April 28, 2014
In an unprecedented unified effort, the nation’s leading sexual health education organizations have come together to release The National Teacher Preparation Standards on Sexuality Education. These standards were created to provide guidance to institutions of higher education in order to better prepare undergraduate physical and health education teachers to deliver sexuality education in school settings.
In the United States, sexuality education is most commonly taught within the health curriculum at the middle and high school levels. In addition to parents, America’s teachers play a vital role in providing young people with the information they need to protect their health and futures. However, only 61% of colleges and universities require sexuality education courses for health education certification and nearly one third of teachers responsible for sexuality education report receiving no pre-service or in-service training in this area. The National Teacher Preparation Standards will better prepare undergraduate physical- and health education students to provide high-quality comprehensive sexuality education that is developmentally, culturally, and age appropriate.
“Providing instruction on sexual health education can be challenging, we understand that,” said Elissa Barr, PhD, co-author and Associate Professor of Public Health, Director of Community Health, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida. “Teachers have the unique opportunity to directly impact the health of our youth, including their current and future relationships.”
The National Teacher Preparation Standards address seven broad professional areas:
- Standard 1: Professional Disposition
Teacher candidates demonstrate comfort with, commitment to, and self-efficacy in teaching sexuality education.
- Standard 2: Diversity and Equity
Teacher candidates show respect for individual, family, and cultural characteristics and experiences that may influence student learning about sexuality.
- Standard 3: Content Knowledge
Teacher candidates have accurate and current knowledge of the biological, emotional, social, and legal aspects of human sexuality.
- Standard 4: Legal and Professional Ethics
Teacher candidates make decisions based on applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations and policies, as well as professional ethics.
- Standard 5: Planning
Teacher candidates plan age- and developmentally-appropriate sexuality education that is aligned with standards, policies, and laws and reflects the diversity of the community.
- Standard 6: Implementation
Teacher candidates use a variety of effective strategies to teach sexuality education.
- Standard 7: Assessment
Teacher candidates implement effective strategies to assess student knowledge, attitudes, and skills in order to improve sexuality education instruction.
With these standards, teacher-preparation programs will be able to guide curriculum, instruction, and assessment decisions among their undergraduate students who will eventually be responsible for teaching sexuality education.
The recent CDC findings that report 80 percent of teens ages 15-17 have had no formal sex education before they have sex for the first time, certainly point to a missed opportunity for educators and community members to provide young people with the skills and tools to make healthy decisions about sex and relationships.
“We expect teachers to be well prepared in every other curricular area. Why should sexuality education be any different?” asks Nora Gelperin, director of training at Answer. “Health teachers are hungry for support. With the release of the National Teacher Preparation Standards we are stepping up and providing teachers with the training they need.”
Polls show there is broad support for comprehensive sex education among parents, teachers, health care professionals, and young people.
“Comprehensive sex education, when done well, can providea foundation not just for the prevention of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, but for the promotion of health throughout young people’s lifetimes,” said Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth. “Preparing our nation’s educators is an essential step towards making sure that young people have the information and skills they need to make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health.”
The development of the National Teacher Preparation Standards is part of the ongoing Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative. After wide success with the National Sexuality Education Standards, which has spurred state and local level implementation of sexual health education in states as varied as Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Washington and Connecticut, this new focus is on writing guidance specifically for faculty in teacher preparation programs.
“The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) partners are committed to ensuring that all public school students in the United States have access to high-quality, age, culturally, and developmentally appropriate comprehensive sexuality education delivered by well-trained teachers,” said Monica Rodriguez, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). “We hope that school administrators, classroom teachers, university faculty, and others who care about public education are able to use the resources and tools that we’ve developed to ensure that our nation’s young people have the foundational elements needed to live a sexually healthy life.”
The National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education is currently available in the online publication of the Journal of School Health and will also be available in the printed June edition. More information on the Teacher Standards can be found here.
The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative is a partnership between Advocates for Youth, Answer, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) that seeks to create a national dialogue about the future of sex education and to promote the institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. To learn more and view the complete National Sexuality Education Standards, please visit www.futureofsexed.org.