How to Celebrate American Education Week

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This week—Nov. 14-18—marks the National Education Association’s (NEA) 95th annual celebration of American Education Week. NEA has created resources and a cheat sheet for how you can celebrate and promote the week.

Go to NEA.org/AEW for more info on American Education Week—including an online toolkit and artwork. Contact Christiana Campos for questions and more details.

About American Education Week

Each year, American Education Week is observed during the first full week before Thanksgiving.

American Education Week began in 1921 with the NEA and the American Legion as cosponsors. The goal was to generate public awareness and support for education because of concerns over illiteracy. A year later, the U.S. Office of Education signed on, and the PTA followed in 1938.

Cosponsors now include the U.S. Department of Education, National PTA, the American Legion, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National School Public Relations Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Daily Celebrations

Monday, Nov. 14: Thank You to All Educators
Across the nation, Americans are sponsoring special events and activities to thank educators and celebrate public education.

 Tuesday, Nov. 15: Parents’ Day
Schools are inviting parents into classrooms to experience a day in the life of students.

Wednesday, Nov. 16: Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day
Schools and communities are honoring school support staff—bus drivers, nurses, secretaries, custodians—for their commitment to students.

Thursday, Nov. 17: Educator for a Day
Community leaders are being invited to teach a lesson or visit a class and connect with public school students and teachers.

Friday, Nov. 18: Substitute Educators Day
This day honors the educators who are called upon to replace regularly employed teachers.

AEW Tools and Resources

Is Your PTA in Compliance with the IRS?

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Are you looking to support your PTA by becoming a better leader? One way you can help your Local Unit PTA excel is by making sure it is in compliance with the IRS!

Many local and state leaders don’t realize that every PTA, due to being a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, must file some type of paperwork with the IRS every year. To help support our local and state PTAs with this issue, National PTA is developing a series of e-Learning courses on how to maintain your 501(c)(3) status regardless of your PTA size or income!

The first of these courses, Maintaining Your PTA’s 501(c)(3) Status, is set to be released Nov. 14. This course looks at the issue of revocation through the eyes of a Local PTA leader and walks you through the process of maintaining your Local PTA’s 501(c)(3) status.

In just 10 minutes, this e-Learning course will help you will identify the last time your PTA filed paperwork with the IRS and learn how to properly fill out your IRS paperwork for filing on time each year.

Have more questions about managing your PTA’s IRS paperwork? No problem! Maintaining Your PTA’s 501(c)(3) Status will be only the first in a series of finance courses based on this subject that will be released over the next few months!

Have general questions about managing your PTA’s finances? We can help with that, too! Over the past few months we have released other finance-related e-Learning courses to help local PTA leaders with some other areas of interest:

  • Quick Guide to Budget Basics
  • Quick Guide to 501(c)(3) Status
  • Quick Guide to Taking & Approving Meeting Minutes

All three of the above e-Learning courses cover a specific topic in under 10 minutes or less! These “micro-courses” are different from normal full length courses in that a specific topic is covered in depth over a short period of time, rather than covering many different topics over 30-45 minutes.

We believe that these new micro-courses give our members the flexibility to learn about a subject they are interested in or need help with over a very short amount of time, which fits better into all of their busy lives.

To access the PTA eLearning courses, visit PTA.org/eLearning. You will find our entire e-Learning library of 17 full-length courses, three micro-courses and four of our most popular e-Learning courses in Spanish!

Make sure to be on the lookout for more updates on National PTA eLearning courses in the future via National PTA’s Twitter and Facebook pages!


Jonathan Baker is the e-learning manager at National PTA.

Mathnasium + PTA: Helping Your Child Succeed

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(Sponsored Post) 

Across the nation, Mathnasium’s neighborhood math experts are working with PTA’s parent leaders toward a common goal—building stronger communities through quality education! Becky McDaniels, owner of Mathnasium of Brandon, Fla.—and a dedicated PTA member for over two decades—is a great example of this collaboration.

“PTA does so much for teachers and schools, and I wanted to be a part of it and make a difference,” Becky recalled.

As a mom and former teacher at public, private and charter schools, Becky’s worn many a PTA hat. She’s served on her local unit’s board, penned newsletters, driven fundraising initiatives from the ground level, bridged the gap between parents and educators as teacher liaison and served on event committees.

Mathnasium’s collaboration with National PTA through the STEM + Families initiative provided yet another avenue for Becky to show support once her children left school and she transitioned out of classroom teaching.

Now a business owner and STEM advocate, Becky’s math expertise takes center stage. Whether she’s presenting at PTA meetings, engaging families through fun in-school math nights or contributing to fundraising efforts, Becky’s clearly in her element. Many years after her first PTA meeting, she still finds it incredibly fulfilling to see a large scale project come to fruition and glows happily with every “thank you” she receives.

Colleen Horan Green, PTSA vice president at Randall Middle School, offered one such “thank you” to Becky. “Mathnasium of Brandon sought us out and became actively involved in supporting our events,” Colleen recalled.

“Now we are working together to create a seminar to help parents like me support our children in seventh-grade math. As a PTSA member, I’m looking at our common goals and filling the needs with Mathnasium.”

“The fact that Mathnasium exists is wonderful,” Colleen added. “They provide so many resources at any level, work in tandem with the curriculum, reach out to teachers and help us better serve our students. It’s more than just a partnership; they really do go above and beyond to understand needs at every school.”

For Becky and her team, the future brings more school sponsorships and fundraising as they host the Mathnasium TriMathlon the weekend of November 5 and 6. Mathnasium donates money to schools for every student who participates in this fun, free math competition. Find the event nearest you and help raise funds for your PTA!


Damaris Candano-Hodas is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mathnasium Learning Centers.

Mathnasium is a Proud National Sponsor of PTA and was invited to contribute a blog post as a benefit of this relationship. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement of Mathnasium is implied. Learn more at PTA.org/Sponsors.

How to Pause the Internet

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Parents have always played catch-up to their children’s technology use. As a parent of four sons ages 13-21, I feel this struggle more than ever. The iPhone was brand new technology when my oldest son entered seventh grade, but by the time my youngest got to middle school, most of his friends had smart phones. Our family rules became obsolete within seven years. We had to get creative.

The Struggle Is Real

This year, from his high school Cell Phone Bill of Rights, my child learned “phones and other technology are the greatest distraction to academic focus ever invented and will be treated as such.”

But on his Chromebook check-out forms, we learned the school district is “excited to bring innovation into the classroom.”

As our children face these conflicting messages, I’ve watched huddled groups of parents whisper, “What are you doing about the Chromebooks?”

We Use Circle

When other parents ask us how we manage devices and time online, I tell them that we have Circle.

Circle is a device that pairs wirelessly with your home Wi-Fi and allows you to manage every device on your network. Using the Circle app, families can create unique profiles for each family member.

We use Circle to set time limits for YouTube, Netflix and online games to remind our kids to prioritize school work. Because sleep is important, we set a Bedtime so the Wi-Fi turns off on every one of their devices. They still choose when to go to sleep, but they have a fighting chance with that early alarm.

On the weekends, I sometimes Pause the Internet (which is easy with Circle) so that we can reconnect and the kids can rediscover offline activities they love.

It’s Made an Impact

My eighth grader recently confessed that it was “actually good” that he had a Time Limit. Circle helps me encourage good tech habits. When the “Looks like you’ve hit your Time Limit” message appears, my kids know I care about them.

Want to pause the internet and reclaim some family time at your house, too? Learn more about Circle and use code PTA2016 to get $10 OFF at MeetCircle.com.


Editor’s Note: In addition to considering devices like Circle, check out TheSmartTalk.org for a free resource from National PTA and LifeLock that gets parents and kids together for a guided conversation about being responsible with new technology.


Circle is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.


Anne Bryan is a long-time school volunteer and served as President and Treasurer at her local middle school parent group. She is an advisor to Circle Media Inc.

Engaging Parents in 21st Century Classrooms

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This blog was originally published on P21’s Blogazine.
Let’s face it—classrooms are very different today than when most of us were in school. Smart boards have replaced chalkboards and projectors. Computers, tablets and smartphones are increasingly being used instead of paper, pencils and books.
Technology and the internet have created countless new opportunities for education. Children like yours and mine can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing the power of the technology to bring curriculum alive and personalize instruction to meet the unique needs of every child. Digital learning is essential for the development of skills students need to thrive.
Technology also provides important opportunities for us as families to be more involved in our children’s education as well as for families, teachers and school staff to engage in regular and meaningful communication about student learning.
As the new year gets into full swing, it is important that we as parents are aware of the technology our school uses and how we in turn can use these tools to support our children’s success in the classroom.
Here’s how schools can help:
BE TRANSPARENT
Share with parents the online systems, portals or apps your school is using. Make sure they know how to access these tools and use them to track their child’s progress and ensure they are receiving the right supports.
UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY TO COMMUNICATE IN REAL TIME
Technology provides a variety of ways for families, educators and schools to share information with one another and keep in touch. Technology allows families to access information quickly, easily and when it is most convenient for them. It is important that multiple mediums, platforms and dissemination tools are used for real-time dialogue and parent-school communication.
ENGAGE PARENTS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
Many parents are active on social media. And through social media, relevant information can be communicated in a timely fashion. Use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to deliver news and important updates, share pictures and encourage parent engagement.
VALUE AND SEEK PARENT INPUT
It’s important that families have a seat at the table and the opportunity to provide input when decisions are made that impact their children and schools. When families are included in all stages of technology decision-making and implementation, they better understand the benefits for their children and are invested in the outcome.
EVALUATE AND ELIMINATE BARRIERS TO ENGAGEMENT
While technology provides great opportunities for family involvement and parent-school communication, it can be a barrier to engagement. For example, a preponderance of portals and apps require parents to register and save passwords again and again frustrating the parent until they shut down. Equally frustrating, some systems are not mobile-friendly. These factors can be a hindrance for parents when it comes to using these tools. It is imperative to evaluate and eliminate such barriers to increase access to and use of technology among families.

Technology is a powerful tool for teaching, learning, connecting and communicating. It is critical that parents are empowered with opportunities to be engaged as well as with the tools and information to support their children in the classroom and beyond.


Nathan R. Monell, CAE is the executive director of National PTA and a proud father of two public school students. National PTA is dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement.

 National PTA is a proud supporter of the Future Ready Schools initiative, which is aimed at maximizing digital learning opportunities so all students can achieve their full potential. Schools that are Future Ready understand that parents play an instrumental role in the learning environment, and as such, need to be highly engaged and recognized as a vital part of the school community. National PTA echoes the recommendations and characteristics of parent engagement in Future Ready Schools.

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Schwan’s Cares Continues Commitment to Help PTAs Raise Funds

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(Sponsored Post)

As a PTA local leader, you volunteer so many hours and do so many great things—because you are committed to helping not just your own kids, but all kids. We at Schwan’s Home Service also support kids in all the communities where we do business across the United States.

We are thrilled that Schwan’s continues to be a National PTA Member Benefits Provider. For three years, Schwan’s has listened to PTA members and learned how the program has increased the ability for PTAs to meet their fundraising needs while reducing the demands placed on members and volunteers.

We are excited to have helped PTAs fund that amazing after-school program or supply that new technology for the classroom or meet some other critical school need. You’ve probably dealt with traditional fundraisers of the past. You know the drill: you handle the cash, push products, corral parents to come get the stuff they ordered—it’s time-consuming, unsustainable and the results are often disappointing. We created the Schwan’s Cares™ program to eliminate all the frustrations of traditional fundraisers, because we believe that great service organizations like the PTA deserve something better.

St. Mary School in Muncie, Ind. adopted the Schwan’s Cares™ program in 2015 and has been able to achieve terrific results, raising over $2,400 in the last year. When asked why the Schwan’s Cares program has worked for them, a parent group representative responded,

“The fundraising program couldn’t have been easier. Parents, teachers and members of the community were eager to help the school, while at the same time, stock their freezers with quick and tasty foods. The program makes sense for all. It was a win-win for the school and for families.”

The program is hands-free. Schwan’s Home Service takes the orders, delivers the food to supporter’s homes and handles all money. There are no order forms and n o need for PTA members or children to knock on doors.

Schwan’s Home Service renewed their commitment as a Member Benefits provider for the third year so PTA groups can continue to use this fantastic fundraising option. The back-to-school season is upon us and PTA planning for the year is in full swing. Hopefully Schwan’s can help support your school’s fundraising needs this year.

To learn more about the Schwan’s Cares™ program, please visit Schwans-Cares.com.


Robb Kaufenberg is a New Business Development Specialist for Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. In this position, he leads the growth and development of the Schwan’s Cares fundraising program in addition to other growth initiatives for Schwan’s Home Service.

Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

The Transformative Power of Math Success: One Family’s Story

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Parents, we know you’ll appreciate a real-life tale of math success—one of the many student victories that happen at Mathnasium every day!

When Iris Kaganovich brought her fourth grade daughter Edden to Mathnasium of El Segundo, Calif. in September 2015, she was in panic mode.

“Edden had never struggled in math before,” Iris recalled when Edden ended up at the lowest level. “Our school district switched to Common Core and it was more difficult than expected. I asked around, and all of the moms referred me to Mathnasium.”

Like all Mathnasium students, Edden sat down for the Mathnasium diagnostic assessment, which pinpointed strengths and weaknesses in her math foundations.

“I had no idea that Edden was struggling with basic multiplication, word problems and other fundamental math concepts,” Iris said.

Edden diligently attended sessions two to three times a week. Both mother and daughter were won over by the friendly and productive learning environment and found the Mathnasium teaching method very efficient.

Instructors spend one-on-one time with students like Edden and teach different approaches to explain challenging topics. As a working mom, Iris definitely appreciated Mathnasium’s flexible scheduling options as well.

After two months, Iris began to see improvement.

“Little by little, Edden was advancing. She became more confident about her skills and less anxious about math.”

Remarkably, Edden’s newfound math success transformed homework time for the entire family!

Now in fifth grade, Edden continues to go to Mathnasium. Gone are the days of floundering in the lowest-level math class—Iris happily reported that Edden almost got accepted into the highest-level class this school year!

Inspired by Edden’s success, Iris decided to send her youngest child, first grader Sky, to Mathnasium, as well.

“I realized the importance of building math skills early,” she said. “There’s no better place to do so than at Mathnasium!”


Damaris Candano-Hodas is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mathnasium Learning Centers.

Mathnasium is a proud sponsor of National PTA and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

 

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Polling the Public on Education Shows the Importance of Family Engagement

Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) annual poll on the public’s attitude towards education was recently released. The poll revealed mixed views on education, but showed a strong relationship between school satisfaction and how engaged parents feel about their child’s school.

Less than half of the survey respondents (45%) believe that the role of public education is to prepare students academically, while the remainder of participants believe public education is to prepare students for the workforce (25%) or for citizenship (26%).

While Americans may not agree on the role of public education they do agree that a lack of funding for education is the number one problem that public schools face. Seventy percent of respondents support increased property taxes for school improvements.

The poll also found that:

  • 55% of parents oppose allowing students to opt out of standardized tests.
  • 56% of parents say their child has the right amount of homework.
  • 79% of parents review their child’s grades often.
  • 56% of parents say the new education standards have changed what’s being taught in their child’s classroom and 45% of those parents think it is for the better.

Another important finding from the survey was that a school’s ability to effectively communicate with families and provide frequent opportunities for input greatly influenced the parent’s opinion of the school’s performance.

Sixty percent of parents reported they were satisfied with their child’s school’s ability to keep them informed and involved. The poll shows that two-thirds of public school parents gave their child’s local school an A or B when they felt there was a strong family-school partnership.

The survey findings arrive in the wake of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—the new federal law governing K-12 education—which strengthens family engagement provisions and provides more state and local flexibility over their accountability systems, assessments and standards. Under ESSA, parents and other education stakeholders are required to be meaningfully consulted and engaged in new education plans and implementation of the law.

ESSA also included the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) grant program as a standalone program in the law to strengthen family-school partnerships and parent-teacher relationships. For the 15th consecutive year the PDK poll has found that Americans believe the biggest problem facing schools is the lack of financial support for education. Despite the findings on the importance of family engagement in schools and the need for more education funding, both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees did not invest in SFECs this year.

Funding family engagement programs, such as SFECs, is imperative to school improvement and student success. The PDK poll results send a clear message to Congress that the public desires more investments in education and more family engagement in schools.

National PTA and our members will continue to advocate for SFEC funding in FY 2017 and for family engagement to remain an essential part of the ESSA implementation process. Our association is committed to providing our members resources on the ESSA implementation process and ways to get involved at PTA.org/ESSA.

Sign-up to receive our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for updates and information on other National PTA priorities.


 

Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

Does Your Child’s Education Honor Their Uniqueness?

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Jade and Alex do not check the traditional educational boxes. They are bright, young women with many gifts, yet each comes to the classroom with a disability that impedes core learning—for Jade, one that affects her ability to read, and for Alex, her challenge manifests in math.

Unfortunately, these two—and many like them—are in a one-sized-fits-all education system that is neither suited to meeting their particular needs, nor suited to validate and affirm their unique gifts and interests.

As a result, Jade and Alex have suffered tragic experiences that are all too common for students with disabilities: They began to see themselves only through the lens of their disability, internalized the judgement placed on them and experienced feelings of being demoralized.

The silver lining for students like Jade and Alex is that through personalized learning, we are more empowered than ever before to transform this one-size-fits-all system.

At the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), our personalized learning project has traditionally focused on students with disabilities, but we see common themes for every group of students whose experience in learning is unique from that of their peers:

  • Students must be understood for both their needs and strengths.
  • High educational standards must remain a constant, but the means to achieve those standards (i.e., where, when and how that learning happens) should be seen more flexibly.
  • Schools must ensure that students are attaining key skills and dispositions, like critical thinking and self-advocacy, that are necessary for their success in college, careers and civic life.

Personalized learning then is not an end in itself, but a means to achieving these goals. Like any other initiative, its success begins with informed, engaged and empowered parents. To ensure this success, we recommend four steps for every parent:

  1. Develop an awareness of your child’s needs and experiences. Your child is unique, research on children’s needs is constantly evolving, and let’s be honest, as a parent, you’re juggling a few other things besides your child’s school work. If your child has learning and attention issues, a great resource is Understood.org. Developed through a collaboration of 15 non-profits, it offers daily access to experts, in-depth information, expert strategies, and an active community of parents. It also offers tools to help with your journey, including a simulation of what your child experiences. In addition to Understood, at NCLD we have a number of resources on personalized learning and addressing the needs of students with disabilities, including a two-page resource for parents.
  2. Find out what your child’s school is doing around personalized learning. Once you understand your child’s needs, the question becomes what’s happening around personalized learning in their school and how does it impact your child? How are personalized learning plans integrated with your child’s IEP? This can be trickier than it sounds, as personalized learning can come under a number of labels: student-centered learning, blended learning, deeper learning or competency-based learning, just to name a few.
  3. Understand how your school will meet diverse needs in personalized learning efforts. It seems strange to say that approaches around personalized learning can be ill-suited for many students, but unfortunately that’s too often the case. Technology may not be accessible for students with disabilities, or educators may not trained to reflect on their underlying biases in interacting with these students or aren’t trained in engaging learning approaches that accommodate these students’ needs. One key step you can take is to ensure that your school’s implementation of personalized learning strategies aligns with principles of universal design for learning, which ensures accessibility for all students.
  4. Maximize the benefits of personalized learning. One of the real benefits of personalized learning is that it provides educators much more valuable information on your child’s needs and strengths. That information isn’t just valuable for the teacher—it’s valuable for you! Be an advocate. Ensure that the school has systems in place and the educators have the tools that are necessary to empower you to be a partner in supporting your child’s success.

Personalized learning, with its focus on embracing the needs and strengths of each individual child, can be much more humanizing and accommodating to the many unique features our children bring to the classroom.

This potential can only become real when individual parents are prepared to be strong advocates for some of the key benefits of this system and it takes each of us asking the hard questions and taking the difficult steps to achieve it.


Ace Parsi is the personalized learning partnership manager at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).

 

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Four Simple Tips to Grow Your PTA

College Students Having Informal Meeting With Tutors

Many schools have a base of “die-hard” PTA fans. These are the parents who keep renewing their membership in the PTA year after year, with little or no prompting. But the base of die-hard fans simply isn’t big enough to sustain your PTA membership.

The good news: If you provide enough value, many more people would join your PTA.

Tip #1: Provide strong financial benefits for joining the PTA:

  • Try to arrange discounts from local businesses (e.g., pizza parlor or ice cream shop) for PTA members.
  • Set up discounts on your online store for your PTA members.
  • Create small “perks” for PTA members at every school or PTA event (free popcorn at a movie night, an extra free scoop of ice cream at a school carnival, etc.)

Tip #2: Provide non-financial benefits such as information and feeling of belonging.

Keep your school community informed and “in the loop”:

  • Post a school calendar online.
  • Provide information about school-wide events such as concerts, sporting events, fundraisers.
  • Invite everyone to general PTA meetings.
  • Publish a monthly newsletter with updates on past and upcoming events.

Instead of using an email distribution list, consider using an online communication portal such as SimplyCircle to keep the communication flow going. It sends your communications via email, but also creates a calendar of all the events (complete with automatic reminders to maximize participation), and a permanent and private archive of all updates, documents and photos that you share.

Tip #3: Make everyone feel included and feel like part of the community.

If you have a large Spanish-speaking community, make sure to provide all of your information both in English and in Spanish.

Sponsor events such as New Family Orientation or Ice Cream Social–let people get to know each other in a casual, fun setting.

Organize Community Service events and give back to your broader community.

Emphasize that by becoming a member of the PTA, they get a voice and voting rights in decisions affecting their school and their children.

Tip #4: Make people feel valued and appreciated, and let them express their appreciation of others.

Thank your school volunteers in a creative and unique way, like calling them out by name in a school newspaper or sending them handwritten thank you notes from the students.

Don’t forget to organize a Teacher Appreciation event, which gives parents an opportunity to thank their child’s amazing teachers for all the great work they do.

Happy growing!


Dr. Elena Krasnoperova is the Founder and CEO of SimplyCircle, a popular parent portal for classrooms, PTAs, schools and other parent communities. She is a mother of two children in elementary school, and an active member of the PTA.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

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