Whole Child Approach

ASCD’s Whole Child approach is an effort to transition from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the long-term development and success of all children. Through this approach, ASCD supports educators, families, community members, and policymakers as they move from a vision about educating the whole child to sustainable, collaborative actions. ASCD is joined in this effort by Whole Child Partner organizations representing the education, arts, health, policy, and community sectors.

Promoting a whole child approach to education redefines a successful learner as one that is knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically inspired, engaged in the arts, and prepared for work and economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling.

Using this framework moves us beyond a definition of success that is measured only by academic achievement and focuses on five tenets designed to measure how well your school is serving students:


  • Healthy: Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Safe: Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Engaged: Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Supported: Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Challenged: Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

Success Stories

  • A.Fredstrom Elementary School – Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska


    “Fredstrom Elementary has used the Whole Child approach to educate stakeholders and the community about the Whole Child philosophy, empower teacher leadership, and bring clarity to the school improvement process.”

    —Vicki Schulenberg, Principal—Vicki Schulenberg, Principal (Le Sueur-Henderson Middle School/High School)


    B.  Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools–Independent School District #2397 in Le Sueur, Minnesota


    “Our small, rural middle and high school has long prided itself on knowing our students well and being able to adapt to meet a student’s needs. If an individual student was running into trouble with the system that was in place, our teachers and administrators worked hard to find a way to get that student what he or she needed. However, by joining the WCN, our school has learned ways to Move away from just helping an individual student who struggles with the Educational system towards building an entire school that fits the needs of each of our students. For our school, this work began by finding ways to better meet students’ basic needs for health and safety, especially in areas like mental health support, food service programs, and sustaining students’ connections with teachers. As our school has continued to work towards creating an engaging, supportive, and challenging environment, we’ve focused on things like teacher growth and on Explaining options for students to meet their learning goals.”

    —Stacy Carpenter, School Counselor


    C.      Urban Community School-Diocese of Cleveland in Cleveland, Ohio


    “The tenets of the Whole Child approach allow us to maintain our commitment to the mission of Urban Community School as well as to educate, support, engage, and love the next generation as we prepare them to lead productive lives in which they contribute to society as a whole.”

    —Natalie Celeste, Middle School Vice Principal