Go Back-to-School with National PTA

Dear fellow PTA members,
As your 55th National PTA President, it is an honor to welcome you to another exciting school year. As we begin an energizing new school year, I ask that you stay laser-focused on our PTA mission. We must ensure that all children have equity and quality in learning, and that they have access to a first-class public school education.
National PTA’s resources, guides and tips can help you achieve our mission.
Help us celebrate the 2017 Back-to-School Season! Join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram by using #PTAB2S or #PTAProud.

Happy new school year!

JimAccomandoSignature.jpg
James L. Accomando
National PTA President

Tell Congress to #STOPCutsToClassrooms

Our public schools are at a crisis point. Federal funding for public education has remained at 2% of the federal budget for decades, despite the increase in public school enrollment and the rising cost of education resources and services. This disparity between funding and actual cost means that Congress has essentially made cuts to classroom budgets across the nation.

These overall classroom funding cuts couldn’t be coming at a worse time. Today’s classrooms are more in need of funding than ever—most public-school students are now from low-income families, yet federal spending for high-poverty schools has decreased by more than 8% in recent years. There are also more students with special needs in our nation’s schools than ever before, but funding to serve these students has also decreased.

Congress must agree on the federal budget by Oct. 1, 2017. With restrictions on how much the government can spend in fiscal year 2018, there is a strong possibility that funding for education will be cut.

Already this year, President Donald Trump proposed cutting $9.2 billion. More recently, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a cut of $2.4 billion. Both proposed cuts would be extremely damaging to public schools that already struggle to give students the education they deserve.

All PTA members and education advocates must take a stand. Tell your friends and family to demand that Congress “STOP Cuts to Classrooms” and invest more than 2% in public education before the Oct. 1, 2017 deadline.

One way to spread the word is by doing the National PTA #STOPCutsToClassrooms social media challenge. It’s easy!

  1. First, sign the #STOPCutsToClassrooms petition
  2. Then, take a picture and/or videoof yourself holding the “I signed the petition to #STOPCutsToClassrooms” official sign and post the image on your social media platforms.
  3. Finally, tag up to three friends to encourage them to do the same.

For those who have already signed the petition and taken the challenge, please continue to participate in Funding Fridays every Friday until September 29. Also stay tuned for the release of a #STOPCutsToClassrooms letter to Congress in September.

For more information about the #STOPCutsToClassrooms campaign and to learn more about the state of federal funding for education programs, visit PTA.org/STOPCuts.

Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

Becoming a National PTA School of Excellence

Have you ever wondered what PTAs have done to help their schools become nationally-recognized Schools of Excellence? Check out how these PTAs made a tremendous impact on continuous school improvement through the School of Excellence program. Enroll your PTA in the 2017-18 School of Excellence program now thru October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.

Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA – FL

Through the School of Excellence program, the Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA created the Kindness Project with the mission to foster kindness and respect in our student body by engaging students, parents and faculty alike. All students worked together during their art classes to create art while focusing on 8 core values: Citizenship, Cooperation, Responsibility, Integrity, Fairness, Kindness, Respect and Honesty. Furthermore, families were encouraged to work one-on-one with their children at home by coming up with examples on how they could be kind at school.

The PTA communicated this program by reaching out to all faculty members via emails and educating the faculty at their Faculty Meetings. Parents and students were sent home “kindness contracts” to fill out and work on together. “Kindness Necklaces” were given out to all students “caught” being kind in the classroom and during lunch. Each week, winners were chosen by teachers and faculty members and children were asked to make a special appearance on the school’s television stations so that they could be recognized for their kind acts. At the close of school year, the classes with the most participation throughout the process were awarded with a cookie party. The Kindness Project was so successful that the pilot event will become a permanent program at the school.

Thomas B. Chinn PTA – MO

As a Title 1 school with 41% free and reduced families, Chinn Elementary PTA chose the goal of increasing access to the arts so that all of their students had access, regardless of their economic situation. The PTA met one of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, Collaborating with Community, by making connections with a local ballet school to host workshops for the students. The ballet school introduced the history of ballet and demonstrated ballet moves.  The students were then challenged to do moves themselves, gifting many of the students their very first dance class.  At the end of the week, the ballet studio performed the Nutcracker Ballet for the whole school community, including family members, again, bringing the arts to many whom may never see a ballet. One of the students summed up the experience perfectly: “I’ve NEVER seen a ballet before…. and it was BEAUTIFUL!”

Floranada Elementary PTA – FL

The Floranada Elementary PTA worked to increase male role model participation by creating the Floranada Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program enlisting male family role models to volunteer at least one full school day during the year. The program was promoted by having the Watch D.O.G. and the students he represented wear designated t-shirts during the volunteer day and having their picture taken for a Wall of Fame. The Watch D.O.G. started the day by greeting families in the car line at drop off, then joining in on classroom activities, specials and even field trips, and closing out the day with the children at dismissal. Most importantly, the Watch D.O.G.s were encouraged to pay particular attention to children who demonstrate a need for male role model interaction and act as a mentor to those children. The program was so successful that it increased exponentially by mid-year through student recommendation.

Johns Creek High School PTSA – GA

Johns Creek High School supported student success through a College and Career Fair, with over 60 college representatives to provide hundreds of students information to assist them in their college and career planning.  They welcomed all of our diverse families by displaying a welcome banner created by the PTSA.  JCHS PTSA spoke up and advocated for every child by holding registration drives, attending PTA Advocacy Day at the Capitol and hosting a Voter Information Night and Candidate forum open to the entire community. JCHS PTSA collaborated with their community by bringing in community members to speak with students during the PTSA sponsored Red Ribbon Week (to address issues of drug and alcohol abuse) and for Wellness Week (to promote mindfulness and stress management).

Enroll now to start the process in becoming a School of Excellence! Visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence, contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

Start the School Year Right With Healthy Habits

(Sponsored Post) Help Protect Your Children From Germs This Back-To-School Season

With school bells ringing and teachers diving into their lesson plans, help your children focus on what matters most during the school year – learning! As part of the Healthy Habits Program, Lysol alongside the National Parent Teacher Association hope to spread the word on healthy habits, starting with simple yet effective tips to help keep germs at bay and help prevent your children from getting sick, whether in the classroom or at home!

Set your children up for a successful and healthy school year with the following tips:

  • Kick-Off The Year and The Germs: Start the 2017 school year by stocking classrooms with disinfectant cleaning product. Using Lysol products, such as Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray, kill bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces in your home and classroom. If you’re one of many parents who collect Box Tops for your children’s school, you’re in luck! Now all Lysol products are eligible for Box Tops for Education redemption, so you can continue to help earn cash for your school.
  • Get A Good Night Sleep: With homework, soccer practice and science projects filling up your children’s schedule, it’s important that they get an adequate amount of sleep each night. A good rule of thumb is 9 to 12 hours for children ages 6-12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1]
  • Reinforce Healthy Habits: The third week of September marks Healthy Habits Week. Use this time as your reminder to start the school year off on a healthy note by teaching your children to use proper etiquette for sneezing and coughing to help keep sick days to a minimum! Make sure they’re frequently handwashing at home and at school too –use warm water and soap to create a nice lather – scrubbing for at least 20 seconds!

Visit Lysol.com for more information and tips to help keep your family healthy and always check with your school before bringing products to the classroom.

 

Rory Tait is the Marketing Director at Lysol. He drives the Lysol Healthy Habits campaign, a program focused on educating parents across the country on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices.

Box Tops for Education and associated words and designs are trademarks of General Mills, used under license. ©General Mills

[1] CDC.gov. “Are you getting enough sleep?” (April 24, 2017)

Enroll in the 2017-18 School of Excellence Program

Maybe you are looking to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvements. Maybe something meaningful is already happening between your PTA and school, and you would like to see that recognized. In either case, National PTA’s School of Excellence program offers customized tools to help you to make a substantial, positive impact on school and student success, and to earn recognition for your PTA and school.

By enrolling in this program, your PTA and school administrators are making a year-long commitment to identify and implement an action plan for school improvement based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

Throughout the school year, you will use tools, resources and support provided by National PTA to bring positive change in family engagement. In the final step of the program, your work be evaluated through a Final Application. Those resulting in a stronger family-school partnership, will receive the two-year National PTA School of Excellence distinction and recognition that comes with an honor of this caliber.

The steps in the program are as follows:

Step #1: Enroll and Gain Support (Enroll by Oct. 1)

Enroll at PTA.org/Excellence and start to build your Excellence Team to improve family-school partnerships through the school year.

Step #2: Deploy Baseline Survey (September-November)

Use National PTA’s Baseline Survey to gain feedback on current family-school partnerships at your school.

Step #3: Set a Shared Objective (September-November)

After you’ve compiled your survey feedback, work with your Excellence Team and school administrator to choose one focus area and objective to concentrate on in the coming school year.

Step #4: Complete Initial Application (Submit by Nov. 1)

You will then complete an online Initial Application. Upon receipt, National PTA will provide you with a Roadmap to Excellence guide that contains specific recommendations that respond directly to the survey results and focus area you identified.

Step #5: Follow Roadmap to Excellence (Throughout School Year)

Using your Roadmap to Excellence, you and your Excellence team will develop an action plan to address barriers and expand methods for effective family and community engagement throughout the school year.

Step #6: Deploy Final Survey (March-June)

Towards the end of the school year, you will conduct a second survey to gather feedback from your school community to evaluate your progress over the school year.

Step #7: Complete Final Application (Submit by June 1)

With the Final Survey results, you will complete a Final Application online to receive a new Roadmap to Excellence to continue the momentum you have gained in engaging families the following school year.

Step #8: Celebrate Your Excellence (August)

In August, Schools of Excellence will be named and honored with this two-year designation. If awarded, you will receive information on how to plan your school and community celebrations as well as a banner to hang prominently at your school.

Join the ranks of over 500 PTAs who have earned this prestigious distinction. You too can achieve excellence and be known as leading the nation in effective family-school partnerships.

Enrollment for the 2017-18 School of Excellence is open. To learn more and to enroll, visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence. Contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

Are You Engaged?

As PTA members, you know that family engagement is an important part of your child’s successful development and academic outcomes.  You participate on school advisory committees, lead parent advocacy, work with teachers in their classrooms, read all about ESSA and other regulations related to children’s health and education, and inspire your community to support all children.  Family engagement is evolving from “involvement” in the sense of families receiving a one-way stream of information and sponsoring endless fundraisers at school.  Instead, it’s the opportunity to build relationships between two crucial components of a child’s life together–families and school personnel–to further support their successful education, well-being and development.

As a parent, you have plenty of options, depending on availability, interests, skills, and personal constraints, to be engaged.  Many of you are finding ways such as these to do become a part of your child’s school community.

  • Establishing positive relationships with school administrators and teachers.
  • Meeting with teachers about academic and social development goals for your child. If you aren’t exactly sure what to ask your child’s teacher, check the Department of Education’s Parent Checklist to get started.
  • Attending PTA or school meetings to find out about the issues in your school.  Ask questions if other’s aren’t bringing up the things that matter to your child’s success or your community.
  • Volunteering on a committee that focuses on an activity or issue important to you, whether it’s school transportation, safe places to play after-school, teacher diversity, bullying or academics.
  • Voicing your opinion to local and state Boards of Education and local, state, and national elected officials on things that matter to your family.
  • Keeping up with and providing input on your state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. Check your state’s education website to find out about your parent representative and the developing plans.

Being engaged in education doesn’t require endless free time or multiple degrees and in-depth knowledge about schools. You just need a concern for your child and a little bit of time to act on that concern.

We know you are engaged in your schools, supporting your community and the Department of Education wants to hear from you.  If you’ve been recognized for your involvement in education by your state, share your story.  What did you do to garner such recognition? What lessons have you learned through your involvement?  What tips do you have for other parents who want to be engaged in their schools?

The Department of Education’s Family Ambassador, Frances Frost, wants to feature you in an upcoming Family, School and Community Engagement Newsletter, distributed monthly by the Department.  Submit your story for consideration, in 400 words or less, with your contact information to carrie.jasper@ed.gov, with the subject line “Parent Involvement for Newsletter.”

Frances Frost is the Family Ambassador at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as an advocate for family engagement in education and equitable opportunities for learning for all children. She brings the family voice to discussions at a national level and facilitates discussions between the Department, families and family engagement stakeholders.

Top things to do in Las Vegas | #PTACon17

I have lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years with my husband and four children.  I am very excited to have the 2017 National PTA Convention & Expo in my home town this year and to share a few ideas for things to do while you are here!

Las Vegas is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week town.  There is something for everyone at all hours of the day and night.  Whether you are coming into town early before Convention, have a few spare hours in the evenings or staying a few extra days after, there is plenty of fun to be had.

If you love to shop, everything you could ever want is right here.  From high end designers to discount outlets, there are four malls within a 15 minute walk of the Paris Hotel and even more shopping experiences just a short drive away.  Several malls are even open until midnight, if you still have the energy to walk around a mall after the Convention day is over. See my full list of activities below.

Even though it will be hot here in June, there are still fun activities to be had in the great outdoors. You can choose from two water parks, if splashing in the hotel pool is not enough fun.  Hiking, rock climbing, bouldering and  scenic drives are just 30-40 minutes away at Red Rock Canyon Conservation area or a one hour drive to Mt. Charleston, where it can be 20 degrees cooler than the strip. Need more adventure?  Jump from a plane, kayak the Colorado river, four wheel through the desert, or ride in a hot air balloon. If there is an adventure to be had, you can probably do it here in Las Vegas.

Believe it or not we have many family friendly and fun activities that keep you inside with the air conditioner blowing.  If museums are your bag, we have everything from The Mob Museum, Natural History, Children’s, Atomic Testing, wax figures, old cars, old neon signs, pinball machines, and several quirky museums you could only find in a town like Las Vegas.  There is an indoor amusement park and many arcades on and off the strip to keep big and little kids entertained.

If you have little time and little money there are free activities up and down the strip.  Watch the Volcano show at the Mirage, the dancing waters at the Bellagio Fountains or stroll through the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. You can check out all things candy at the M&Ms World or at the Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Las Vegas is known for the many shows available at venues all over town.  Singers, bands, magicians, comedians, impersonators, Cirque du Soliel shows, variety shows  and even the occasional Broadway show.  Make sure you make reservations ahead of time if possible as many shows sell out.

Last but not least is the food.  You could eat at a different restaurant for every meal, every day of your stay and you will not put a dent in the number of great restaurants in Las Vegas offering every kind of cuisine.  Buffets and four star restaurants can be found all along the strip and you can also find food being prepared by famous chefs in small shopping centers away from the strip.  Choose a cuisine, check out the reviews and enjoy amazing food from around the world.

A few tips as you are having fun.  Drink way more water than you usually do at home. It will be hot and the humidity is usually around 10%, so it is easy to get dehydrated here.  Wear comfortable walking shoes.  The hotel buildings are huge and much farther away than you realize.  Try not to pay full price for anything. Check the internet or your favorite coupon app for available discounts.

Have a great time at convention learning, networking, and sharing all things PTA and then in your free time, enjoy all of the things Las Vegas has to offer!

Linda Johnson is a national service representative at National PTA.

Shopping:
Grand Bazaar– just north of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in front of Bally’s.
Miracle Mile Shops– just south of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace– About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to Caesars Palace. Use the pedestrian bridge to cross the street.
Linq Promenade – About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to the High Roller observation wheel located at the end of the promenade.
Las Vegas North-Premium Outlets–  13 min drive
Fashion Show Mall– 8 min drive

Adventure:
Sky Jump Las Vegas– Jump off the Stratosphere tower
Slotzilla Zipline through the Fremont Street Experience
Flight Linez Bootleg Canyon
Vegas Indoor Skydiving
Hiking at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area– this is best done first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.  If you are not into hiking, you can just drive the 13 mile scenic loop.

Family Friendly Activities
WetnWild Las Vegas
Cowabunga Bay
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
Game Works at Town Square
Pinball Hall of Fame

Free things to do in Las Vegas
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Bellagio Fountains
Take your Picture at the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Hershey’s Chocolate World
M&M’s World Las Vegas
Volcano at the Mirage

Trump Budget: A Bad Deal for Kids

On May 24, 2017, President Donald Trump released his budget proposal for the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 which included a proposed cut of $9.2 billion to the U.S. Department of Education from last year’s funding level. This proposed cut to education programs comes on the heels of Congress cutting funding for federal education programs in FY 2017.

The President’s budget would maintain the same level of funding from FY 2017 for Title I, which aids schools with high percentages of children from low-income families, special education grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs)—centers that provide information and services to families to help support students with disabilities. Additionally, the President’s budget does not include investments for family engagement in education through the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) program and eliminates more than 20 education programs including: educator professional development; after school programs; preschool grants and grants that aim to ensure students receive well-rounded educational opportunities, learn in healthy and safe school environments and have opportunities to use technology in the classroom.

On top of these cuts, the President’s budget includes a new $250 million grant program that would allow public dollars to be used for private and religious school tuition. National PTA has a long standing position opposing private school choice systems that would divert public school resources. National PTA is also concerned about a new grant program in Title I that would allocate $1 billion to “follow” a child to any public school which would significantly impact the distribution of funds across and within Title I districts and create division and separation within communities.

Federal funding for education programs has remained at 2% of the federal budget for decades, despite continuous growth in public school enrollment and the increased cost of education resources and services. The President’s budget would decrease the federal investment in education below 2%. Such devastating cuts to education at the federal level are combined with state and local cuts to education that further lessen the opportunities for every child to reach their full potential.

It is important to remember that the President’s budget proposal is exactly that, a proposal to Congress outlining the Trump Administration’s priorities. The funding power lies with Congress to decide what federal programs will be funded and at what levels each year. There is a need to invest more in education programs at the federal level. Federal funding for education at, or below, 2% of the federal budget is a cut to classrooms.

If you agree that 2% of federal funding for public education is not enough and future cuts to education would be catastrophic for the future of our children, Take Action today and tell your member of Congress to increase investments for public education so that every child’s potential becomes a reality.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @National PTA and sign up for the National PTA’s Takes Action Newsletter to participate in the advocacy campaign and receive the latest information on PTA’s advocacy efforts.

Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

Does Your Child Have Recess Daily?

The natural inclination of children is to explore their world through movement. When I visit my grandchildren, I wake up to an explosion of physical activity, rolling down the couch cushions, jumping off the toy box, or chasing games around the kitchen island. My oldest grandchild is now in all-day kindergarten. I can’t imagine him not having the opportunity to engage in both free and structured play throughout his school day. Research supports the notion that physical activity is associated with learning readiness and cognitive function (Hillman, Erickson, & Hatfield, 2017). Within the school environment, recess is the vehicle for providing children with opportunities for physical activity and is an essential component of a child’s school day.

Teachers, administrators and parents must realize that recess is more than just a break from the classroom. Recess contributes to your child’s normal growth and development and provides them with a well-rounded educational experience. Recess also helps your child by improving their:

  • Cocial skills and behaviors (e.g., cooperation, following rules, problem solving, negotiation, sharing and communication);
  • Classroom engagement (e.g., on-task and fewer discipline issues); and
  • Academic outcomes (e.g., attention, memory).

Recess is defined as a regularly scheduled period within the school day for physical activity and play that is monitored by trained staff or volunteers. It is also is a period of time when students are encouraged to be physically active and engaged with their peers in activities of their choice, at all grade levels, kindergarten through 12th grade.

Your child’s school should be offering a minimum of 20 minutes of recess daily. If this is not happening, learn about the current recess policies and practices at your child’s school and school district. You can also compare your child’s school practices with Strategies for Recess in Schools, a new resource developed CDC and SHAPE America. You can then see if there is an opportunity to get in involved in your child’s recess program and share with the school staff leading recess possible ways to enhance recess at your child’s school.

CDC and SHAPE America developed a set of resources for recess to help schools develop a written recess plan and implement strategies for recess to increase students’ physical activity and improve their academic achievement. These new resources for recess were developed for school staff or school groups (including parents) to provide guidance on recess.

You can help your child’s school enhance recess by using the

A great place to share the importance of recess and these new resources for recess is at a PTA meeting. We need parents to take a stand for creating healthy and active school environments for all students. Be an advocate within your PTA! Tell other parents about how the physical activity afforded by recess prepares children for learning and is a critical part of all children’s school day.

Fran Cleland is the president of SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, and a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.  Prior to teaching at the college level, Cleland taught K-12 health and physical education in Indiana, Virginia and Oregon.  She is the lead author of the textbook, Developmental Physical Education for All Children-Theory into Practice.

Dear Extraordinary Teacher

Dear Extraordinary Teacher,

On behalf of America’s students and families, we would like to take a moment during Teacher Appreciation Week to thank you for your work and impact that extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

Look up “teacher” in the dictionary and you will likely find this definition: one who instructs. But there are a few adjectives missing from this definition … patient, knowledgeable, dedicated, compassionate, inspirational … the list goes on. As a caring professional who connects with students—and strives to discover what they’re passionate about to unlock their potential—you do so much more than simply instruct.

You’re constantly evaluating what works and what doesn’t, making quick adjustments on the fly, and assessing who gets it and who needs a little extra help. You come in early and stay late to give students the one-on-one attention they need. You inspire a lifelong love of learning and guide children’s futures. You advocate for children and your profession. And, in the midst of it all, you create safe spaces where kids can be themselves, dig into your own pocket to buy sneakers for a child in need or replenish classroom supplies, heal boo-boos, give hugs, and offer warm, encouraging and affirming words.

For you, there is no such thing as “other people’s children.” There are only your kids—the students you love and nurture as if they were your own. We not only thank you for all you deliver to children; we are proud to stand with you in everything you do to make sure students in every community have access to the great education they deserve. Together, we are making a difference for our nation’s students.

Thank you for being extraordinary and inspiring students to reach for the stars.

With much gratitude,

Laura Bay
National PTA President

Lily Eskelsen García
NEA President