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Step 3: Identify School Districts for Potential Sex Education Implementation


  • List of promising school districts that show strong readiness for sex education institutionalization

With a clear sense of what’s possible (the policies and regulations governing sex education) and an understanding of current sex education funding streams and programs, it is time to reach out to school districts. Many school districts are willing and ready to work on sex education – they just need help to tip the balance from their current state to effective and sustainable sex education. That means the focus of this step should be finding ready and willing school districts that are eager for sex education implementation assistance. This work falls into two stages: 1) identifying school districts; and 2) exploring the likelihood of success. At the end of this step the goal is to have a limited pool of promising school districts that are worth investing time to conduct a sex education readiness assessment.


  1. Network and build relationships.

    Use existing relationships, “warm leads,” and/or the convenience of existing efforts and events (e.g., conferences) to connect to key public education and sex education players to determine where to focus identification efforts. Consider bringing together multiple school districts to one shared workshop to discuss your sex education offerings. These workshops provide an opportunity to learn, share, and have a conversation about sex education. 

  2. Be clear about the value proposition of how sex education benefits school districts and students as well as the knowledge, skills, and experience you bring to the school district.

    Provide clear information to potential school districts including the benefits of sex education, how you will support the school district’s sex education work, and the time and commitment expectations from school district leadership and personnel. Many school districts want to provide sex education, but they may not have the expertise or time to do it on their own. School districts may also be nervous that an outsider will bring in a specific agenda and may not meet their unique needs. Showing that you’ll bring a flexible and tailored approach that provides solutions and critical information can be effective for under-resourced schools.

  3. Determine and use criteria to select the most promising school districts.

    Identify promising school districts by looking at different characteristics and criteria of interest (e.g., total student enrollment, current policy, teen pregnancy rates). 

  4. Create tailored fact sheets for interested school districts.

    Bring valuable data to exploratory meetings with school districts to document the school district’s sex education context and demonstrate the value, resources, and skills you can bring to bear on the sex education work. For example, bring an analysis of the level of the school district’s current alignment between the school district policy and the state policy or public health data such as rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.  Check out the Sample School District Message Development Tool.  


    Establish a pipeline of prospective school districts in case the work is slower than expected. The ability of school districts to engage and commit to sex education work varies. For some school districts, getting their “house in order” to launch the project may take over a year, for others substantial progress can be achieved in a matter of months. Therefore, it is important to develop a list of prospective school districts to have a backup in place in case work with one school district is slower than anticipated. This pipeline tracking tool can help you. 

  5. Conduct a preliminary assessment of school district readiness.

    While the next phase of the WISE method includes an in-depth readiness assessment, some sites have found a light-touch preliminary assessment valuable to provide an early gauge of whether or not a school district shows promise. The preliminary assessment can include questions to ascertain the level of school district administration buy-in, frequency and quality of communication and identified community champions to get a snapshot of the current readiness and supports that are likely to be needed for a successful engagement.


    Look out for warning signs that a school district may not be ready or have the capacity to dedicate time and support to sex education. The current educational change climate is crowded with competing priorities. School districts may be over-committed and unable to attend to sex education institutionalization work. Further, if key leadership roles are newly filled (e.g., a first-year superintendent) it is unlikely that there will be sufficient leadership capacity within the district to effectively move sex education institutionalization forward. Therefore, it is important to assess the likelihood of school district leadership to earnestly move the sex education work forward. Similarly, if there are early warning signs of staunch opponents or fear of controversy, it is important to understand how those may impede the work.