Maryland PTA Helps Parents Interpret Results of New PARCC Assessments

parccThis past spring, millions of students across the country took the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments in English language arts/literacy and mathematics for the first time. Parents are now receiving their children’s scores from the tests.

Since these are new tests and assess skills like critical-thinking and problem-solving, the score reports may look different from reports provided to families from previous tests. As part of its ongoing commitment to help families navigate the changes taking place in classrooms, Maryland PTA collaborated with the Maryland State Department of Education to conduct webinars and in-person programs for parents across the state to answer their questions on the new assessments, help them interpret their children’s scores on the tests and empower them with tools and resources to support their children’s success. The information sessions also were designed to help parents work together with their children’s teachers and administrators to fill gaps in learning as determined from the PARCC results to ensure children graduate prepared for college and careers.

The PARCC tests measure the extent to which students are learning the knowledge and skills they need to progress in their K-12 education and beyond. The new score reports are designed to be actionable and be tools for parents to understand where their child is doing well and where there may be a need for additional support. This information, along with grades, teacher feedback and scores on other tests, will help give parents a more complete picture of how well their child is performing academically.

As part of the information sessions, Maryland PTA utilized BeALearningHero.org and Understandthescore.org. BeALearningHero.org features a search engine where parents can find tools and resources—in English and Spanish—specific to their child’s needs­. UnderstandTheScore.org includes a Score Report Guide to help parents identify the key factors that determine their child’s performance on the PARCC test, as well as his/her academic gaps and strengths in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Once parents pinpoint their child’s strengths or needs, they can connect to resources, tools and activities that support their child’s achievement.

We know every parent wants the best for their children and wants to support their learning in the most effective ways. Maryland PTA will continue to deliver regularly-updated, timely information to help parents feel confident and informed.

Parents can visit www.MDpta.org to learn more about the PARCC results and to receive regular updates with tools, tips and resources.


Elizabeth Ysla Leight is the president at Maryland PTA.

Our Children Magazine is Now Live!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking About College: What Matters?

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

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

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

What does this have to do with college choice?

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

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

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

What else can parents do?

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

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

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


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

 

Resources for Spanish-Speaking Families to Support Student Success

We recently celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), an important time to recognize the contributions made and significant presence of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.

National PTA also used the month to raise awareness of the unique challenges Hispanic and Latino children and families face and elevate support for them in schools and communities.

Twenty-five percent of students today are Hispanic, and Hispanic children and youth are the fastest-growing population in America—the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the Hispanic school-age population will increase by 166% by 2050. Hispanic and Latino students are an important part of our nation’s future, and it is essential to support their learning and development and ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

A key component to helping Hispanic and Latino children succeed is families who are engaged in their child’s education and armed with tools and resources to support them at home.

We know Hispanic and Latino parents want the best for their children and want to be engaged, but there are cultural and language barriers that make it challenging.

To bridge the gap, National PTA and organizations with which our association collaborates offer a variety of Spanish-language resources to empower Hispanic and Latino parents to support their children’s success.

  • Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which feature key items children should be learning in English language arts and math in each grade, activities that parents can do at home to support their child’s learning, and methods parents can use to build stronger relationships with their child’s teacher.
  • Clave al Éxito, a mobile tool that includes videos and tools for parents to engage in their child’s education and better communicate with their child’s teachers on their academic progress.
  • BeALearningHero.org, a website through which parents can find tips, fast facts, videos, guides and other resources specific to their children’s needs.
  • Fuel Up to Play 60 en Español, which includes information, resources and activities for parents to help their children lead more active and healthier lives.
  • The Smart Talk, a digital tool that helps families have conversations about online behavior and set ground rules together for technology use. As more and more kids get devices and go online, it is important that parents talk to their children about how to live safely in the digital world.

National PTA also has collaborated with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Univision on a webinar series to educate PTA, school and community leaders on ways to empower Hispanic and Latino families to engage in student learning. As part of the series, we will host a webinar on why Hispanic families should get involved to support the children they love on Nov. 17 (in English) and Nov. 18 (in Spanish).

To register for the webinar or to view other webinars in the series, and for more resources to help Hispanic and Latino families support their children’s success, visit PTA.org/HispanicChild.


Laura Bay is president of National PTA.

Keeping Families Together

This blog post was featured in the Huffington Post. Read the original post here.

shutterstock_140108563One of National PTA’s founding principles is to advocate for children and families who are most vulnerable. In the heated debate about immigration, we raise our voice for the estimated 4 million K-12 students in the United States who have at least one parent with the potential of being deported. (Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends)

If these parents and family members are suddenly uprooted from their children’s lives and deported, it will have a significant negative impact on their children’s education and opportunities. Their children will face not only the emotional loss of their primary support, but also the benefits of having families engaged in their education and other aspects of their lives, which result in a greater likelihood of graduating from high school, attending college and being employed.

It is not hard to put ourselves into the shoes of these families and to imagine the horrors that are being talked about so cavalierly. I know if I were to be snatched away by authorities, the trajectory of my 10 and 12 year-old would be forever changed. And if they lived under that threat every day, the emotional stress would adversely impact every aspect of their lives, including their potential for academic success. Yet, this is a reality for millions of children every day.

The threat to families is not just in the evolving rhetoric. In 2013, the federal government deported more than 72,000 mothers and fathers of children who are U.S. citizens, resulting in thousands of shattered families.

Actress Diane Guerrero of “Orange Is the New Black” was one such child and she wrote about how that deportation impacted her life. At 14, she came home from school to find that both of her parents had been deported. With few options, she was fortunate enough to be taken in by friends. However, her parents missed many of her academic and personal accomplishments during her childhood and were not there to provide valuable support. While Guerrero has succeeded despite this distressing experience, many children are less fortunate.

Deportation of parents can lead to greater expense as some children may need to enter the under-resourced foster care system. The trauma may cause some children to understandably lash out with negative behavior in school or possibly end up in the juvenile justice system without the support of their parents. These types of cruel deportations led one New Mexico judge to state, “For 10 years now, I’ve been presiding over a process that destroys families every day and several times each day.”

If students are more likely to do better in school and life when they have involved families, and the documented benefits of our nation’s immigrants far exceed the costs of their presence and participation, then policymakers should provide solutions that benefit our nation’s diverse and talented youth and their families, not harm them.

At National PTA, our motto is “Every Child, One Voice.” When you know our families as I do, you know that many of their children are on their way to be doctors, teachers, social workers, entrepreneurs and other valued members of our society. We raise our voice for the children of immigrants–let’s give them the best opportunity to succeed by keeping their families together and providing them with the best education possible. Their future and our nation’s future depend on it.


 

Nathan R. Monell, CAE is the executive director of National PTA and a proud father of two public school students.

We at National PTA believe that all children residing in the United States, regardless of their citizenship status, have the right of access to a quality public education, adequate food and shelter and basic health care services. Our association strongly considers that a critical part of a quality public education is to provide the same opportunities to all families to be involved in their child’s education, despite their differences.

Special Video Message from President Bay: Thank You PTA Advocates!

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment that strengthens family engagement provisions in the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind. The passage of the amendment is a testament to the power of our collective voice to make a difference for all students and schools.

I want to take a few moments to thank you for your advocacy efforts because this could not have happened without you being a voice and your hard work and dedication to the mission of PTA.

Thank you again to all of our members and advocates and keep up your tremendous advocacy on behalf of our nation’s children and families!

Laura’s Corner: Our Children Are Counting on Us

Copyright 2014 Lifetouch National School Studios, IncWelcome to my new corner of the blog!

I am honored to serve as the 54th president of National PTA and am excited about this opportunity to strengthen our mission to make every child’s potential a reality.

I look forward to connecting and working with you—our members—to achieve this goal.

PTA brings together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and is a powerful voice for all children from schools and local communities to state legislatures and the halls of Congress.

We understand and believe that opportunity starts and ends with access to a great education, and as president, I want to diversify the association’s education platform and strengthen programs that support the whole child.

We can do this together by:

  • Advocating to make sure that all children have a safe place to live, learn and thrive
  • Working to enhance PTA’s STEM and early learning efforts and college and career programs
  • Diving deeper into health issues to meet every child’s physical, social and emotional needs
  • Ensuring that all families are engaged in education and PTA and are at the table to be a voice for their and all children

In Laura’s Corner, I will share my experiences as I visit communities across the country and meet the people who are making a difference every day for our nation’s children and schools.

You can also follow me on Twitter @PTALauraBay and share your questions, concerns, suggestions and activities. I want to know the positive strides you are making in your schools and communities and the challenges you face in advocating for every child.

Thank you for your support and your commitment to PTA! And thank you for all that you do for our children!


Laura Bay is National PTA President.

Nominate Your Peers for a 2015 Bammy Award

CelebratewhatsrrightNominations are now open for the 2015 Bammy Awards, which are organized by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International and seek to recognize the outstanding contributions made by those working in and around education.

Every day, great work is being done in schools by teachers, administrators, staff, parents and students, but unfortunately, much of this is unknown to the general public. The Bammy Awards program was created to showcase the unsung contributions, collaborative spirit and exceptional role models that represent the best elements of American education. National PTA is pleased to support the awards program as the association believes it is essential to spotlight and recognize the exceptional commitment, extraordinary contributions and innovative collaborations among educators, families and communities across the nation.

Through the awards program, everyone is invited to nominate, vote for and publically share stories – in 36 categories, including Parent Group Leader – of the great things happening in their school communities. We all know amazing teachers, principals, superintendents, school nurses, engaged parents, school librarians, school custodians and caring school staff. We encourage you to take a moment to nominate deserving individuals and help shine a light on the great work being done in education.

In addition to supporting the Bammy Awards, National PTA has designated May 4-8, 2015 Teacher Appreciation Week to honor and celebrate teachers and important contributions they make to ensure every child succeeds and reaches his/her full potential. Teacher Appreciation Week is the perfect time to recognize teachers who are making a difference in the lives of children in your community. Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week by nominating a special teacher for a Bammy Award.

Visit www.bammyawards.org for more information on the awards program. The nomination and voting period ends May 15.


Sherri Wilson is a senior manager of family and community engagement for National PTA. Wilson was the recognized by the Academy of Arts and Sciences with the 2014 Bammy Award for Parent Group Leader as well as the 2014 Educators Voice Award for Parent Group Leader of the Year.

Senate Education Committee Passes Every Child Achieves Act

Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB). This is another step toward reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB. National PTA is pleased to see movement on this important piece of legislation. Comprehensive reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB is National PTA’s top legislative priority this Congress.

Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) praised his colleagues and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) for their hard work and bipartisanship during the three day markup of the bill. The bill will now go to the floor of the U.S. Senate where all Senators will be able to debate and have the opportunity to amendment the bill. We are hearing that the bill could be brought to the floor in mid-May or June.

National PTA and Colorado PTA worked with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to introduce an amendment that would create a program to authorize Statewide Family Engagement Centers as a replacement to Parent Information and Resource Centers, which were eliminated in the bill. Senator Bennet offered his amendment but then withdrew it. This was done for strategic reasons, and the Senator plans to offer it again on the Senate floor. National PTA seeks to strengthen the family engagement provisions in the bill and will be asking PTA advocates to reach out to their Senators to ensure that the Every Child Achieves Act has specific improvements that prioritize capacity building for the implementation of systemic and sustainable family engagement practices that increase student achievement.

During the markup, several amendments passed that National PTA supported, including the elementary and secondary school counseling program; the Javits gifted and talented program; the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which would provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours; and an amendment that would provide resources to initiate, expand and improve physical education programs in schools. These amendments provide needed resources and supports to students and schools and are aligned with PTA’s 2015 Public Policy Agenda.

Another PTA-supported amendment that passed would enable states and school districts to conduct audits of their testing systems to reduce low-quality, misaligned and redundant tests.

National PTA is also pleased to see the passage of an education technology amendment that would foster innovative technology initiatives in classrooms and schools and provide professional development for educators as well as a grant program that would improve coordination, quality and access to early learning opportunities for children and families.

We are thankful that no public or private school portability or voucher amendments passed in Committee; however, both Senators Alexander and Scott (R-SC) vowed to introduce portability amendments on the Senate floor.

We will need PTA advocates to gear up for the action on the Senate floor to strengthen family engagement provisions and ensure that every child has the resources and support he/she needs to reach his/her full potential.

Stay tuned for more updates on the reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB through the One Voice Blog and by following @NationalPTA on Twitter.


Jacki Ball is the director of government affairs at National PTA. Follow her on Twitter at @balljacki.

Of Nail Polish, Foster Children and Identity Theft

In March, National PTA’s Every Child in Focus campaign centers on the Foster Child. This post from a proud foster parent highlights the joys and challenges that come with the territory.

Lifelock_March172015I have three wonderful children. They sing at full volume when we’re all in the car. They attack each other with straws at the Mexican restaurant. Just normal, energetic kids. So when my wife and I decided to become licensed foster parents we knew we were bringing more excitement into our already full home.

Last month a curly-haired little girl arrived. She was dropped off with a small bag of clothes and a few stuffed animals. Raising my own kids is already a challenge, but stirring a new addition into the bowl presents all types of new challenges. Now there are more messes in the living room, more tears at bedtime and more spilled nail polish on the carpet. Did I mention red nail polish, on the tan carpet? This was not an easy cleanup.

The reality is the home our foster child was taken out of wasn’t safe. As parents, we go to great lengths to ensure that the children under our care have a safe environment. We make sure the people in our home are emotionally healthy. We lock up the bleach and the weed killer in the shed. We hold hands when we cross the street on the way to the park. Children need parents to create safe places for them to grow up and successfully transition into adult life.

Foster children can have it especially difficult. Some bounce from house to house, they’re in and out of group homes, and many never arrive in a long-term home. Even in the best of circumstances, the odds are against them. According to the Children’s Advocacy Institute, foster children are at high risk of being homeless after aging out of care, less likely to graduate high school than other kids, and end up incarcerated at a much higher rate than other children.

On top of that, foster children are often victims of identity theft. Their personal information passes through group homes social workers, relatives and foster parents. There’s no shortage of opportunities for people to steal and misuse this sensitive information. That leaves them unable to rent an apartment or even purchase a mobile phone after they age out of the system because identity thieves have ruined their credit.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation produced a guide to help adults working with young people in foster care to implement a credit check requirement authorized by federal law. The guide also recommends that adults educate foster children about the threat of identity theft and the importance of establishing good credit.

My wife and I will do our best to care for our foster child for as long as we are able. It saddens us to know that there are others who will take advantage of such vulnerable kids by abusing their identities. I’m proud that my company, LifeLock, supports local organizations that advocate on behalf of foster children, and I hope others to join the effort.

And if you’ve ever considered becoming a foster parent, I strongly encourage you to take the next step and get in contact with a local foster care agency. I promise you the chance to provide a child with safety and love more than makes up for a little spilled nail polish on the carpet.


Thomas Kinsfather is the Manager of LifeLock Quality Management, and a proud foster parent.

National PTA thanks LifeLock for their generous corporate contribution to support the foster care component of Every Child in Focus.

LifeLock is a financial 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.