Improving educational and life outcomes for young people must be guided by a clear, coherent vision that articulates the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students need to be successful and how state and local leaders will provide the resources to ensure students are able to succeed. A shared whole child vision, created by a diverse, representative set of stakeholders, is essential for communicating the need for a systemic, collaborative approach to meeting the needs of every child.

A whole child vision can also deter states from advancing policy affecting children and youth in a piecemeal manner. When various agencies and educational entities work separately, this can lead to inefficiencies, redundancies, and at worst, policies that directly contradict one another. In contrast, a shared vision that has broad stakeholder buy-in provides clear direction for state policymakers in developing and adopting legislation, budgets, guidance, and regulations and in analyzing existing policies and practices for alignment with the vision. A clear, coherent vision sets a precedent for cross-agency coordination, streamlining of services, and the creation of shared learning opportunities to more effectively support children and youth.

A statewide whole child vision, tied to a statewide data system that measures both system inputs (e.g., funding, access to pre-k, high-quality academic curricula and supports, effective teaching, and expanded learning opportunities) and youth outcomes, can also provide a necessary tool for policymakers to assess existing systemic inequities and develop plans to erase them.

To set a whole child vision, states can do the following:

  • 1Convene a diverse set of stakeholders to develop a statewide whole child vision
  • 2Assess conditions for learning and development for children and youth
  • 3Establish coordinating bodies to advance the whole child vision through children and youth cabinets and strategic task forces to identify current state capacity and needs and provide guidance to support service provisionRead more here

The Whole Child Policy Toolkit gives state policymakers and education leaders a set of strategies, tools, and resources to advance whole child policy.