On June 6, the North Carolina State Board of Education (SBE) approved new academic content standards for K–12 Healthful Living. The standards determine the content that the state thinks students should know and the skills it believes they should have after finishing each grade or completing each Health or Physical Education class.

Although the standards writers’ final attempt incorporated some good content and revisions, other changes (or lack thereof) raised questions as to the standards’ ultimate value.

My analysis of the standards boiled down to the following:

The version that will likely guide teachers’ instruction is vague. Having vague standards not only is bad for kids, but it also leaves the door open for school boards to adopt instructional materials that sideline parents, downplay abstinence before marriage, and incorporate instruction in gender identity.

So, what happens now that the SBE has approved the new standards?

Dr. Terry Stoops, former director of the John Locke Foundation’s Center for Effective Education, previously wrote about actions policymakers can take if they are concerned about the quality of academic content standards approved by the SBE.

Although it is understandably reluctant to do so, the General Assembly could step in and delay implementation of the standards if it believes they fail to meet statutory requirements. In 2021, the North Carolina House tried to delay implementation of controversial social studies standards, but the legislation ultimately stalled when the Senate failed to approve the bill put forth by the House.

Barring intervention by the General Assembly, North Carolina will transition to the implementation stage, which lasts five to seven years and consists of the installation phase, initial implementation, and full implementation. During this time, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will help educators implement the standards “by launching a state implementation plan, providing training, and collecting data and feedback to evaluate the implementation process.”

During the installation phase, DPI will provide a copy of the standards to all stakeholders, determine and publicize timelines for transitioning curricula and assessments to align with the standards, and identify needs and opportunities for professional development.

The focus will then shift to school boards as they begin to evaluate their curricula to determine whether they align with the new standards. School boards must accept the new content standards, but they have the authority to choose the curricula they use to implement them. Parents and other community members who have concerns about the standards should encourage their local school board to adopt strong curricula to compensate for any deficiencies in the standards.

Initial implementation of the new Healthful Living standards is scheduled to begin in the 2025–26 school year, with full implementation by 2026–27. Read the new Health and Physical Education standards here and here, respectively.