Finally Leaving NCLB behind?

Congress2We haven’t seen a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the primary federal education law—this close to being signed into law since 2002.

Last week, Members of Congress in the House and Senate made a bipartisan agreement on a framework to reauthorize ESEA. The framework will be used to draft a final bill that will then be considered by all members of the House and Senate.

The expected final bill—now called The Every Student Succeeds Act—will be available to the public on Mon., Nov. 30. The House could vote on the final bill as early as Dec. 2, with the Senate to take it up the week of Dec. 7.

Hundreds of PTA members have advocated to include Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) in the reauthorization and we are pleased to announce that these centers are included in this reauthorization framework.

The SFECs will provide targeted capacity-building and technical assistance for effective family engagement strategies where it’s needed the most. The proposed reauthorization also includes improvements to Title I, Section 1118, which requires school districts to establish family engagement plans and conduct family engagement activities.

If the final bill passes in Congress and is signed into law by President Obama, the new version of ESEA will include programs like preschool development grants and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children in high-poverty and low-performing schools.

The reauthorization would also require:

  • States test students in grades 3-8 and once in high school in reading and math
  • Districts and states report assessment data by student subgroups to identify and help close achievement gaps
  • No public or private school portability (No Title I funds will be able to follow the child to the school of their choice) or voucher programs
  • Districts and states provide access to well-rounded educational opportunities for all students by increasing access to STEM education, the arts, and ensuring safe and healthy school environments

National PTA is pleased to see the reauthorization process continue to move forward after years of stagnation. We hope bipartisanship and progress will remain during the final stages of the legislative process. Children, families, teachers and school administrators are depending on congress to reauthorize the outdated No Child Left Behind law.

Follow National PTA on Twitter for the latest news on ESEA reauthorization.

Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.

Quicken Loans Gives Back to the Community

At Quicken Loans, we take great pride in our community involvement. We’re dedicated to supporting organizations, both large and small, who are transforming the communities where we live, work and play.

In 2014, our team members volunteered over 75,000 hours in areas such as human services, arts, health, neighbor development and education—and we are well on our way to accomplishing that goal in 2015.

More than 2,000 Quicken Loans team members volunteered their time to help rehab Pulaski Middle School and the surrounding neighborhood.

More than 2,000 Quicken Loans team members volunteered their time to help rehab Pulaski Middle School and the surrounding neighborhood.

This past summer, we partnered with the non-profit organization Life Remodeled to take on a weeklong revitalization project in Northeast Detroit. More than 2,000 Quicken Loans team members volunteered their time to help rehab Pulaski Middle School and the surrounding neighborhood.

During this week at the beginning of August, volunteers built two brand new playscapes for children and families to use for years to come. The classrooms within the school were cleaned, organized and painted in anticipation for the new school year.

As for the surrounding neighborhood, volunteers created safe pathways for children to and from school by boarding up more than 500 vacant homes on 300 blocks. 20 homes were completely demolished, while another 21 homes were remodeled.

“I had a great time. Life Remodeled is a wonderful organization. It gave us the ability to do something different and positively impact the community. I loved the instant gratification of leaving the school better than we found it,” said Quicken Loans team member Kollin Currie.

Later in the summer, Quicken Loans was proud to be a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Downtown Youth Boxing Gym (DYBG). The DYBG moved into a new building, which boasts almost ten times the space as the old one, including room for two regulation-size rings, increased training space, a much larger kitchen, group tutoring areas, computer class space and private tutoring.

Quicken Loans team members volunteered to prepare the building by painting the exterior and cleaning the inside. The ceremony was a celebration of three years of “inspiration and perspiration” on behalf of at-risk kids in the city. Currently, kids who participate in the DYBG program have a 100% high school graduation rate. We are proud to support the DYBG and its initiatives.

From boxing to football—now that the season is in full swing—our team members spent time with Roary the Lion, official mascot of the Detroit Lions, to participate in the United Way’s Meet Up and Eat Up program. This program is dedicated to providing healthy meals to kids who might otherwise be forced to skip meals due to the financial situation of their families.

Kids were surprised to see Roary as they got off the bus at a local market, as he immediately got to teaching them his cat-like mascot ways. He then led the crowd of eager kids in a health program with the help of Quicken Loans team members volunteering their time.

The day continued with a lesson on healthy eating and financial responsibility, where the program Double Up Food Bucks provided each child with $6 worth of tokens to buy fruit and vegetables at Eastern Market. With the assistance of QL team members, the children picked their own food. Based on the smiles of each participant, the day was an overwhelming success.

These are just a few of the initiatives we are proud to participate in each year and hope to help in a PTA community near you. To learn more about the Quicken Loans in the Community initiatives, check out our website.

Learn more about the Quicken Loans Mortgage Insiders Program at or call (888) 329-1084.

Quicken’s Loans is a National PTA Member Benefit Provider.

Help PTA Grow This #GivingTuesday

2015 NPTA Giving Tuesday Tree.fwThe holiday season is here! It’s an exciting and busy time for families around the country. But as you’re shopping, cooking and celebrating, I ask that you mark #GivingTuesday (December 1) on your calendars.

#GivingTuesday, the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, has been designated to remind us of the spirit of the season and encourage us to give back by supporting causes and organizations we care about through a monetary donation.

This #GivingTuesday, I’m asking for your support of National PTA.

National PTA develops programs and resources that PTAs across the country rely on to make change happen in schools and communities. From supplementing classroom lessons with activities that make learning fun to helping families make healthy and safe decisions every day—we’re there to make a real impact on students and families nationwide.

National PTA also empowers families to speak up and advocate for their and all children—before their school boards, local and state government, and in Washington DC—to ensure they are provided a high-quality education, have a safe environment in which to thrive and learn, and have access to opportunities and services that enable them to reach their full potential.

For more than 100 years, National PTA has taken action to make a difference for the education, health and well-being of every child. Because of the work of National PTA, our nation has child labor laws to protect against unsafe working practices and conditions, kindergarten is a part of our public school system, hot lunches are served every day to millions of children in schools, and a separate juvenile justice system exists so that children are not tried and incarcerated as adults.

On December 1, please visit our #GivingTuesday page to make a donation. Then help spread the word among families in your community about why you give to PTA. I’m guessing your reasons are similar to mine—we know PTA is a powerful voice for all children and the best way to bring together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and effect change.

With your support, National PTA and PTAs nationwide will continue and build upon programs and efforts that are improving the lives and futures of our nation’s children.

The oak tree is the official emblem of National PTA. The tree symbolizes strength, growth and community. Please join me in making a gift on #GivingTuesday to keep PTA strong and growing so we can make every child’s potential a reality.

Thank you for your support of PTA on #GivingTuesday and all year round!

Laura Bay is the president of National PTA.

Our Children Magazine is Now Live!

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I’m excited to announce that National PTA’s Our Children Magazine is now online and mobile-friendly at!

Our Children and has been a household publication and primary resource (in various names) for families and PTA leaders for over 50 years and we put a fresh spin on our content.

The website is for on-the-go parents who are always looking for the best info and tips to support their child’s academic success and well-being.

PTA state leaders can share this new resource with parents throughout the school year. Read engaging and relevant stories like:

Read more at today and encourage your PTA leaders to help spread the word about our great news!

Check out the Our Children Magazine promotional toolkit for sample graphics and messaging.

Our Students Deserve to Succeed


There are three key supports needed to achieve student success: home, school and community.

We expect quite a bit from our future leaders, but I have asked myself the question that I now pose to you: “What should public school students expect from us—home, school and community—during this academic year?”

As parents, teachers, administrators and community members, we must operate as a cohesive and collaborative support system to help students excel. They shouldn’t have to do it alone.

We should hold ourselves and each other accountable for our critical role in ensuring students succeed and achieve the desired outcome of “ready by exit.” Ready by exit means regardless of the grade level, our students have learned the information for that grade level and are ready to advance without remediation by the end of the school year.

There are many ways we can actively engage or increase our engagement in our children’s education. We can ensure that students get enough sleep, arrive at school on time and have safe afterschool care; join and participate in the parent teacher association (PTA); help with their homework, or find someone else, such as a student in a higher grade or a college student, who can help.

Organizations like 100 Black Men, Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA/YWCA have tutorial programs. Our active participation shows our children that their education is important and demonstrates our expectation that they excel. Parents can discover new and interesting things about our children, their schools, teachers and friends as we spend more time with our children.

Teachers and Administrators
We must provide more classrooms and school environments that breed and encourage:

  • Lasting success
  • Compelling, relevant and challenging curricula
  • Innovative teachers and teaching practices
  • Inviting school climates with solid anti-bullying policies and practices
  • Data-driven improvement plans and intervention strategies
  • Varied extracurricular activities

We must believe that all children can learn at high levels. Beyond us believing it, however, we must also help our children believe it because so many have been convinced that they can’t.

We must support our students, parents, teachers and administrators by building relationships with them. Here’s how:

Stop by a local school and find out how you can make a difference.

  • Become a partner with a local school and offer your services or the expertise and resources of your business or organization.
  • Serve on a local school council.
  • Get involved as a tutor, mentor, guest speaker or member of the booster club or PTA.

Our students are more than capable of doing the work! However, we must give them access to educational opportunities that equip them to be competitive; remove the obstacles hindering their progress; set high achievement expectations and provide support structures that contribute to their ability to succeed.

100 Black Men of America, Inc. and its like-minded collaborative partners invite you to join the collective efforts for systemic and sustainable education reform. It is our responsibility to raise our collective voices in advocacy and take action so that high-performing public schools and students in our communities become the norm rather than the exception. Our students deserve to succeed!

Brian L. Pauling is the national president and CEO of 100 Black Men of America, Inc.

National PTA Applauds Announcement of Conference Committee on ESEA Reauthorization

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives announced that a conference committee will meet on Nov. 18 to reconcile the bills passed by the House and Senate in July to reauthorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB).

National PTA is encouraged by the announcement of the conference committee meeting.

While this brings us one step closer, it is essential that Congress pass a final bill before the new year and provide critical resources to states and schools to strengthen family engagement and improve education so that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Families have waited for more than eight years for the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.

National PTA remains committed to ensuring a comprehensive, bipartisan bill is signed into law this year that includes robust family engagement provisions and supports the achievement of every child.

Laura Bay is the president of National PTA.

Healthy Families Ahead!

Looking for a way to connect with the families you serve and encourage healthy lifestyles? Well, we’ve got you covered!

NEA Healthy Futures is excited to announce our latest resource—the Take Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives Together Family Guide. Perfect for PTA leaders, groups, schools, parents and afterschool professionals, this engaging and user-friendly resource will help you put students and families—and even yourself—on the path to a healthier future!

In fact, if you were at the National PTA Convention this year, you may have met our enthusiastic team! It was a fantastic event and we were thrilled to see how well received the family guide was.

Written for grades K–6, the guide is available in both English and Spanish. It doesn’t just cover proper nutrition and physical activity concepts, but it takes a holistic approach to health by covering sleep, outdoor play, screen time, relaxation and hydration.

You’ll find:

  • Useful facts and information
  • Family activities
  • Discussion questions
  • Fun trivia
  • Children’s book suggestions
  • Inspiration and good ideas galore!

Part of the Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives (HSHL) series—a partnership between Nestle USA and NEA Healthy Futures—the family guide complements our HSHL Teacher Kits, which offer classroom tie-ins to what your children will be learning and doing at home. Best of all, thanks to the nice folks at Nestle USA, you can get all of the HSHL resources for free, including bulk orders for schools, PTA units, trainings or to feature at a state convention.

To order your FREE print resources, email Please indicate how many of the English and/or Spanish family guides you would like and make sure to mention it is for PTA-related use. Since this is a new resource for us for the family audience, we are excited to see who is ordering it and how it is going to be used! For the teacher’s guide, please indicate how many of which grade level you would like.

Let’s hear it for healthy, happy families!

Bethe Almeras, M.S. is the associate executive director at NEA Healthy Futures.

Have You Seen PTA in One Minute?

We all like to be in the know on the latest info from National PTA and that’s why we created “PTA in ONE Minute.” Get info on recent and upcoming events, PTA updates, celebrations—all packed into a concise, 60-second video. It’s perfect for PTA Leaders on the go!

In our first edition, you’ll find:

  • Updates on National PTA’s biggest projects and events
  • Pics of a special bricklaying at our headquarters in Alexandria, Va.
  • Details on Healthy Lifestyles Month
  • A sneak peek at the new Our Children Online Magazine

The November edition of PTA in ONE Minute is sponsored by Lysol®.

Our PTA leaders are busy, so we believe that PTA in ONE Minute is an effective and creative way to convey messages and news faster and more conveniently. This is also a chance for state and local PTAs to share news from their neck of the woods.

If you’ve got something big going on that you’d like to share, send it to us at We’d love to highlight your photos, videos, and interesting news items.

You can expect a new PTA in ONE Minute in your inbox each month. It’s on YouTube, so remember to LIKE the video and share with fellow members.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch PTA in ONE Minute, presented by Lysol!


7 Tips for your Most Effective Parent-Teacher Conference Yet

How to make the most of your parent-teacher conference

In many school districts across the country, it’s time for the first parent-teacher conferences of the year. For parents, this meeting can cause anxiety because it is an evaluation of their child’s academic and social development.

I’ve been on both sides of these conferences, and the best approach for parents is to put aside all reservations and use the opportunity to establish a relationship with your child’s teacher.

Now that students are settled into the new school year, this is the perfect time to talk with your child’s teacher about his progress — and any potential challenges — and then work together to set goals for success for the year.

Research shows that partnering with teachers and engaging in your child’s learning improves her achievement and social skills.
Here’s how you can make the most of your parent-teacher conference so you can best support your child:

  1. Schedule your meeting — Typically, your child’s teacher will contact you when it’s time for parent-teacher conferences and give you dates when you can meet with her. This gives you time to prepare and schedule the meeting. If you need a translator, sign language interpreter or other help, you can plan for someone to attend the meeting with you.
  2. Talk with your child first — Before your meeting, talk to your child. Find out which subjects your child likes best, and which ones he doesn’t like — and why. Use National PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Success as a tool to help understand a clear, consistent expectations for what students should be learning at each grade level. Sometimes, there is a concern your child doesn’t know how to express themselves, and you can talk to the teacher directly about it.
  3. Create a list of questions — These meetings can go by quickly. The teacher will have a prepared report, so you need to be prepared too. To have a productive two-way conversation, prepare a list of questions so you can leave the meeting with a comprehensive understanding of how your child is doing academically and socially in the classroom and how to address any issues. These questions should provide guidance and outline important talking points.
  4. Listen to the teacher’s perspective, then tell your side — Be open-minded and don’t judge your child’s teacher until you hear his side. A parent-teacher conference shouldn’t be the first time a teacher or parent should learn about a problem, but sometimes it is. It’s hard not to be defensive, but assess the situation before reacting and share any contributing factors, such as a parent divorce, death, bullying or medical issues so the teacher has a full perspective on any issues.
  5. Take notes — Don’t forget your notebook and pen! Jot down possible areas of improvement or positive feedback you want to monitor or talk about when you go back home to your child. It’s also handy if you have several teachers to visit, such as during middle or high school.
  6. Ask to see work samples and other important documents — Parents should ask to see samples of their child’s work and ask about any activities they can do at home with their child to support her learning. Go over any other documents like the syllabus and upcoming projects or events.
  7. Give your contact information — Parents and teachers should schedule a follow-up conference and decide on the best way to stay in touch for progress reports. Consistent communication (via email, phone, etc.) will help build the relationship and address issues immediately.

These tips will help you best support and advocate for your child. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your child excel in school. Good luck!

Laura Bay is National PTA’s president. This blog was originally posted on

Thinking About College: What Matters?

Many high school seniors and their parents are heavily into the college application season. Colleges are being considered, ranked and evaluated on multiple parameters. How well regarded is the school? Who teaches most of the courses? How nice are the residence halls and lab facilities? How competitive is the school? How much financial aid is available?

All of these concerns are important. Nevertheless, it is very likely that many important concerns will not be investigated or even considered by students or parents. The JED Foundation, Jordan Porco Foundation and Partnership for Drug Free Kids recently did an online survey with Harris Poll of over 1,500 first year college students to find out about their experience transitioning into college. What we found out is worth considering.

More than 60% of students told us that they wish they had gotten more emotional preparation for college. Students who felt emotionally under-prepared for college tended to perform slightly worse academically and to report their overall experience in college as terrible or poor. Nearly 40% of these first year students reported feeling anxious most or all of the time and 1 in 5 felt depressed much or all of the time. One in 5 also reported turning to alcohol or drugs when stressed.

What does this have to do with college choice?

It seems that beyond questions of quality and facilities, students and families need to consider the emotional and psycho-social elements of college choice.

  • How far away from home will be a comfortable distance for your child?
  • How large or small a school will work?
  • How cohesive, friendly and supportive is the campus community?
  • Is there a thorough orientation program to help students get adjusted?
  • Is there solid resident assistant (RA) training in residential schools that helps RA’s be ready to identify and support a student who might be struggling with adjustment?
  • How responsive are the counseling center, disabilities office, health services, student services and academic advising to students and families?
  • Does the college value health and wellness?

You can get a sense of this by exploring the college’s website and seeing how hard (or easy) it is to find information about health, counseling and health education services. Considering some of the items above may help to diminish or alleviate some of the transition challenges that emerged in our survey. If your child is currently receiving care for a significant/serious medical or mental health problem, it is important to discuss college choices with their treating clinician. Make sure the schools you are considering (either with their own services, with community based services and/or working in concert with your child’s home-based clinicians) can provide the clinical services to keep your child healthy and safe.

What else can parents do?

If your child is in 12th grade, start working with them to support the development of independence and self-regulation. It will be really helpful to have them take more of a role in managing their time, sleep, nutrition and academic work. Try to use this year to help them learn the basic skills they need to live away from home; how do they manage money or doing laundry? Are they able to cook a few basic things? You can discuss how it will feel to live away from home, meet people from other backgrounds and cultures and manage their own personal and academic choices.

College is a great and exciting time and meeting and overcoming challenges is part of growing up. We do what we can to make sure our kids are ready to face and handle these challenges. Being aware of and addressing these issues ahead of time as much as is reasonable is a great way to facilitate this process. You can even make a lot of these activities fun.

The JED Foundation will soon be releasing an online resource center to help young people and their families in this transition process. The website will be ready in early 2016 and will have a wealth of information on college choice and how to get prepared for and manage this exciting time.

Mary Pat King is the director of programs and partnerships at National PTA.