The Future of Sex Education Initiative (FoSE) was launched in July 2007 as a partnership between Advocates for Youth, Answer, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS).
FoSE seeks to create a national dialogue about the future of sex education and to promote the institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education in public schools.
Since its inception, the FoSE partners have successfully completed numerous projects to advance the collective effort of improving sexuality education in U.S. schools including:
- Developing and disseminating the first-ever National Sexuality Education Standards, K–12 which are being used in 32 states. Initially released in a special report of the Journal of School Health in January 2012, a series of Webinars, conference presentations, and technical assistance supported their initial adoption and implementation.
- Developing the National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education and corresponding article “Improving Sexuality Education: The Development of Teacher Preparation Standards” published in the Journal of School Health in June 2014.
- Grant-making to 21 institutions of higher education in 15 states to implement the National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education.
- Releasing numerous other tools including to support the implementation of the National Sexuality Education Standards and National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education as well as the FoSE Tool kit, designed to assist state and local organizations to convene a FoSE-like strategic planning summit in their communities; a Public Education Primer, School Health Primer, a Glossary of Education Terms, and Addressing Sexual Health in Schools: Policy Considerations.
- Commissioning the development and publication of “Broadening the Evidence for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Education in the U.S.” in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, which provided an expanded view of the evidence for sexuality education including research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, gender, and economic inequalities and health.
- Successfully influencing the Office of Adolescent Health to adopt language reflective of research commissioned by FoSE partners (see above), particularly that teen pregnancy prevention initiatives must provide young people with sequential, age-appropriate evidence-based programs at multiple times and language emphasizing the importance of addressing cultural norms, gender equity, economic and educational opportunities, and healthy relationships.
- Informing and shaping the new direction and focus of DASH-funded activity, which now includes an emphasis on sex education.
- Completing a second Future of Sex Education Strategic Plan, 2016-2021.
The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 (NSES)
The goal of the National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 is to provide clear, consistent and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades K–12.
Specifically, the National Sexuality Education Standards were developed to address the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. The National Sexuality Education Standards:
• Outline what, based on research and extensive professional expertise, are the minimum, essential content and skills for sexuality education K–12 given student needs, limited teacher preparation and typically available time and resources.
• Assist schools in designing and delivering sexuality education K–12 that is planned, sequential and part of a comprehensive school health education approach.
• Provide a clear rationale for teaching sexuality education content and skills at different grade levels that is evidence-informed, age-appropriate and theory driven.
• Support schools in improving academic performance by addressing a content area that is both highly relevant to students and directly related to high school graduation rates.
• Present sexual development as a normal, natural, healthy part of human development that should be a part of every health education curriculum.
• Offer clear, concise recommendations for school personnel on what is age-appropriate to teach students at different grade levels.
• Translate an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education so that it can be put into practice in the classroom.
The Standards are presented both by topic and by grade level.
National Teacher Preparation Standards and Tools
In the United States, sexuality education is most commonly taught within the health education curriculum at the middle and high school levels. The Teacher Preparation Standards will better prepare undergraduate pre-service students in providing high-quality comprehensive sexuality education that is developmentally, culturally, and age appropriate.
Professional Preparation Program Curriculum Mapping Tool for Implementation of the National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education
Assessment of the Application of the National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education in a Professional Preparation Program
Performance Assessment Tool for Teacher Candidates Teaching Sexuality Education, for use with Middle School and High School Levels
Theoretical Frameworks and Models Commonly Used in Sexuality Education Programs and Curricula: A Summary
Facts about Sex Education
As they grow up, young people face important decisions about relationships, sexuality, and sexual behavior. The decisions they make can impact their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. Young people have the right to lead healthy lives, and society has the responsibility to prepare youth by providing them with comprehensive sexual health education that gives them the tools they need to make healthy decisions. But it is not enough for programs to include discussions of abstinence and contraception to help young people avoid unintended pregnancy or disease. Comprehensive sexual health education must do more. It must provide young people with honest, age-appropriate information and skills necessary to help them take personal responsibility for their health and overall well being.
Building a Foundation for Sexual Health Is a K–12 Endeavor: Evidence Underpinning the National Sexuality Education Standards
Comprehensive Sex Education: Research and Results
Tools and Resources
Additional information for use in the classroom or for those working to change sex education in their communities.
Advocates for Youth: Established in 1980 as the Center for Population Options, Advocates for Youth is dedicated to creating programs and advocating for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Advocates provides information, training, and strategic assistance about youth reproductive and sexual health to youth-serving organizations, policy makers, youth activists, parents and the media in the United States and in low- and middle-income countries. The organization also works to shift the current societal paradigm of adolescent sexuality away from a negative emphasis on fear and ignorance, towards one that embraces youth sexual development as healthy and normal, recognizes young people as assets, and acknowledges youth’s inalienable rights to sexual health information and services. For more information about Advocates for Youth, visit www.advocatesforyouth.org
Answer: Founded in 1981 as the New Jersey Network for Family Life Education, Answer provides and promotes comprehensive sexuality education for young people and the adults who teach them. From its inception, Answer has provided high-quality training to educators and health professionals to ensure they are prepared to provide the information young people need and deserve to make healthy decisions. In 1994, Answer also began using the power of peer-to-peer communication in the publication of its award-winning, teen-written Sex, Etc. magazine and website, which allows teens to directly access accurate and developmentally appropriate sexuality information. To learn more about Answer visit http://answer.rutgers.edu.
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS): Founded in 1964, SIECUS believes that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect. SIECUS provides information and training opportunities for educators, health professionals, parents, and communities across the country and advocates for sound public policies to ensure that people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds, receive high quality, comprehensive education about sexuality. To learn more about SIECUS visit www.siecus.org.
Danene Sorace, MPP: Ms. Sorace is the former director of Answer and served as founder and consultant to the Future of Sex Education project. The organizing partners would like to express our appreciation to Danene for her dedication and expertise on this project. Danene can be reached at email@example.com.