What is the California health education framework? Here’s your two-minute primer

This month, the State Board of Education approved a new Health Education Framework for public schools, providing optional guidance for K-12 teachers based on California’s health education standards.

So what exactly is a framework, how does it differ from the standards, and how does the California Healthy Youth Act fit into the equation? Here’s your two-minute primer, starting with the standards:

Health Education Content Standards for California Public Schools (2008)

Cover of California's health education standards documentJust as there are state-adopted standards for English, math, science and other subjects, content standards were approved in 2008 for health education, describing the knowledge and skills that all students should possess. These, of course, vary greatly by grade level.

For example, the standards say first-graders should be able to explain why sleep and rest are important for growth and good health. Students in grades seven and eight should be able to analyze the nutritional value of different foods and identify ways to increase daily physical activity. High schoolers should be able to demonstrate assertive communication skills to resist pressures to use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

You can access the health education standards by grade level here: www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/

California Healthy Youth Act (2016)

Originally known as AB 329, the California Healthy Youth Act is a state law that requires schools to provide students with comprehensive sexual health education, along with information about HIV prevention, at least once in high school and once in middle school, starting in seventh grade.

The California Healthy Youth Act is not a curriculum — each district is responsible for establishing its own curriculum — and it affirms the right of parents to opt out of sex education. Required topics include the safety and effectiveness of contraceptive methods, sexually transmitted diseases, gender identity, sexual orientation and healthy relationships.

You can read the full text of AB 329 on the California Legislative Information website. Or, check out our list of questions and answers about the California Healthy Youth Act: newsroom.ocde.us/six-questions-and-answers-about-the-california-healthy-youth-act/

Health Education Framework for California Public Schools (2019)

Finally, the Health Education Framework was drafted as an optional guide to help educators deliver lessons tied to California’s health education standards. It was approved by the state Board of Education on May 8.

This document has recommendations related to physical, mental, emotional and social health, but it’s also not a curriculum. Think of it instead as a framework designed to help districts and teachers develop curriculums and instruction that enable students to make healthy choices and avoid high-risk behaviors.

According to the state Department of Education, the framework also includes additional guidance on the California Healthy Youth Act, as well as suggestions on the use of gender-neutral and LGBTQ-inclusive language during health instruction. These are intended to make sure classrooms environments are free of bullying and harassment.

The framework covers these six content areas:

  • Nutrition and physical activity
  • Growth, development and sexual health
  • Injury, prevention and safety
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
  • Mental, emotional and social health
  • Personal and community health

Again, the recommendations and resources in the Health Education Framework are optional. Here’s what the California Department of Education has to say about the framework: www.cde.ca.gov/ci/he/cf/