubmission to ED. Other boards, such as Arkansas’s and Illinois’s, discussed family and community engagement efforts regarding ESSA-related work.

Student Safety and Wellness. The State Board Insight database revealed many state board discussions on issues of student safety and wellness that were also detailed in the January 2019 issue of the State Education Standard. The February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, sparked state board examination of how effective their schools are at keeping students safe. There were 30 state boards that reviewed student safety issues in 2018, including the Maryland board, which adopted regulations on suicide prevention and safety training. Similarly, Mississippi revised its school safety manual for reference by school administrators, resource officers, and safety officers.

A little more than half of state boards put student health on their 2018 agendas, which most prominently included mental health supports, educating kids on health and wellness practices, and school nutrition. Ten state boards discussed guidelines and programs on school lunches, including in California, where the board began amending nutrition guidelines for school breakfast and lunch to align with nutrition standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program; the 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans; and the Institute of Medicine.

The Tennessee board revised its health and wellness standards in April to include information related to drug and opioid abuse. As part of the governor’s TN Together initiative, the board’s action ensures that students will receive instruction education that could help combat opioid abuse in the state.

Career and Technical Education. Career and technical education (CTE) refers to classes and experiences designed to prepare students for work. Students who take CTE classes are more likely to graduate from high school on time than students in general, and in 2016–17, nearly half the U.S. high school population was enrolled in one or more CTE courses. CTE has also been a top focus of state boards of education. In 2018, 45 state boards focused on CTE and career readiness, with many seeking to align CTE with employers’ needs (see also “State Boards Align CTE with Employer Needs, Discuss Perkins V.”).

Literacy. Thirty-five states looked at literacy. Within this wide-reaching topic, many state board discussions focused on preparing kids in preK-3 to read. In April, Idaho approved the Smarty Ants program, a free literacy resource  to help families work with their pre-K learners at home. Twelve states addressed dyslexia, many by approving early dyslexia screeners as well as handbooks for educators and parents, according to a State Board Insight analysis.

In other state actions that stood out this year, Kansas received updates on the Kansans Can School Redesign Project. In August 2018, seven selected school districts, each representing one of the Mercury 7 astronauts, were announced. Each is redesigning an elementary and a secondary school to align with five elements of a successful high school graduate approved earlier by the board. The elements include academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employable skills, and civic engagement. Attainment of these elements is expected to prepare students for success in postsecondary education, industry-recognized certification, or the workforce.

In June, the South Carolina State Board of Education approved its Afterschool Quality Standards, which seek to establish standards for nonlicensed afterschool programs.

Joseph Hedger is a NASBE associate editor. He can be reached at