To compile policies for this database, Child Trends, the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago and EMT Associates, Inc, collected and coded codified and noncodified policies using a rubric capturing 200 topics across 11 domains. These domains include the 10 components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. An additional domain, the WSCC References domain, addresses the extent to which state laws include explicit references to the WSCC model or similar language, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coordinated School Health model. This current database covers codified and non-codified policies enacted as of September 2019 (proxy for school year 2019-2020) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands that applied to public schools and the general education population.
Codified policies include statutes (bills passed by state legislatures) and administrative regulations (rules promulgated by state agencies after notice and comment periods). Codified polices are binding on each public school and district within the state. Codified policies were collected using a series of Boolean searches in both LexisNexis and WestLaw; for variables included in the 2017 version of the database, researchers checked whether the statutes or regulations had been amended or rescinded or if new policies had been enacted.
For any variable with new or changed provisions, and for variables new to the pre-determined coding parameters, a team of trained coders reviewed each law and scored it using a rubric. The rubric generally assigns ratings either on a dichotomous basis (e.g., addressed/not addressed) or through an ordinal rating based on the prescriptiveness of the law (e.g., not addressed/ encouraged/required). Prescriptive laws are not necessarily more effective or better aligned with the research than less prescriptive laws (as the research base supporting more prescriptive language varies by domain); thus, the coding of laws are classifications rather than ratings of the strength of a given state’s laws. In some domains, the coding system was further extended to reflect where laws may either permit or prohibit similar activities (e.g., permitted/not addressed/prohibited).
Before populating the online database, the research team located publicly available sources (i.e., state legislature websites) for each of the state statutes and regulations cited for user accessibility and ease of use. If a public source could not be located, such language was omitted from the NASBE database per our subscription-based agreements with LexisNexis and Westlaw.
Non-codified policies include materials such as state board policy documents that have not been incorporated into statutes and regulations, board memos, policy guidance, and other information from state agency websites. Although there are many reasons why schools and districts may be compelled to follow these policies, non-codified policies are typically not considered binding in the same way as statutes and regulations.
For non-codified policies, the research team compiled a list of website URLs for each state’s board of education, department of education, department of health, department of agriculture, health and physical education standards, and Consolidated State ESSA Plan. Python code was used to conduct a web scrape of these URLs to search for noncodified policies and implementation guidance published as of September 2019 using the same key word search terms used to collect codified policies. The research team reviewed each item from the web scan to determine its relevance to the related variable.
The full coding rubric noted above was not used for non-codified policies. Instead, variables for which the web scan returned a relevant non-codified policy, website, or guidance document were coded “1 – addressed,” while variables for which the web scrape returned no relevant results were coded “0 – not addressed.” Not every policy, guidance document, and website included a publication date and, in some instances, it appeared that documents were published prior to September 2019 but updated more recently. Researchers used their best judgement to determine whether a non-codified policy fell within the scope of the search. For purposes of overall coding, we only included information about noncodified policies if a state had no codified statutes or regulations about a given topic.