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Can Focusing On Teacher Wellness Increase Student Achievement?

August 4, 2018 | Lily Jones, Forbes Contributor


Schools try so many things to increase student achievement: better curriculum, technology, more qualified teachers. But what if the answer wasn’t only in enriching students’ experience, but to support their teachers? For Seymour Community Schools (SCS), a rural district in Indiana, the creation of an onsite health clinic led to a myriad of positive impacts.

In partnership with Activate Healthcare, SCS introduced their health clinic five years ago. Teachers are able to access the clinic easily and at little to no cost. They are also incentivized to meet their health goals: teachers and their spouses are paid $100 to have an annual health assessment and $150 each to make and achieve personal health goals. Teachers are more likely to visit the clinic because it is easy to access, quick to use, and they are paid for their commitment to their health.

When SCS opened the clinic, 27% of their workforce had chronic conditions: 21% hypertension; 9% asthmatic; and 6% diabetic. These were both costly and caused teachers to take have more absences from the classroom. After five years of the onsite clinic, SCS reports lowered blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI rates of the school workforce. When teachers are healthier, they have fewer absences and can spend more time doing what they do best: teaching.

Not only does teacher wellness make for a healthier workforce, it can also lead to more teacher satisfaction. The SCS clinic focuses not only on physical screenings, but stress management, nutrition counseling, and behavioral health. Steve Nauman, the CFO of Seymour Community Schools, says after using the clinic over the past five years, “teachers are happier and healthier. We want our teachers to be energetic because there is no substitute for them in the classroom.”

Focusing on teacher wellness helps school staffs, but can it also impact student achievement? It’s hard to say for sure, but the data coming out of SCS points to yes. Before starting the onsite clinic, SCS’s average score of graduates taking the SAT was 939 and the ACT score was 21 in 2011-12. After five years of teachers using the onsite health clinic, these average scores rose to an SAT score of 1002 and an ACT score of 24. To top it off, the number of graduates receiving honors diplomas also increased.

Districts all around the country are struggling with teacher retention and recruitment. On top of that, teachers often report feeling burned out and overworked. Prioritizing teacher wellness can help with all of these issues. It might even lead to increased student achievement too.

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