8

Developing and Implementing K-12 National Nutrition Education Curriculum Standards

On the second day of the workshop, participants divided into six breakout groups to discuss the needs, design, challenges, and next steps in developing nutrition education curriculum standards. All six groups were asked to address two broad questions:

  1. Why are nutrition education curriculum standards needed? Or are they?
  2. What do we need to think about to ensure the development of implementable, effective standards?

In addition, three groups were asked to address the following question:

  • What are the greatest challenges you see in developing and implementing nutrition education curriculum standards?

The other three groups were asked to address the question:

  • How do we move forward?

Following the breakout discussions, Robert Crosnoe, professor in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and other members of the planning committee synthesized the breakout groups’ discussions, which were reported by Karen Cullen, chair of the planning committee. The observations summarized below should not be seen as consensus views of the workshop session



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8 Developing and Implementing K-12 National Nutrition Education Curriculum Standards On the second day of the workshop, participants divided into six breakout groups to discuss the needs, design, challenges, and next steps in developing nutrition education curriculum standards. All six groups were asked to address two broad questions: 1. Why are nutrition education curriculum standards needed? Or are they? 2. What do we need to think about to ensure the development of implementable, effective standards? In addition, three groups were asked to address the following question: • What are the greatest challenges you see in developing and imple- menting nutrition education curriculum standards? The other three groups were asked to address the question: • How do we move forward? Following the breakout discussions, Robert Crosnoe, professor in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Center at the Uni- versity of Texas at Austin, and other members of the planning commit- tee synthesized the breakout groups’ discussions, which were reported by Karen Cullen, chair of the planning committee. The observations summa- rized below should not be seen as consensus views of the workshop session 73

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74 NUTRITION EDUCATION IN THE K-12 CURRICULUM breakout groups or the workshop participants as a whole, but they provide a valuable review of the workshop deliberations and point to the potential of future action. THE NEED FOR STANDARDS In response to question 1, the moderators for the breakout groups noted that the participants suggested standards would affect nutrition be- haviors across the lifespan, thus improving health in a number of areas. In essence, the same justification exists for nutrition education standards as for school health policies. Some breakout group participants also thought standards would make nutrition issues more visible and accessible to a variety of audiences inside and outside of schools. They could provide consistency, be based on sci- ence, and be accurate and comprehensive. However, it was noted the states cannot be forced to adopt standards. Some group members argued for standards organized by grade bands to increase flexibility. Others wanted standards to be grade specific, since having standards for each grade makes evaluation easier and provides for accountability. Some also urged that standards be developed for prekinder- gartners as well as K-12 students. The overall goal would be to help children become adults who would choose foods for a healthy diet. One way to help achieve this goal would be to update the national health education standards and highlight nutrition within those standards. Many other resources are available that could spur and support action, but they need to be coordinated and used effectively. DEVELOPING IMPLEMENTABLE AND EFFECTIVE STANDARDS With regard to question 2, many of the breakout group participants suggested that nutrition education be linked to the Common Core stan- dards currently available or being developed. However, some participants thought while nutrition education could be integrated with other subjects, the subject may also need to be treated on its own periodically to ensure that nutrition information does not get blurred and lost. Other participants suggested a major opportunity for integration with other subjects is to think about nutrition in the much larger context of food systems and policy. Many participants opined that standards should be flexible enough so that teachers and schools can decide how to meet the standards. Such flex- ibility also allows for the regional and socioeconomic differences among schools. The standards could be comprehensive but broad enough to be accessible to many stakeholders and implementers. They also noted that teachers would need the resources to implement standards.

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DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING K-12 STANDARDS 75 Many of the breakout group participants felt that evaluation is critical, with many people involved in discussions about evaluation to get buy-in and cooperation. While the participants thought that evaluation should include behaviors, some breakout group participants expressed concern that teachers not be held accountable for what students choose to eat in a cafeteria. School report cards or other incentives may be a way to foster behavioral changes. Some participants argued for including nutrition in standardized tests so that it does not get lost. Others opposed standardized testing on nutrition. It would be important to consider the effects of food marketing on student eating behaviors. In general, many stakeholders have an interest in the school environment, from the food service staff to educators to policy makers. For example, one participant worried about the possibility of lawsuits and other kinds of pushback if students were told what to eat and what not to eat. CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING STANDARDS Three of the breakout groups addressed the question about challenges in developing and implementing nutrition education curriculum standards. Various group participants identified costs and resources, political will, and time, along with who will deliver and implement standards where and when, as possible obstacles. According to some breakout group participants, strategies to overcome these obstacles include providing educators with information and training and ensuring that implementation of standards is reasonable and doable. They believe standards need to reflect current concerns and constraints, especially with regard to the amount of time available to teachers over the course of a school year. However, several participants observed that obesity is a costly problem for schools and that nutrition education would rank high in any list of potential curriculum topics. MOVING FORWARD The other three breakout groups considered the question of how best to move forward. Among federal agencies, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Depart- ment of Education would be the major drivers of change, according to these breakout group participants. Some breakout group members thought the Department of Education should take the lead, while others thought USDA should do so. Many participants believed the curriculum standards should be linked to the dietary guidelines to improve eating patterns. Also, it was

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76 NUTRITION EDUCATION IN THE K-12 CURRICULUM suggested that the development of standards may need to be undertaken by a group outside government, much as the Common Core standards are being developed by an independent organization. Those interested in the development of nutrition education standards could examine how other topical groups—such as those working on health education or sex education—have developed and updated standards. The framework developed by the National Research Council (NRC, 2012) for the development of the Common Core science standards was cited as a particularly valuable model for the development of standards.