Well-Rounded Educational Opportunities

One of the three purposes of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) program is to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education as a means of improving academic achievement. Ensuring all students have access to a holistic well-rounded education is central to the shared work across programs in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA).


What Is It?

A ‘‘well-rounded education’’ reflects courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.

What Are the Benefits of a Well-Rounded Education?

Research supports the benefits of a well-rounded education. Students are better able to understand a text when they have had exposure to the knowledge and experiences referenced in that text. Experience shows that students who have been exposed to the language and vocabulary of the natural world, the sciences, and social studies are better readers. Research also shows that students who have strong experiences in the arts often perform better in math. The arts also help children think creatively, and develop language skills in other languages.

How Can Educational Stakeholders Promote a Well-Rounded Education?

The SSAE non-regulatory guidance offers many examples of how schools can promote well-rounded educational opportunities. For example, teachers and others can improve access to foreign language, arts, and music education; support college and career counseling; provide programming to improve instruction and student engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); promote access to accelerated learning opportunities; and strengthening instruction in American history, civics, economics, geography, and environmental education.

Selection of Related Resources

Screenshot of the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection highlights on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics course taking brief

U.S. Department of Education | Office for Civil Rights | April 2018

STEM Course Taking Issue Brief. 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection highlights on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics course taking in our nation's public schools.

Access the Brief

Federal Resources

General Resources

  • The Smithsonian Institution offers many opportunities for learning in the classroom and at home, by offering a wide variety of digital tools to support active engagement and inquiry-based learning.
  • The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies (2012) examines arts-related variables from four large datasets – three maintained by the U.S. Department of Education and one by the U.S. Department of Labor – to understand the relationship between arts engagement and positive academic and social outcomes in children and young adults of low socioeconomic status (SES). The analyses show that achievement gaps between high- and low-SES groups appear to be mitigated for children and young adults who have arts-rich backgrounds.
  • US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools inspires schools, districts, and IHEs to strive for 21st-century excellence, by highlighting promising practices and resources that all can employ. To that end, the award recognizes schools, districts, and IHEs that: reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide environmental education, which teaches many disciplines, and are especially good at effectively incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways. Information on the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon 41 Schools program and past awardees may be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/awards.html.

Content-Specific Resources

  • What the Research Shows provides links to studies that show some of the benefits associated with learning foreign languages.
  • CASEL Guide to Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs provides a systematic framework for evaluating the quality of SEL programs. The guide applies the framework to identify and rate well-designed, 43 evidence-based SEL programs. The guide also shares best-practice guidelines for district and school teams on how to select and implement SEL programs.


Featured Resources