What PTA Means to Me

Latha KrishnaiyerGrowing up in India, I was never left in any doubt about the importance of education. Belief in the power of education cuts across all socio-economic lines and parents make it a priority in the lives of children.

In a country, where there isn’t an adequate public education system, parents still do their very best to provide their children with a quality education. Perhaps this is why I am so passionate about fighting for high quality public schools for all children and continue to be in awe of the concept of a free and equal system of education.

As an education major, moving to Florida from Wisconsin, I was worried about the quality of the public schools. My professors advised me to get involved in the school and volunteer. And did I ever, literally jumping in with both feet. When I registered my son for kindergarten, I signed up for the PTA and checked off so many committees that when I arrived at Open House, I was startled when I was told that the first VP of the PTA wanted to see me. Why? My first teachable PTA moment.  Always welcome eager new volunteers and give them an assignment to do. It sure got me moving.

I got involved in PTA as so many of us do for our own children, but involvement in PTA opens up a vista of information, education and training, which in very short order turns you into a lifelong advocate for all children. The experience and opportunities that you can access as a PTA member, equips you to become a successful presenter, trainer and leader, not only in your PTA, but in any setting, be it corporate, volunteer or even political office. That same Vice President that met me at Open House, went on to become the mayor of our city– that is what PTA can do for you.

My own PTA journey began 35 years ago and led me to become President of the Florida PTA and a member of the National PTA Board of Directors. My active involvement has continued well past my son’s school days and will always be a part of my life. Advocacy on behalf of children is a high calling and is always in need of voices that can speak up for children. As America changes, it will take many diverse voices to move the agenda forward for children and public education. I continue to enjoy spreading the PTA vision and message to new members. I hope to see many more of our diverse community get involved and active in speaking up for children, who are yet to find their voices.


Latha Krishnaiyer – Masters in Exceptional Student Education, former classroom teacher, Past President of Florida PTA, former member of National PTA Board of Directors, currently serving on National PTA’s Organizational Effectiveness Committee, UFEN Team Lead, Broward County, Florida.

Reflections Celebrates Month of the Asian American Child

In May, National PTA’s Every Child in Focus campaign celebrates the arts and culture of Asian American/Pacific Islanders. Educators, families and PTAs are encouraged to deepen family engagement using the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and provided resources.


Student Artist Narhee Kim “Epiphany”

Explore additional arts and cultural resources for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month provided by The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

To help paint the picture of family engagement, The National PTA Reflections award recipient Jordan Whitmer shares his original film titled “Forever Family” based on the 2013-2014 program theme: Believe, Dream, Inspire.


Jordan Whitmer and family

“Approximately ten years ago, in a snow-covered village in mainland China, a baby girl was born. Sadly, her parents were not able to keep her. Left in a basket in a very public place, this girl was found, and brought to an orphanage.  One year later, this baby girl met her forever family. She will always be my sister.” – Jordan Whitmer

Watch Jordan’s award winning film production Forever Family.”

“We are passionate about family.  As parents, we pour into our kids every day, knowing that we only have a few short years to invest in their lives before they become adults.  We are intentional about experiences that provide our kids with a chance to learn about a big world.  As a family, we enjoy serving others in our local public schools, on a missions trip, or at our local food pantry.

We are so grateful for the partnership we have with our local public schools when it comes to the arts.  Through band, choir, and PTA Reflections, our kids have had some amazing opportunities to learn and grow as young musicians and production artists.  We have found this to be a great way to make a difference in the lives of others!” –Rick and Lisa Whitmer, parents of Jordan, Blake and Jenna Whitmer.

Interested in providing PTA Reflections in your school community? Visit PTA.org/Reflections to get started.

Email Reflections@pta.org to tell us your Reflections story.

The New Family Vacation: Mickey, Minnie, and History???

Teachers are often privy to their student’s conversations about upcoming family trips. It is common for family trips to include entertaining venues such as theme park attractions, long road trips, beach trips, and overseas adventures. As a parent, teacher educator, and lover of all things social studies I am a proponent of extending family vacations to include historical, cultural, and educational excursions. I am an advocate for classroom teachers and administrators suggesting educational family vacation ideas through class or school newsletters and websites, as well as at parent teacher association meetings. A potential way for schools to integrate the experiences of students and what they have learned on family vacations may be through class or school blogs.

I often share the benefits of experiential knowledge through travel with my undergraduate preservice teachers. For example, I appreciate reflective visits to southern plantations. Because I am African American, my students often regard my interest as peculiar. As I share with them, I am interested in learning and “feeling” how my ancestors lived on a slave plantation. I do not focus on the majestic nature of the plantation house, but rather, I consider the size and how slave cabins are made; the slaves’ distance to the master’s house, other slave cabins, and the fields they toiled; and, the route slaves used to escape to freedom. I have also had the opportunity to share interesting facts with my students.

Andrea_Lewis1The Kingsley Plantation outside of Amelia Island, Florida has an uncommon story and the composition of the slave cabins is unique to the natural habitat of the area. Having the opportunity to travel to this location provides teachers with a wealth of teaching ideas. Teachers can follow up and encourage students to compare and contrast slave life on other plantations in nearby or far away regions, trace the slaves’ origin by researching tribes in West Africa, compare life in Spanish Florida to United States Florida, and examine the concept of manumission. There are a multitude of graphic organizers, technology applications, and global learning opportunities that can occur as well. Budding social scientists will glean interesting comparisons and relevant knowledge that is not widely shared in social studies textbooks.

Andrea_Lewis2Another exciting adventure my family encountered was visiting Eatonville, Florida during a week-long trip to Orlando. While my children were energized and looked forward to visiting the Disney World, spending the night with dolphins at Sea World, and the Kennedy Space Center, they were equally eager to learn about the small town of Eatonville. Eatonville was the first African American town in the United States to incorporate in 1887 with 27 families. As with the rich history of Kinsley Plantation, Eatonville offers extended learning for blogging, digital storytelling, oral history interviews, comparison of scouting through the years, exposure to the Harlem Renaissance, and analysis of the town’s fluctuating economy where poverty rates were once twice the nation’s average.

Adding learning opportunities to family vacations provide access to unique educational, cultural, and historic venues that offer experiential learning that not only lasts a lifetime, but can spark a new passion or affinity for travel. Furthermore, it provides parents and children with an opportunity to learn and create vibrant projects resulting from the knowledge gained at the sites. While bonding and creating memories with their children, parents are instilling a love for history, critical thinking, and conceptualizing learning beyond a traditional classroom.


Turning Plans into Progress: 2014 Together Counts™ Grant Winners

National PTA is a member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing childhood obesity by providing tools to schools and families encouraging active, healthy lifestyles through energy balance.

For the past 4 years through its Together Counts™ program, HWCF has challenged schools to improve it’s energy balance footprint, believing incentives create change. Schools have responded overwhelmingly this year and we’re delighted to share stories of HWCF’s grand prize winners, hoping to inspire more schools to take on the challenge to change.

Find Your Balance Challenge:

The Find Your Balance Challenge, a program designed to reward student teams for taking steps toward achieving Energy Balance in their school communities, has named Sara Williams, a fifth grade teacher at Barry Elementary School in Clovis, N.M. as the 2014 grand prize winner for launching a wellness program for the school’s fifth grade students. Williams’ program, which saw 100% participation among the school’s fifth graders, emphasizes the importance of balancing energy in with energy out. Volunteers from the United States Air Force underscored the importance of physical activity and conducted mock physical training tests. To track their activity, students participated in a daily “mile marker” exercise initiative. Additionally, students were offered a nutritious breakfast each morning.  A Title I School, Barry Elementary was also able to create a “backpack program” designed to send qualifying students home with weekend snacks and meals. In recognition of this massive effort, Discovery Education and Good Sports will award the deserving Barry Elementary with $30,000 in cash and new sporting equipment. The school will also receive an Ultimate Energy Balance School Assembly, and Williams will receive a five-night stay in a suite provided by Wyndham® Extra Holidays.

Smart from the Start Awards:

The Smart from the Start Awards program, a new incentive program launched this year in an effort to support and bolster healthy living initiatives for preschoolers, their families and communities, has named Keiana Davis, a Pre-K teacher at Just Like Grandma’s Childcare & Learning Center in Columbus, Ohio as the 2014 grand prize winner. The Center was awarded the grand prize for its “5/60 campaign,” designed to ensure that Pre-K students are eating five fruits and vegetables and exercising for at least 60 minutes per day. Creatively seeking support through community partnerships with organizations such as Yellow Tractor for their “Farm to School” program, grabbed the attention of judges. As the grand prize winner, Just Like Grandma’s Childcare and Learning Center will receive a $20,000 grant as well as a prize pack of books.

Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes:

Maryvale Primary School of Cheektowaga, N.Y. and Piedmont Elementary of Piedmont, Ala. have been selected as the grand prize winners of this year’s Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes. Acknowledging the importance of supporting low-income schools, the sweepstakes proudly recognizes Piedmont Elementary as this year’s Title 1 grand prize winner. Each school will receive $30,000 in cash and new sporting goods equipment as well as a new playground from Playworld Systems.

According to the CDC in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.  The Together Counts™ initiative is a national campaign that is trying to reduce that number by promoting active, healthy living through energy balance – balancing the calories we consume with the calories we burn. The program focuses its efforts on two critical areas – families and schools. It provides tips, tools and incentives for parents, teachers and school health professionals to use in encouraging energy balance. All resources are free, downloadable and available in both English and Spanish.

For a complete listing of all of the Together Counts 2014 grant winners visit TogetherCounts.com or click here. To apply for Healthy Lifestyles grant for your PTA click here.

Much More Than a Meeting: Why Parents Should Care about Teacher Collaboration Time

shutterstock_141106999Catherine Awsumb Nelson is Director of Evaluation and Learning for the National Center for Literacy Education.

Sherri Wilson is Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement for National PTA.

Catherine: I must have been wearing my mom hat that morning. Or maybe I just hadn’t had enough coffee. But when my sons told me it was another “minimum day” and that they would need to be picked up early, my gut reaction was to roll my eyes and question whether more time for “teacher meetings” was really necessary.

It didn’t take me long to don my professional hat and recognize the irony. After all, I’ve been researching the impact of teacher professional development on student learning for more than 20 years. I’ve seen particularly strong evidence for the power of inquiry-based collaborative professional work to change classroom practice. I had spent the last three months working on the new NCLE report Remodeling Literacy Learning Together: Paths to Standards Implementation, immersed in data on the role of teacher collaboration in the transition to the new Common Core literacy standards. Our findings make a strong case that teachers who have the opportunity to engage in systematic collaboration are making a quicker and more successful transition to the new standards.

I also know from the data that this kind of work is inherently time-intensive, that the kind of deep reflection that leads to real change in practice cannot be crammed into a 45-minute planning period. Yet here I was, annoyed that my family schedule was disrupted so that my children’s teachers could do precisely this kind of work. It made me wonder how other parents —  parents who may not know much about teacher collaboration and how it benefits student learning —  react to changes in the school schedule designed to create time for teachers to work together.

Back in February when I was in Washington, DC, for the release of the report, I met Sherri Wilson, who is the Senior Manager of Family Engagement at the National PTA. I told her about my “mom moment” and my wondering about how we can make the case to all parents that time for teacher collaboration is something we should not only accept but advocate for. Reflecting back on that conversation, I posed  some questions to Sherri:

Catherine: What do most parents think of when they hear “teacher collaboration”?

Sherri: I think most parents really care deeply about their children’s education and the quality of instruction, but don’t often make the connection that high quality teaching requires structured time for professional development.

Also, they don’t often realize the importance of ongoing professional development. Education is changing and teachers can’t walk out of college and expect that they’ll know it all and it will never change. That never happens!

Catherine: What is the National PTA’s position on teacher professional development and how it impacts school schedules?

Sherri: The National PTA recognizes that educational opportunities for students in the public schools of this nation are dependent on the quality of instructional programs and personnel —  and also that  teacher preparation, staff development and renewal as critical investments in children. The National PTA places great importance on in-service/staff development, and on education as a means of career-long professional development and as an approach to helping teachers do a better job. Plans for in-service education should be collaboratively developed among educators, appropriate institutions, and the community, and should be closely related to curriculum and to the classroom, as well as to student and parent interests and needs.

Catherine: What would it take for parents to understand that time together outside of the classroom makes teachers more effective when they are in the classroom?

Sherri: I believe that the best way to help parents to understand the importance of professional development is to allow them to participate in professional development as well! There are often opportunities for schools to build the capacity of parents to be more engaged by allowing them to join in on professional development, which also helps families and teachers to build trusting, respectful relationships, a key ingredient in family engagement.

Catherine: Once parents understand how valuable teacher collaboration is, what can they do to make sure the teachers at their children’s schools are reaping its benefits?

Sherri: I believe that parents can be incredibly powerful allies in advocating for high quality professional development for teachers. The National PTA suggests the following criteria for both pre-service and in-service/staff development programs:

  • Recognition of the comprehensive needs of the students of the school system;
  • Opportunity for teachers to develop skills in effective parent and community involvement;
  • Opportunity for teachers to identify their own strengths and needs as a base for professional education plan; and
  • Opportunity for teachers to learn curriculum planning jointly with other teachers; opportunity for continuing education in the teacher’s subject area.

Ultimately, when parents and teachers work together, everybody wins!

Catherine: Thanks, Sherri. All of this seems especially crucial right now, with schools undergoing so many changes as they put new standards in place. With my research hat on, I’d say the NCLE study made it clear how important it is that teachers have time to work through these changes together. With my parent hat on, I’m thinking about how important it is for other parents to know what “teacher collaboration” really looks like, and how it makes a difference for students.

I love your idea of parents actually being involved in some of the professional development. Not only would that eliminate some of the mystery surrounding Common Core, but it would also let parents see for themselves that effective teacher collaboration is much more than a meeting.

I think I’ll go talk to my sons’ principal. . . . as soon as I decide  which hat  to wear!



The 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education: Remembering When Parents Stood Up for Change

Otha_Headshot_SMIt started as a whisper. But the injustice taking place in 1954 to African-American school children in Topeka, Kan., didn’t stay quiet for long. It took Oliver L. Brown, a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad, to stand up and call out an education system that wasn’t integrated and wasn’t fair. His request was simple: He wanted his 7-year-old daughter Linda to attend a nearby school designated as white-only instead of being bused across town to an all-black Monroe Elementary School. He instead created a movement that reverberated all the way to the Supreme Court and culminated with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” education unconstitutional.

PTA was there, immediately taking a stand supporting school integration, a move that cost the association some three-million members. Unfazed, these courageous mothers put pressure on all states to integrate. They called it unification. They were ridiculed for their position, but knew that history would be on their side. A few years later, PTA merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association (who had also taken a lead role in supporting Brown and others fighting across the country for school equality) to form what we now know as National PTA.

Today, 60 years later, as the first African-American male president of America’s oldest and largest child advocacy association, I continue to look back in awe at the example set by PTA then and now.

The anniversary of the Brown decision is an important time to reflect on education today and redouble our nation’s efforts to ensure equality for all students across the country. While progress has been achieved in the years following the ruling, inequalities continue to exist in American schools. It is critical that parents, teachers, administrators, elected officials, and business and community leaders work together to make meaningful changes to ensure that all children have access to a high quality education and that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

That means not diverting public funds currently spent on public K-12 education to private or sectarian schools. At the federal level and in states across the country, legislation is being considered that would do just that—depriving students of rights and protections they are awarded in public schools. These desperately-needed resources should continue to be invested in public schools that serve all students regardless of economic status, gender, religion, prior academic achievement, disability and behavioral history.

Equality for all students means supporting state initiatives like the Common Core State Standards, which would raise the bar in all schools and will go far in helping every student receive a high quality education that prepares him or her for success upon graduation from high school. The Common Core State Standards increase rigor in every school and provide consistency across the country, no matter a student’s zip code or socioeconomic status. With the standards, we have a tremendous opportunity to ensure that a high school senior in Alabama receives the same quality education as a senior in Colorado and that both students graduate prepared for college or the workforce and are able to compete in the global economy.

I have continued National PTA’s legacy of speaking up to ensure that all students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that support their success. In the fall of 2013, National PTA launched a campaign, titled Every Child in Focus, to celebrate the achievements and identify the disparities within diverse populations. As the demographics of our nation’s schools continue to shift, each month National PTA spotlights the educational challenges surrounding a particular group and provides resources and advocacy tools to help school communities embrace diversity and inclusion as well as understand and address the unique needs of every child. National PTA also works with our country’s leaders to help tackle issues facing each highlighted group.

In the 1950s, PTA was at the forefront on questions of nationality, race, culture and group relations in all sections of the country and the adverse impact divisions between groups had on children and youth. Now, the association is standing up for investments in public education and higher, consistent academic standards, and it continues to champion the importance of equal opportunity for all children.

The Brown v. Board of Education decision was a turning point in the history of our nation. And this turning point was the result of a parent who spoke up for a truly equal chance at quality education for all children, and associations like PTA that supported his fight.

Educational inequalities helped spur the Civil Rights Movement, and it continues to be the civil rights issue of our time. With the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, it is critical to reaffirm our commitment to speak up and take action to ensure that every student receives a world class education that enables him or her to reach his or her full potential.

Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.

How is My Kid Doing on Those Common Core State Standards?

I am excited to share a free new parent resource with you!  As a fellow PTA parent, I know that we are – by definition – engaged in our children’s education; focused on their success, but also concerned about making our schools the best they can be for our whole community.  That is one reason that I am grateful for the Common Core State Standards that teachers are now using to prepare our kids for college. But the new, better tests that measure against those standards aren’t coming to most of us for another year or two, and I need to know if my son is on track NOW.

Talking to a lot of parents, I have come to realize that many of us do not have great information on our children’s educational progress and need a little help to support them in school.  Because I also work in education, I have had the chance to join with others in creating a new community by parents and for parents, with online tools to help us out.  We have built an “educational check up” at www.raisethebarparents.org for kids in grades 3-6 (more grades to come next year) that also offers follow up resources.  The check ups are brief (about 18 questions each) reading and math quizzes aligned to Common Core State Standards, as well as a Learning Habits Growth Card to help get a sense of your child’s character strengths, since those matter a lot too.

Our time is scarce, but spending less than 30 minutes giving my son his math educational check up was really worthwhile.  I learned that my son really hadn’t grasped fractions- and then the website gave me free, online resources he could use to help build that skill.

Now we want to share this with other parents, so you can get a Common Core aligned educational check up for your kids too!  This is just a pilot site, so we also want your feedback and ideas on how to improve it.  If you have a child in third, fourth, fifth or sixth grade, will you take 30 minutes tonight to come to www.raisethebarparents.org and give your child an educational check up?  Together we can help our children succeed!

Bethany Little is a Managing Partner with America Achieves, a nonprofit organization focused on preparing all young people for success in a changing world, including through its Raise the Bar parent community.  Prior to joining America Achieves, Bethany was the Chief Education Counsel in the U.S. Senate and has worked in the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Alliance for Excellent Education.  She is also mom to two sons who attend public school in Washington DC.


Meet Today’s PTA Advocate: Gabriel Unruh

YS_GabeYoung people today face realities that their parents and grandparents never comprehended. Computers, tablets, and smart phones have made our world a connected place, which has resulted in both positive and negative side effects. As a result, today’s PTA sometimes has to get creative with its advocacy work. Our featured advocate, Gabriel Unruh, did just that. Gabriel is a member of the Platte County High School PTSA in Platte City, MO, and is a graduating senior. After several injuries and deaths in his community and school from texting while driving, last year Gabriel took action to educate his peers on the dangers of distracted driving.

Gabe’s efforts resulted in an “Arrive Alive” event held in April 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri, that brought school, community and law enforcement groups together. The event offered students and community members an opportunity to evaluate personal driving habits, learn preferred safety habits of the road, and provided families free resources and information to improve their driving safety. More than 25 booths and exhibits featured an range of advocacy resources, safe driving interactive activities, and a powerful video message shown by the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Arrive Alive” was attended by over 1,000 high school students and community members, supported by over 25 local businesses and local governments, and was covered by all Kansas City metro news outlets.

To prepare for this event, Gabriel oversaw more than 100 volunteers; published numerous editorials on distracted driving in Kansas City local newspapers; and effectively used social media to promote the campaign. The event was such a success that local non-profit organizations and two neighboring districts approached Gabriel for this year’s efforts. Furthermore, Gabriel is in the process of submitting to the Missouri Department of Transportation an official action plan to create a model “Arrive Alive” program for schools across Missouri.

Gabriel’s work as a youth advocate resulted in him winning the 2014 National PTA Youth Advocacy Ambassador Award. Gabe will work throughout 2014 and early 2015 to promote PTA’s advocacy mission in his local community and beyond. He is speaking at this year’s Youth Summit, part of the 2014 National PTA annual convention, to talk with his peers about the importance of advocacy and its impact. Although Gabriel will be leaving Missouri this fall to attend American University in Washington, D.C., he plans to continue his advocacy work on behalf of PTA, and will incorporate it into his curriculum at American.

This is what Today’s PTA can accomplish!

A Parent’s Praise for Common Core

The following blog post was originally posted on Foxnew.com on May 9, 2014. To view the original article, click here.

Otha_Headshot_SMPicture this: you are a seventh grader whose father is in the military. You and your sister have gotten used to moving every couple of years, based on your father’s assignments. You do your best to fit in at a new school and make friends. But your parents wonder whether the school you left provided you with an education equal to your new one.

As a retired Army officer, I know what it’s like to have to research the quality and competitiveness of a state’s educational offerings. Now I serve as the president of National PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), and I can definitely say that lack of consistent educational standards and accountability are doing a disservice to our children.

I support the Common Core Standards. It has been very disappointing to read criticisms from Erick Erickson and a host of others who are reacting to parts of the program instead of looking at its entirety.

The fact is, experts from 48 states were involved in drafting the standards, which were also shaped by more than 11,000 public comments. The standards address only the core competencies of English and math and are in no way meant to encompass all of the subjects we expect schools to teach.

But I strongly disagree with his assessment of the Common Core based not just on my own research but from the feedback National PTA has gotten from millions of parents and teachers.

In fact, recent efforts by our association that reached 3 million parents electronically and included face-to-face conversations with 60,000 more parents indicate that 87 percent of those we spoke with support the Common Core.

National PTA represents millions of children in the United States and at Department of Defense schools abroad, and we are uniquely positioned to interact daily with hundreds of thousands and parents and educators. What we hear from both groups is overwhelming support for the Common Core because students are gaining a more substantive understanding of what they are studying.

There is consistency not just among school districts but throughout states – and students, parents and educators all have confidence that high academic standards extend beyond state borders. Finally, we can have assurance that a high school senior in North Carolina is receiving the same quality education as a senior in Colorado.

The most commonly repeated myth about Common Core is that the standards were developed in secret and forced onto the states. This is completely false. The federal government had no role in developing the standards. Forty-five states adopted the standards in a manner consistent with state laws, which are generally developed by state Boards of Education.

Last December, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of its 2012 worldwide testing of 15 year-old students in mathematics, science and reading literacy. The United States scored slightly above average in reading, average in science, and below average in math. This is clear proof that whatever “standards” were in place before Common Core were not working.

As a nation, we have very high expectations for our children. We expect that their grade-school and high-school educations will provide them a foundation for success in their lives.

We do our children a disservice not to couple those high expectations with meaningful assessment and accountability measures. The Common Core standards are not a curriculum – they are benchmarks that every state-developed curriculum must meet.

I recently heard from one of our members, a veteran first-grade teacher in Ohio who has taught under both the former method and Common Core.

Her experience with Common Core has been significantly better for her students. As she related, the Common Core standards do not force her to teach in a way that might not be beneficial for young learners. Instead, she has the flexibility to design lesson plans instead of being restricted to pre-planned lessons.

During February, her students wrote about significant African-American historical figures using narrative writing – a high-reaching goal for such young students but one in which their teacher said they excelled. In fact, this teacher said her students are writing better pieces now than they ever have due to the high standards and flexibility of the Common Core.

My children received an excellent education in all of the schools they attended. With Common Core, all parents can be assured that their children will receive similar excellence in their schools. The many critics of Common Core focus on myths that have no basis in reality. To paraphrase what we all learned in kindergarten, if you can’t speak the truth, then at least stop spreading misinformation.

Otha Thornton is president of National PTA and a member of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.


Happy Mother’s Day, From a Food Allergy Mom

I remember my first Mother’s Day like it was yesterday.  My son was five months old, and I was really settling into being a mom.  And wow – really understanding the deep, powerful love that a mother has for her child. I recall feeling that I was now living with a certain purpose and knew my role was to do everything possible to keep this amazing little boy safe, happy, and healthy.

So, while I cherish the family time and special attention I have received every year on Mother’s Day since then, I think the observance of Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 11-17, 2014) might be even more important and special to me, and other moms like me. Why? Because my son has severe food allergies. I am a Food Allergy Mother — full of passion and love for my child, and working on a life-threatening health issue.

What does a Food Allergy Mother do? The same thing that other mothers do – plus – she carries epinephrine; teaches others how to recognize reactions and use epi; reads food package labels; carries snacks and sandwiches in case safe food is not available where she and her family go; wipes down tables, chairs, airplane trays and anything that food crumbs or grubby hands might have touched. And, that’s not all. Food Allergy Mothers work with schools and teachers to provide safety for kids with food allergies, they learn to bake and cook with alternate ingredients, they teach their kids to be safe and confident about taking care of their health and safety. And, sometimes they start new companies that provide products and services for other families like theirs. This is part of my passionate path.

I started the Lucy’s cookie brand in 2007 when very few food products were made with special consideration for people with food allergies. Lucy’s cookies are made without gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts or tree nuts. Ingredients are selected to be the least likely to have allergen contaminants and any ingredients from a risk environment are tested. Lucy’s operates as a “dedicated” bakery – meaning that allergens are never present in our bakery. Back when I started the business very few people were doing any of these things; now, many have followed suit. I’m thrilled. That was part of my mission – do something that goes above and beyond, and hopefully inspire others. As more people get involved in this issue – kids with food allergies (and their Moms too!) are better off.

In June 2009, National PTA enacted a resolution to raise awareness and encourage action about food allergies and anaphylaxis management in schools. Since that time, it has been heartening for me to watch PTA bring so much attention to this issue—such as through these informative videos and this great article from Modern Family actor Julie Bowen – a fellow Food Allergy Mom.

PTA local leaders wield so much influence in school communities, and can bring about great change when they are passionate about something. I thank and celebrate all those in the PTA who are getting involved with this issue, and for helping to make our schools safer for kids like my son.

To my fellow PTA moms, and especially to my fellow Food Allergy Moms, today I wish you a very happy and healthy Mother’s Day.


About the Guest Blogger

Dr. Lucy Gibney is the founder of Lucy’s cookie brand. As an M.D. and the mother of a child with severe food allergies, Lucy is dedicated to raising awareness about food allergies and finding practical solutions for fellow parents. To learn more about the promising rise of allergen-sensitive food products, please read this article from the Huffington Post.