The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states new opportunities to more fully integrate health into education policy and practices. Several policy and funding provisions in ESSA are aimed toward supporting student social-emotional, physical, and mental health and ensuring that all students attend school in a safe, supportive environment.

State Accountability Systems: Statewide accountability systems must include at least one measure of school quality and student success, such as school climate and safety.

School improvement: Student health services and other supports to ensure that students learn in healthy, safe, and supportive schools can be folded into state plans to provide comprehensive, targeted support to the lowest performing schools. The plans can also include guidance on how to incorporate student health and wellness into school-level needs assessments to ensure schools understand the leading health issues that affect their students.

Well-rounded education. In ESSA, the term “well-rounded education” replaces the concept of “core subjects” that was used in No Child Left Behind. The definition of well-rounded education includes both health education and physical education.

Professional Development: ESSA’s Title II specifically highlights that ESSA funds can be used for professional development programming that trains school staff to recognize and address student behavioral and mental health needs and chronic absenteeism, for example.

Community support for school success. ESSA establishes funding underTitle IV for Full-Service Community Schools and for Promise Neighborhoods. Both Full-Service Community Schools and Promise Neighborhoods present important opportunities for supporting student health and wellness.

The purpose of this page is to provide a snapshot of state ESSA plans across the US. Click on a state to see key highlights from that state’s plan. Each plan was reviewed from the lens of how strongly the whole child was considered, the extent to which health measures are included in accountability systems, specific mentions of health supports or programming within a well-rounded education, school improvement, professional development or community support for school success. Where appropriate, we identify additional opportunities to leverage ESSA plans to support student health and well-being, talking points for state advocates and opportunities for public input. SHAPE America provides a State Advocacy Toolkit of resources, that we encourage you to review here

If you are interested in technical assistance/support, Dr. Kymm Ballard is a proud partner on this Cairn Guidance project and available. Contact her at: 


Current state ESSA plans are highlighted in red below. Click on the state name below to review our analysis.

We are monitoring developments in state plans due to the release of modified guidance from the US Department of Education. Please continue to check back as we will continue to add our review of state plans and update these plans regularly.