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

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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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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Family Engagement is Critical to Education

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This blog post was originally published on Medium.

As an educator and parent, I’m always excited by the back-to-school season. I love meeting new families and helping students grow and develop as they learn new skills.

The start of this school year is even more exciting than usual because it’s the beginning of a new era for our nation’s classrooms. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — the new federal law governing K-12 education — goes into effect this year.

While many teachers, students and parents won’t see immediate change in their schools and classrooms, states are actively working to create new education plans to implement ESSA that we hope will soon make high-quality, well-rounded education a reality for every child.

For the first time, ESSA acknowledges the critical role parents and other stakeholders play in student success and school improvement efforts by requiring that they be involved in the development of new education plans and implementation of the law.

Parents and their children are the consumers of our nation’s public education system, and parents have always been essential partners in education. However, they haven’t always been included at the decision-making table. This has caused confusion, mistrust and backlash when new initiatives — whether at the federal, state or local level — have been considered and implemented. ESSA now provides a unique opportunity for parents and families to give their input and to hold states and districts accountable for their children’s educational experience.

So how should states, districts and schools engage families in implementing ESSA? I have four suggestions.

First, invite families to participate. It seems basic, but many families do not feel welcome or know that the law requires that states and districts involve them in developing new education plans. Education leaders should use a variety of communications channels to reach out to parents and share ways they can get involved. Educators can also rely on a trusted messenger — such as PTAs — to communicate better with families.

Second, make messages to parents easy to digest. Most parents do not come to the table with expertise in education policy, but they are experts on their children. It is important that educational jargon is explained in simple terms — how does this affect my child and what can I do? Families must also be provided greater context about current policy and programs to understand ESSA’s impact on existing practices and future policies.

Next, translate materials to reach all families. It is essential that ESSA-related materials be translated into at least one of a community’s most popular languages other than English. Although it takes time and resources, this demonstrates a commitment to making sure all parents and families have the information they need to support their child’s learning and development.

Finally, demonstrate why family participation matters. If families are included in all stages of ESSA implementation, they will understand the ways it relates not just to their children but to every child in the community, the state and across the country. Mechanisms should be provided to allow parents to give regular feedback, and education decision-makers must listen when they do. When all voices are heard and valued, everyone’s engagement rises and consensus is easier to achieve.

ESSA provides an important opportunity for every part of every community to unite in designing the best education system possible for our nation’s children. But for education to be truly successful, family engagement must go beyond ESSA. Forty years of research proves that family engagement makes a real difference, so states and districts must prioritize it. Systematic and sustained efforts to integrate families into the fabric of our schools is key to our nation’s future.


Laura Bay is president of National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA), a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement. This essay is part of a series on parent engagement produced by the philanthropic foundation Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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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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Making College Happen: Advice from One Family

My son Alex and I are preparing for his first year at the University of Colorado at Denver. Paying for college can feel challenging and overwhelming, but it’s absolutely possible. Here’s how we did it:

  1. Start Early

We visited colleges during Alex’s sophomore year, and by junior year, he found a favorite. While visiting colleges with your child, stop by the financial aid office or just give them a call. They will give you a good idea about typical costs and answer questions about transferring credits. We learned that the University of Colorado at Denver offers a discount for residents of neighboring states. That’s helped us make it work.

  1. Determine the Cost

Once you find a college, determine the cost. Remember to consider not just tuition and fees, but also books, transportation and other expenditures. It might sound like a lot to keep track of, but free resources like the Sallie Mae® College Planning Calculator can help. Some colleges also offer net price calculators to help you estimate the costs.

  1. Start Simple

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or soon after Oct. 1. The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal financial aid. Some of that aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis so it’s best to submit the application as early as possible.

  1. Apply for Scholarships

Make sure your child applies for scholarships early and often. Start searching online in August of their senior year to meet early deadlines. Services like Sallie Mae and Fastweb offer great scholarship search engines. Alex worked hard to maintain a good GPA because he knew academics are so important for scholarships, but many scholarships are based on other factors.  Set a weekly goal and don’t get discouraged. Alex completed many applications and often received the response: “great letter, but…” Don’t give up! Alex added the Make College Happen Challenge to his list and made an animated video about college planning. He placed 3rd nationally! Nothing is out of reach, so if you see a scholarship you like—have your child apply!

  1. Parting Advice

There are plenty of other ways for students to save, plan and pay for college. But the key is to start with a plan. At least, that’s what we did. And remember, this is just an example of our experience. The important thing is to create a personal plan of action to make college happen.

Good luck!


 

Veronica and Alex Gomez are a mother and son currently navigating the paying for college process. Alex recently won Sallie Mae’s Make College Happen ChallengeSM with his animated video submission detailing how he plans to pay for his college.

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

Protecting the Progress We’ve Made in School Nutrition

shutterstock_432895717It’s hard to believe that before long, it will be back-to-school time again.  Like many of you, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been hard at work this summer preparing for the upcoming school year. Over the past six years since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, schools across the country have made incredible progress in ensuring all children have access to more nutritious food in school.

Today, joined by Kelly Langston, president of North Carolina PTA, USDA is announcing four final rules that continue the Obama Administration’s historic commitment to building a healthier next generation. While they won’t make any drastic new changes, these rules will ensure the positive changes schools have already made will remain in place and improve children’s health for years to come.

National PTA has advocated for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs since they were first created, and I am proud to have PTA join us for this announcement. You have been one of USDA’s most valued partners, advocating for changes like stronger nutrition standards and more family and community involvement in local school wellness policies to promote nutrition and physical activity in schools. Thanks to your advocacy in Washington and your leadership in local school districts, 98% of schools nationwide are now meeting updated, science-based nutrition standards and serving meals with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy—and less sodium—in age-appropriate portion sizes. USDA is also seeing healthier school environments overall for the more than 52 million children who attend schools that participate in the USDA meal programs.

One of the biggest advances made under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the Smart Snacks in School rule, which ensured for the first time that all food and beverages sold a la carte in the cafeteria, in vending machines, or elsewhere on the school campus meet practical, science-based nutrition standards in-line with the requirements for school lunches and breakfasts. Schools have already implemented the Smart Snacks rule and are offering an impressive variety of options that meet the new standards and are popular with students.  The Smart Snacks final rule USDA is announcing today will ensure this progress remains in place.

About 70% of elementary and middle school students are exposed to some form of food or beverage marketing at school.  The Local School Wellness Policy final rule, also announced today, ensures that any food or beverage marketed on school campuses during the school day meets the same Smart Snacks standards.  National PTA has long been a strong supporter of robust school wellness policies that create healthy, supportive learning environments as children spend a majority of their day in school. National PTA was instrumental in developing this rule, which requires schools to engage parents, students, and community members in the creation of their local school wellness policies, and empowers communities to take an active role in the health of their children. States and local communities will continue to have flexibility in developing wellness policies that work best for them.

shutterstock_293985629The two other rules announced today, the Community Eligibility Provision final rule and the Administrative Review final rule, will codify changes that have improved access to school meals for low-income children and strengthened oversight and integrity in the programs at the State level. The Community Eligibility Provision, another major advance made under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, allows school districts or individual schools with high numbers of low-income children to serve free meals to all students, eliminating the need for parents to fill out a free lunch application and reducing burdensome paperwork for school administrators so they can focus on what’s most important—feeding kids. More than 18,000 high-poverty schools serving 8.5 million students are now participating in this streamlined option, which has been shown to increase student participation in breakfast and lunch.

When kids return to school and Congress returns to work in September, USDA and the Administration will continue to call on Congress to reauthorize the Federal child nutrition programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee has already passed a bi-partisan bill that would protect the progress we have made and earned PTA’s support. The Senate bill would also support grants and loans to help schools purchase the kitchen equipment and infrastructure they need to prepare healthy meals, which National PTA has called for.

Children’s ability to learn in the classroom and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to ensure their health.  USDA is grateful for National PTA’s partnership in ensuring every child in America has the opportunity to grow up healthy and succeed in school and later in life. Together, we have supported these healthy changes that will benefit our children—and our country– far into the future.


Tom Vilsack serves as the nation’s 30th Secretary of Agriculture.

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10 Ways to Get Kids Reading this Summer

This blog was originally posted on the Great Schools blog.

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School’s out, the days are longer, and suddenly kids have time on their hands, and you’d like them to put down their tablet and pick up a book. After all, studies show children who read when they’re out of school do better academically than those who avoid cracking open a book.

California Library Association is asking patrons across the state to encourage their local libraries to be a part of the Five Book Summer Reading Challenge. CLA has innovative programs to share or seek at least a calculation of how many books were read. Reading just five books during the summer reduce summer learning loss–significantly more than three or four books. Here are 10 ways to get even the most reluctant reader started on a reading adventure.

  1. Get inspired by Hollywood

    Movies can be a great way to get kids excited about reading, so kick-start summer with film adaptations of popular children’s books. Parents might Netflix Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), based on a book by Roald Dahl. If kids warm up to Mr. Fox, you’ll be able to introduce them to the book version  as well as other titles by the author, such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG.

  2. Take a book-themed vacation

    “I can go anywhere!” — or so says the theme song to the PBS show Reading Rainbow. Parents could do a lot worse than taking those songsmiths to heart and helping children plan a vacation inspired by a book they love. To start, try reading Liz Garton Scanlon’s picture book All the World while planning a trip to the beach. New Englanders might visit Providence, R.I., after reading the historical young adult novel The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

  3. Meet the authors

    Kids of all ages can benefit from attending an in-person literary event. Authors routinely make appearances at bookstores to read their latest work, and these events are often sparsely attended. Seeing the person behind the words could inspire kids to try a new book. For dates and times, check local news and bookstore websites.

  4. Get cookin’ with books

    Parents of kids who aren’t interested in the more traditional children’s books might want to steer their offspring toward other genres. Cookbooks can encourage kids to master practical skills while providing a delicious payoff at the end. The American Grandparents Association recommends 12 cookbooks for kids 3 and older. And children who branch out into the world of food blogs will find endless reasons to keep reading.

  5. Wise up on magazines

    Magazines cater to many interests and can inspire kids to read deeply on subjects they enjoy. Among magazines suitable for younger readers, several well-known magazines, such as Sports Illustrated and National Geographic, offer “kids” editions. Parents’ Choice has a list of spring 2015 winners here. Teens in particular may want something for the more mature: Seventeen, Teen Vogue, ESPN or MAD — and most magazines are available for electronic readers such as Kindle and Nook.

  6. Create a readers’ theater

    Parents can bring books to life by staging scenes from favorite stories. Act out characters, read scenes aloud, try funny voices, and use props from around the house — do whatever it takes to get kids excited about the story. By imagining themselves in the roles of their favorite characters, children can make a deeper connection to what they’re reading.

  7. Listen to your books

    Parents might not realize that audiobooks are freely available for checkout at most public libraries. Take your children to the library (or iTunes), and pick out the perfect summer tale, then set aside some time to listen to the audiobook together.

  8. Throw a blog party

    Make reading social by helping your kids — or, more likely, having them help you — set up a reading blog on sites such as Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, or Tumblr. While getting them set up should be relatively painless, kids might need encouragement to keep writing, so make sure you help them stick to a schedule. For even more online fun, see if you can get your children’s friends involved as well.

  9. Organize a summer series

    With school out, children have extra time to get sucked in by the compelling narratives of popular series. For the youngest set, start with picture books such as Babar. Genre books can be particularly addictive for older kids: The Lord of the Rings is a classic — and one of the best.

  10. Be strong and read hard!

    It’s especially important for parents to model the behavior they want to see in their children. Some parents only read after their kids are in bed, but summer is a great time to take the books off the bedside table and make them part of vacation or leisure time. Whether that means booting up the Kindle or dusting off old Anna K, show your kids you still love a good read, too.

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Illinois PTA President Honored with Father of the Year Award

matthew=rodgriguezLast month, Illinois PTA President Matthew Rodriguez was recognized with an honorary “Father of the Year” award by the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative (IFI) at its 19th Anniversary Fatherhood Dinner Celebration.

The IFI is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster loving and caring father-figure relationships in the community and actively engage fathers in the education of children. Notable members of the IFI include President Barrack Obama, Illinois Senator Richard J. Durbin and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Each June, the IFI hosts the Fatherhood Dinner Celebration to honor prominent dads for being positive male role models for their own and all children in their community. Rodriguez was selected to receive the Father of the Year award by IFI CEO David Hirsch for his dedication to making a difference in the lives of all children.

This is not the first accolade Rodriguez has received. Last fall, he was honored with the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation’s (ILLCF) Service Award. Rodriguez was among four recipients chosen by the ILLCF Board to receive the award for his significant contributions to the Latino community in Illinois and his important work as the first Hispanic male president of Illinois PTA.

As president of Illinois PTA, Rodriguez has been committed to increasing male engagement in schools and communities. Research shows that some 24 million children—1.1 million in Illinois alone—are growing up today in homes without fathers, which adversely affects children, families and communities. Children who do not have a father or male figure in their lives look up to male role models in their schools. And when men are present in schools, student achievement increases and negative behavior decreases.

Among his other efforts, Rodriguez recently participated in the 21st Century Dads Honor Ride 2016, a cycling campaign to raise awareness and resources for fatherhood charities. The purpose of the ride is to highlight the importance of dads in their children’s lives, create greater awareness of the father absence crisis and raise necessary funds for fatherhood organizations to support ongoing efforts to combat fatherlessness. As part of the ride, participants visited police stations, fire stations and other locations in communities to honor dads and thank them for being present in their children’s lives.


Olivia Kimmel is the PR and social media intern at National PTA.

 

New Civil Rights Data Collection Survey Highlights Need for Improvement

CDRCThe U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently released the results of the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) survey. This report features information about how students are treated at school and highlights several key issues that affect a child’s ability to learn, such as chronic absenteeism, restraint and seclusion disciplinary actions and lack of access to college resources. These three topics are important when advocating to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education.

Here are some key findings from the CRDC survey report and what National PTA is currently doing to tackle these issues:

Chronic Absenteeism Plagues Our Children’s Academic Participation

The CRDC survey reports that 18% of students are chronically absent—missing at least 10% of school days in a school year—which is likely to hurt their academic success and social development. National PTA recognizes that millions of students are missing too many school days and so signed on to a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in support of their Every Student, Every Day initiative, which addresses this issue that is threatening our children’s learning opportunities. National PTA continues to work with communities across the country to make sure our children attend school regularly.

Disproportional Instances of Restraint and Seclusion 

Restraint and seclusion is a school discipline strategy involving the involuntary confinement or physical restraint of students. The 2013-2014 CRDC data shows that this disciplinary policy disproportionally impacts students with disabilities. Students with disabilities make up 12% of all public school students but account for 67% of students subjected to restraint or seclusion. The use of inappropriate restraint and seclusion methods by untrained school personnel has resulted in the assault, injury, trauma and in some cases death, of students.

At the 2015 National PTA Annual Convention & Expo, PTA members passed a resolution to limit restraint and seclusion policies in schools. In the resolution, the National PTA calls for restraint and seclusion to only be used as a last resort in emergency situations, ensuring the safety and protection of all children.

Minority Groups Are Offered Fewer College Preparation Programs

According to the CRDC report, African American and Latino students have less access to high-level math and science courses in their schools. In schools with high enrollment of African American and Latino children, only 33% offer Calculus, compared to 56% of high schools with mainly white student populations.

National PTA recognizes the importance of offering advanced courses at schools in preparation for college and the skilled labor force. Our association continues to advocate for increasing the federal investment in education to ensure a well-rounded education for all our nation’s children. National PTA launched its STEM education and family engagement initiative in fall 2015 in collaboration with founding and presenting sponsor Bayer USA Foundation with additional support from Mathnasium to magnify the importance that a well-rounded education has on our children’s educational opportunities and future success.

So, what can you do to address these issues as a PTA advocate? The first way you can help is to identify specific issues that your school faces. School data on these issues from previous years can be found at this webpage, with updated info from the current CRDC report available in August. Once identified, you and your PTA can work with the school administration to ensure all students are treated fairly and receive a high-quality education.

You can also make a difference if you:

  • Ask your school’s principal if they have a school counselor and work with him or her to ensure all students have access to counseling. Chronic absenteeism can be addressed by giving students access to a school counselor or a mentor to confide in to get to the root of the issue. Lack of access is a serious issue—over 1.6 million students attend a school where a sworn law enforcement officer is present but not a school counselor. On top of this, about 21% of schools nationwide don’t have access to any school counselors.
  • Work with the local school board to create policies and programs that emphasize the use of positive or non-aversive student behavior interventions, thereby limiting the use of restraint and seclusion on students. In addition, you can advocate for your school district to provide adequate training for all teachers, principals and school personnel on preventative interventions and alternatives to exclusionary discipline.
  •  Get involved with the local or state PTA and help districts and states draft their new education plans. College and career preparation is a focus for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Learn more about the law and how to get involved at PTA.org/ESSA.

Blake Altman is the government affairs intern at National PTA.

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