To succeed in college, other postsecondary education, and the workplace, students need higher-level thinking, communications, and problem-solving skills as well as knowledge of the world and its people. These are all products of a curriculum that challenges students to work harder as they investigate a wide range of real-world subjects. What's more, our high school graduates who pursue college must be adequately prepared, yet too many are taking remedial courses, which raises deep concerns about the value of their high school diplomas.

Students engage in a broad spectrum of activities in and out of the classroom. Districts and communities committed to educating the whole child work together to prepare young people for success in higher education,  employment, and civic life by providing meaningful learning experiences and opportunities to demonstrate achievement.

Ensuring that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged requires us to continually ask questions and examine evidence related to implementation. ASCD's indicators of a whole child approach provide a guide for continual school and community improvement and serve as a definition of what a whole child approach to education truly requires. Download the set of challenged indicators (PDF).

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From the Whole Child Blog

Whole Child Across the States: How Are We Doing?

Since 2007, ASCD's Whole Child approach to education has advocated for a comprehensive strategy to learning and development that ensures each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. We believe that when entire communities attend to both the in-school factors and out-of-school influences that affect learning, children will flourish. Over the past several years, we've raised awareness about the whole child approach to education; shared resources to help schools, districts, and communities implement this approach; and seen schools and communities experience the benefits of their whole child practices.

But how well are we, as a nation, supporting the whole child? On this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, we explore ASCD's Whole Child Snapshots and how they can be used to prompt conversations about how well states support the whole child, where they need to improve, and what strategies can help them meet the comprehensive needs of children.

Listen to the episode below or download here.


  • Elizabeth Brito has served as the executive director of Rhode Island ASCD since 2001. Under her leadership, the organization has been the state's leading voice for a whole child approach to education. Prior to retirement from public education in 1998, Brito served as English department chair for the Bristol Warren Regional School District. During her tenure there, she chaired a teacher-led "Thinking/Learning/Study Skills" task force that engaged students and parents in active learning strategies that could be applied across the content areas. This involvement ultimately lead to a Blue Ribbon Award for the school and a Christa McAuliffe Fellowship award for Brito. Follow Rhode Island ASCD on Twitter @riascd.
  • Josh Garcia is deputy superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools in Washington State. He received ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator Award in 2013 and is currently a member of the ASCD Board of Directors. Throughout his career as a high school math teacher, principal, and administrator, Garcia has worked mainly in urban settings, serving the most vulnerable learners. He has developed a preK–12 standards-based instruction, grading, reporting, and assessment system; a sustainable and comprehensive K–12 instructional coaching model; a districtwide differentiated professional development model; and an accountability model that measures how healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged students are in school. Connect with Garcia on Twitter @Garciaj9Josh.
  • David Griffith is the senior director of public policy at ASCD where he leads the association's efforts to influence education decision-making at the local, state, and federal levels and oversees the development and implementation of the association's legislative agenda. Previously, he was the director of governmental and public affairs for the National Association of State Boards of Education. Griffith has also served as an aide to Representatives Joe Kolter and Robert Torricelli. He received his bachelor's degree from Villanova University and his master's degree in education from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.
  • Melissa Mellor is ASCD's manager of public policy outreach. In this role she helps to engage ASCD members in education advocacy and promotes education policies that support the whole child. Previously, she worked on high school redesign initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers and researched state education policy issues at Education Week's Editorial Projects in Education. Mellor received her bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University and her master's degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies.

Next Steps for Supporting the Whole Child Approach

The Whole Child Snapshots aim to prompt exploration and action in support of students' learning, development, and well-being. Educators, families, and the public can use the following suggestions to improve their community's approach to whole child education.


  • Discuss the information in the snapshot with your friends, colleagues, community members, and policymakers.


  • Refer to the snapshot's action steps for initial ideas on how communities can work together to support the whole child.
  • Check out ASCD's school-level indicators for details on how schools can help ensure that students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
  • Use ASCD's School Improvement Tool, a free online needs assessment survey, to measure your school's or district's performance on the whole child indicators and components.
  • Access additional resources, including examples of schools that support the whole child and podcasts on whole child topics.
  • Schedule a free consultation with ASCD to see what online, on-site, or blended professional development solutions can help you improve in the areas where you face the most challenges.


  • Read ASCD's legislative agenda, which outlines the association's public policy priorities. ASCD's 2015 Legislative Agenda calls on federal policymakers to establish a broader, more ambitious national goal that moves beyond college, career, and citizenship readiness to the successful development of the whole child at every level of the education system.
  • Learn how some states and districts are developing and using next-generation accountability systems with multiple metrics that complement a whole child approach to education.
  • Get a whole child resolution introduced in your state or district. Access a resolution webinar, sample resolution language, and a resolution checklist.

What does supporting a whole child approach to education look like in your state?


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Designed for use in schools and districts around the world, the free ASCD School Improvement Tool offers educators a comprehensive and completely online needs assessment. Based on your unique results, the tool points you to professional development resources that can help immediately address school-wide challenges.


About ASCD

ASCD is the global leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner. Comprising 125,000 members—superintendents, principals, teachers, professors, and advocates from more than 138 countries—the ASCD community also includes 56 affiliate organizations. To learn more about how ASCD supports educators as they learn, teach, and lead, visit