Educators, Administrators and PTA Leaders Break Down the Common Core in New Video Series

National PTA recently released a video series on the Common Core to educate parents on the standards and empower them to support the implementation of the standards at school and home. The series was developed in partnership with The Hunt Institute as part of the association’s ongoing efforts to provide accurate information about the Common Core, ensure parents are knowledgeable about the standards and new assessments, and support parents every step of the way as states transition to the standards.

The series features 14 videos that highlight the importance of and need for clear, consistent and rigorous standards; dispel myths about the Common Core; and provide perspectives from educators, administrators, PTA leaders and others on the positive changes they’ve seen with the standards. The videos also spotlight the steps PTAs can take to effectively advocate for the standards in their communities.

The series begins with the video “The Need for Improved Student Outcomes,” a brief overview of the Common Core.

The Common Core State Standards have experienced growing pains since their inception and there is still work to be done, but the standards are vast improvement over previous academic standards.

We encourage you to watch the videos in the series and share them with your members as well as families in your school community. Together, we can educate and empower parents with accurate information about the Common Core. It is critical that we raise the bar in all schools and remain committed to ensuring that all students graduate prepared to succeed.

For more information on the Common Core and to view resources that have been developed on the standards, visit National PTA’s Common Core website.

Shannon Sevier is vice president for advocacy for National PTA.

Smart Snacks: Is Your Fundraiser, Vending Machine, or School Store USDA Compliant?

Beginning July 1, 2014 schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program (that’s most schools) must ensure all foods sold to kids during the school day (called “Smart Snacks”) meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition guidelines. But what does it all mean?  Which foods are considered a “smart snack”? And how do I know if my PTA’s fundraiser is compliant?  We get it – it can be confusing! But we’re hoping to clear up some confusion here and get you the resources you need to be successful. If you don’t see an answer here, feel free to ask a question in the comments.

And stay tuned for additional resources to help make sure your PTA is ready to help support healthier foods in school!

What foods are you talking about when you say “Smart Snacks”? 

For the purpose of USDA guidelines, the foods that must meet minimum nutrition guidelines are those sold during the school day in school stores, vending machines, fundraisers, and a la carte lunch lines (think “grab and go” food items not part of a full meal). There are already updated USDA nutrition guidelines for the federally-subsidized school meal.

Foods sold outside of the school day (we’ll get to that in a second) – do not need to meet USDA guidelines.

Wait, did you say fundraisers?

Yes, fundraisers will need to meet the nutrition guidelines if they are sold to kids during the school day or immediately before and after school and are intended to be eaten on the spot.

What do you mean when you say “before and after” school?

The guidelines apply to any food sold

  • on school grounds before the school day begins
  • during the school day; and
  • 30 minutes after the traditional school day ends (think unhealthy fundraisers or unhealthy vending machines as soon as the bell rings).

What about our fundraisers and foods sold on school grounds but not during school day?

The USDA guidelines do not apply to afterschool or weekend events like football games and musical performances, so long as they are not before school or 30 minutes after the traditional school day ends. Your school may have additional restrictions on what can be sold on school grounds, so it’s always important to check first. Additionally, many PTAs are adopting healthy fundraising and event practices. The USDA guidelines are scientifically-backed based on nutrition needs for students. Your PTA may want to use the guidelines as a healthy lifestyle resource for your PTA!

What do you mean when you say foods that are intended to be eaten “on the spot”?

The USDA guidelines are only intended to target “ready to eat foods”. If a student is selling a food product through a catalog-type sale where the food is not intended to be eaten by the student at school, it wouldn’t need to meet USDA guidelines. But your local school may have additional restrictions.

But I heard there can be some fundraisers during the school day that don’t meet the guidelines?

Yes, there is flexibility for states to provide exemptions for infrequent school-approved fundraisers that do not meet the nutrition guidelines. Your administrative office may know this number, but you can also check the National Association of State Board of Education (NASBE) database for “fundraising exemptions” under your state. If your state has not determined the number of exemptions allowable, it is automatically zero, meaning that no exemptions are allowed for fundraisers that do not meet nutrition guidelines. 

What about birthday celebrations and food our PTA gives to kids?

While PTA supports healthy food offerings throughout the day, USDA guidelines only apply to foods sold to kids during the school day. So if a parent or other group is providing food free of charge, they do not need to comply with USDA guidelines. Keep in mind that state and local rules apply – and your school may have stronger restrictions on these items.

How do I know if what we’re selling meets the guidelines?

Good news! There is a simple way to check this using this tool from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Just enter what kind of product you’re selling (for the purpose of vending machines, school stores or fundraisers, it’s generally going to be a “snack”) and answer a few simple questions. The tool will let you know if your product is compliant. Just make sure to have the nutrition label handy!

Note: State and local regulations can differ and may be stronger. This is only related to USDA guidelines, which are designed to be minimum guidelines that schools must meet. However, schools are allowed to go beyond these guidelines. You should check with your school about additional guidelines or restrictions to vending machines, school stores and fundraisers.  It may also be part of your school’s Local Wellness Policy.

Have a question we didn’t answer? Please ask below and we’ll do our best to answer!

Excited about these changes and want to become more involved? Consider becoming at PTA Champion for Smart School Foods here!

Could your state PTA or council benefit from an in-person training? Shoot us an email at schoolfoods@pta.org.

 

 

 

 

Speaking Up for Child Nutrition Programs

 

National PTA Legislative Chair Stella Edwards and National PTA President Otha Thornton pose with Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

National PTA Legislative Chair Stella Edwards and National PTA President Otha Thornton pose with Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

On June 12, I had the honor of bringing the voice of families and child advocates to Capitol Hill and testifying before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry at a hearing titled, A National Priority: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs to Our Nation’s Health, Economy and National Security.

Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, which directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the nation’s child nutrition programs. The Act requires that schools make updates to serve healthier food to students during the school day, including in a la carte lines, vending machines and school stores. In exchange, Congress increased the reimbursement rate schools receive for each meal served. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry currently is considering the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, which is due in 2015.

Strengthening programs that promote healthy school environments and ensuring that all children have access to critical nutritious food options has been a longtime priority for National PTA. It is essential that improvements continue to be made as high quality national nutrition programs are critical to the future of our children and also our country.

Following is the testimony I gave before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry during the hearing:

Chairman Stabenow, Ranking Member Cochran, committee members, and my fellow distinguished panelists, I am honored to have the opportunity to speak before you today on behalf of the over four million members of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). With more than 24,000 local units, PTA flourishes in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Department of Defense schools in Europe. 

I currently serve as the President of the National PTA, an elected volunteer position I assumed in June 2013. In addition to my involvement with National PTA, I have been active in state and local PTAs in Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Michigan and Kaiserslautern, Germany. I am currently employed as a senior operations analyst with General Dynamics at Fort Stewart, Georgia and am a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel. Most importantly, I have over two decades of experience as a father to my two wonderful children with my wife Caryn – Candice and Tre. 

PTA was founded in 1897 and is the oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association in the United States. PTA’s legacy of influencing policy to protect the education, health, and overall well-being of children has made an indelible impact in the lives of millions of children and their families.  This legacy includes the creation of kindergarten classes, a juvenile justice system, child labor laws, and mandatory immunizations for school children.  Our mission is to be a powerful voice for every child.

With regard to today’s hearing, one of the fundamental purposes of PTA is to preserve children’s health and protect them from harm. PTA has been at the table from the beginning – piloting a hot lunch program in schools in the 1920’s that led to PTA’s advocacy for a national school lunch program and each subsequent reauthorization of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act.       

Most recently, PTA and our coalition partners fought for passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which, as you know, made significant updates to our nation’s school nutrition programs. PTA viewed this as both a win for kids and parents because parents knew that – for the first time – no matter what our kids purchased in the cafeteria, it was going to be good for them. And as the primary decision-makers in our kids’ lives, it also provided us – parents – a stronger role through Local Wellness Policy development, implementation and evaluation. And as I always say, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

I mention these past accomplishments not only to underscore PTA’s commitment to the well-being of our nation’s children, but also to provide a historical context for where we are today.  We have made a commitment to our children for over 70 years to do right by them in the cafeteria, and we cannot turn our backs now.  I know some of my fellow panelists will address the reality our nation’s obesity crisis as it relates to our overall health and national security, so as a PTA leader and father, I am here today to tell you that parents and families are committed to working together to ensure the continued success of our nation’s child nutrition programs.

So where are we today? Schools are making exceptional progress in the nutritional quality of the meals they are serving to our kids. There have been challenges along the way, but that’s to be expected. We’re parents after all! When is the last time you changed up the rules for your kids in the interest of their well-being and your kids were happy about it? Anyone?

And I truly believe that way we approach school meals will not only instantly impact our kids, but also our families.

As partners in the school building, PTA and parents understand that there are certain challenging realities – there’s never enough time, seldom enough money and often times minimal resources. But that has never and can never be a free pass to not do what is best for our kids. For parents, it means that we need to step up to the plate and support our schools – the board, the administration, the school food service, the teachers and the students -  to make sure that school meals are successful.

And that means having a seat at the table and finding solutions to the challenges. Do we need updated kitchen equipment to serve fresh foods? Well – how are we going to secure funding? Do we need volunteers so breakfast can be served in the classroom? Well – let’s get some parents or grandparents together. Do we need to taste test some new items? How can we help? Do we need to adjust our fundraising practices? Let’s do this. Our kids don’t have enough time to eat lunch?  How can we solve this problem? We can do this – together. It may take a little bit of time and a lot of effort, but we can do this. 

In closing, I respectfully ask all committee members to keep in mind that we make decisions in every other part of the school based on what is best for our students’ success – and the cafeteria should be no different. I commend the committee for looking into these programs and understanding their critical importance for doing the right thing for all of our students.

After all, the nutritional needs of our children remain the same whether they live in Iowa or Georgia.  It is impractical to force parents to fight for access to healthier school foods one school at a time, reinventing the wheel while facing the same obstacles at each and every turn. High quality national nutrition programs ease this burden, while still allowing for a great deal of local control over the implementation of the programs. 

Once again, I would like to thank the committee and all of the other panelists for engaging in this topic, which is critical to the future of not only our children, but our country.  Make no mistake, the decisions made during this reauthorization will impact our schools, our hospitals, our economy, our military, our homes and, most importantly, our kids. 

PTA members and families play an important role in helping schools implement improved meal and snack offerings. Working together at the federal, state and local levels, we can find solutions to the challenges to support our schools and ensure the continued success of our nation’s child nutrition programs, which is critical for students’ success. If you would like to reach out to Congress about supporting nutrition guidelines for school meals, visit our PTA Takes Action page today: http://cqrcengage.com/npta2/app/write-a-letter?9&engagementId=52674.

To view a recording of the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, visit www.ag.senate.gov/hearings.


Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.

Helping Give Parents a Shot at Life

F-HilbertFor 20 years, I have been an active PTA member and a passionate advocate for education, diversity and inclusion of minority students in our schools and communities. As a PTA member, I have the opportunity to educate, create awareness, address issues and stand up for the rights of children in many ways.

As a Shot@Life Champion, I stand up for the rights of children around the world! I have been supporting, advocating and championing for Shot@Life because I believe in their mission and goals. Working as a nurse in Mexico, I saw firsthand children living in poverty and with health issues.

I have always felt a sense of duty to do everything I can to address the needs and alleviate the problems of others. I grew up seeing the effect a lack of basic vaccines has on children in poor countries. I saw the pain and agony of children suffering from measles, diarrhea and other diseases.

Because of this, I know that a simple vaccine can make the difference between life and death for children in developing countries. Shot@Life resonates with me and should reverberate with you and everybody else – especially, for those who care about human life. No matter where you live or where you are from, when you hear that a child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease, you want to get involved.

One of my favorite experiences was the time I spent with the Shot@Life in Uganda. The Ugandan people’s courage and resilience as well as the children’s smiles and gratitude taught me the power of kindness and the triumph of the human spirit. Truly a little bit of charity can yield great progress and beneficence.

Shot@Life is raising awareness to help immunize children in Uganda and many other developing countries fighting against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, polio, pneumonia and rotavirus. I believe in this cause and pride myself on being part of a campaign that saves children lives!

I am a mother, and I know that parents will do anything to make sure that their children are safe and healthy. I know too that all of you love children and stand for the human rights of children.  So please join me to help protect, save, and give children around the globe a shot at life. It can start with spreading awareness through your social networks, writing letters and calling your members of Congress and pledging to share the message with all your friends.

Look for the Shot@Life booth during the National PTA conference, and ask how you can become part of this campaign. The Shot@Life team will be there to answer questions and show you ways that you and your PTA units can get involved with the cause. Please join me to help protect, save and give children around the globe a shot at life.

The 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education: Remembering When Parents Stood Up for Change

Otha_Headshot_SMIt started as a whisper. But the injustice taking place in 1954 to African-American school children in Topeka, Kan., didn’t stay quiet for long. It took Oliver L. Brown, a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad, to stand up and call out an education system that wasn’t integrated and wasn’t fair. His request was simple: He wanted his 7-year-old daughter Linda to attend a nearby school designated as white-only instead of being bused across town to an all-black Monroe Elementary School. He instead created a movement that reverberated all the way to the Supreme Court and culminated with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” education unconstitutional.

PTA was there, immediately taking a stand supporting school integration, a move that cost the association some three-million members. Unfazed, these courageous mothers put pressure on all states to integrate. They called it unification. They were ridiculed for their position, but knew that history would be on their side. A few years later, PTA merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association (who had also taken a lead role in supporting Brown and others fighting across the country for school equality) to form what we now know as National PTA.

Today, 60 years later, as the first African-American male president of America’s oldest and largest child advocacy association, I continue to look back in awe at the example set by PTA then and now.

The anniversary of the Brown decision is an important time to reflect on education today and redouble our nation’s efforts to ensure equality for all students across the country. While progress has been achieved in the years following the ruling, inequalities continue to exist in American schools. It is critical that parents, teachers, administrators, elected officials, and business and community leaders work together to make meaningful changes to ensure that all children have access to a high quality education and that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

That means not diverting public funds currently spent on public K-12 education to private or sectarian schools. At the federal level and in states across the country, legislation is being considered that would do just that—depriving students of rights and protections they are awarded in public schools. These desperately-needed resources should continue to be invested in public schools that serve all students regardless of economic status, gender, religion, prior academic achievement, disability and behavioral history.

Equality for all students means supporting state initiatives like the Common Core State Standards, which would raise the bar in all schools and will go far in helping every student receive a high quality education that prepares him or her for success upon graduation from high school. The Common Core State Standards increase rigor in every school and provide consistency across the country, no matter a student’s zip code or socioeconomic status. With the standards, we have a tremendous opportunity to ensure that a high school senior in Alabama receives the same quality education as a senior in Colorado and that both students graduate prepared for college or the workforce and are able to compete in the global economy.

I have continued National PTA’s legacy of speaking up to ensure that all students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that support their success. In the fall of 2013, National PTA launched a campaign, titled Every Child in Focus, to celebrate the achievements and identify the disparities within diverse populations. As the demographics of our nation’s schools continue to shift, each month National PTA spotlights the educational challenges surrounding a particular group and provides resources and advocacy tools to help school communities embrace diversity and inclusion as well as understand and address the unique needs of every child. National PTA also works with our country’s leaders to help tackle issues facing each highlighted group.

In the 1950s, PTA was at the forefront on questions of nationality, race, culture and group relations in all sections of the country and the adverse impact divisions between groups had on children and youth. Now, the association is standing up for investments in public education and higher, consistent academic standards, and it continues to champion the importance of equal opportunity for all children.

The Brown v. Board of Education decision was a turning point in the history of our nation. And this turning point was the result of a parent who spoke up for a truly equal chance at quality education for all children, and associations like PTA that supported his fight.

Educational inequalities helped spur the Civil Rights Movement, and it continues to be the civil rights issue of our time. With the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, it is critical to reaffirm our commitment to speak up and take action to ensure that every student receives a world class education that enables him or her to reach his or her full potential.


Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.

How is My Kid Doing on Those Common Core State Standards?

I am excited to share a free new parent resource with you!  As a fellow PTA parent, I know that we are – by definition – engaged in our children’s education; focused on their success, but also concerned about making our schools the best they can be for our whole community.  That is one reason that I am grateful for the Common Core State Standards that teachers are now using to prepare our kids for college. But the new, better tests that measure against those standards aren’t coming to most of us for another year or two, and I need to know if my son is on track NOW.

Talking to a lot of parents, I have come to realize that many of us do not have great information on our children’s educational progress and need a little help to support them in school.  Because I also work in education, I have had the chance to join with others in creating a new community by parents and for parents, with online tools to help us out.  We have built an “educational check up” at www.raisethebarparents.org for kids in grades 3-6 (more grades to come next year) that also offers follow up resources.  The check ups are brief (about 18 questions each) reading and math quizzes aligned to Common Core State Standards, as well as a Learning Habits Growth Card to help get a sense of your child’s character strengths, since those matter a lot too.

Our time is scarce, but spending less than 30 minutes giving my son his math educational check up was really worthwhile.  I learned that my son really hadn’t grasped fractions- and then the website gave me free, online resources he could use to help build that skill.

Now we want to share this with other parents, so you can get a Common Core aligned educational check up for your kids too!  This is just a pilot site, so we also want your feedback and ideas on how to improve it.  If you have a child in third, fourth, fifth or sixth grade, will you take 30 minutes tonight to come to www.raisethebarparents.org and give your child an educational check up?  Together we can help our children succeed!

Bethany Little is a Managing Partner with America Achieves, a nonprofit organization focused on preparing all young people for success in a changing world, including through its Raise the Bar parent community.  Prior to joining America Achieves, Bethany was the Chief Education Counsel in the U.S. Senate and has worked in the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Alliance for Excellent Education.  She is also mom to two sons who attend public school in Washington DC.

 

Meet Today’s PTA Advocate: Gabriel Unruh

YS_GabeYoung people today face realities that their parents and grandparents never comprehended. Computers, tablets, and smart phones have made our world a connected place, which has resulted in both positive and negative side effects. As a result, today’s PTA sometimes has to get creative with its advocacy work. Our featured advocate, Gabriel Unruh, did just that. Gabriel is a member of the Platte County High School PTSA in Platte City, MO, and is a graduating senior. After several injuries and deaths in his community and school from texting while driving, last year Gabriel took action to educate his peers on the dangers of distracted driving.

Gabe’s efforts resulted in an “Arrive Alive” event held in April 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri, that brought school, community and law enforcement groups together. The event offered students and community members an opportunity to evaluate personal driving habits, learn preferred safety habits of the road, and provided families free resources and information to improve their driving safety. More than 25 booths and exhibits featured an range of advocacy resources, safe driving interactive activities, and a powerful video message shown by the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Arrive Alive” was attended by over 1,000 high school students and community members, supported by over 25 local businesses and local governments, and was covered by all Kansas City metro news outlets.

To prepare for this event, Gabriel oversaw more than 100 volunteers; published numerous editorials on distracted driving in Kansas City local newspapers; and effectively used social media to promote the campaign. The event was such a success that local non-profit organizations and two neighboring districts approached Gabriel for this year’s efforts. Furthermore, Gabriel is in the process of submitting to the Missouri Department of Transportation an official action plan to create a model “Arrive Alive” program for schools across Missouri.

Gabriel’s work as a youth advocate resulted in him winning the 2014 National PTA Youth Advocacy Ambassador Award. Gabe will work throughout 2014 and early 2015 to promote PTA’s advocacy mission in his local community and beyond. He is speaking at this year’s Youth Summit, part of the 2014 National PTA annual convention, to talk with his peers about the importance of advocacy and its impact. Although Gabriel will be leaving Missouri this fall to attend American University in Washington, D.C., he plans to continue his advocacy work on behalf of PTA, and will incorporate it into his curriculum at American.

This is what Today’s PTA can accomplish!

A Parent’s Praise for Common Core

The following blog post was originally posted on Foxnew.com on May 9, 2014. To view the original article, click here.

Otha_Headshot_SMPicture this: you are a seventh grader whose father is in the military. You and your sister have gotten used to moving every couple of years, based on your father’s assignments. You do your best to fit in at a new school and make friends. But your parents wonder whether the school you left provided you with an education equal to your new one.

As a retired Army officer, I know what it’s like to have to research the quality and competitiveness of a state’s educational offerings. Now I serve as the president of National PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), and I can definitely say that lack of consistent educational standards and accountability are doing a disservice to our children.

I support the Common Core Standards. It has been very disappointing to read criticisms from Erick Erickson and a host of others who are reacting to parts of the program instead of looking at its entirety.

The fact is, experts from 48 states were involved in drafting the standards, which were also shaped by more than 11,000 public comments. The standards address only the core competencies of English and math and are in no way meant to encompass all of the subjects we expect schools to teach.

But I strongly disagree with his assessment of the Common Core based not just on my own research but from the feedback National PTA has gotten from millions of parents and teachers.

In fact, recent efforts by our association that reached 3 million parents electronically and included face-to-face conversations with 60,000 more parents indicate that 87 percent of those we spoke with support the Common Core.

National PTA represents millions of children in the United States and at Department of Defense schools abroad, and we are uniquely positioned to interact daily with hundreds of thousands and parents and educators. What we hear from both groups is overwhelming support for the Common Core because students are gaining a more substantive understanding of what they are studying.

There is consistency not just among school districts but throughout states – and students, parents and educators all have confidence that high academic standards extend beyond state borders. Finally, we can have assurance that a high school senior in North Carolina is receiving the same quality education as a senior in Colorado.

The most commonly repeated myth about Common Core is that the standards were developed in secret and forced onto the states. This is completely false. The federal government had no role in developing the standards. Forty-five states adopted the standards in a manner consistent with state laws, which are generally developed by state Boards of Education.

Last December, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of its 2012 worldwide testing of 15 year-old students in mathematics, science and reading literacy. The United States scored slightly above average in reading, average in science, and below average in math. This is clear proof that whatever “standards” were in place before Common Core were not working.

As a nation, we have very high expectations for our children. We expect that their grade-school and high-school educations will provide them a foundation for success in their lives.

We do our children a disservice not to couple those high expectations with meaningful assessment and accountability measures. The Common Core standards are not a curriculum – they are benchmarks that every state-developed curriculum must meet.

I recently heard from one of our members, a veteran first-grade teacher in Ohio who has taught under both the former method and Common Core.

Her experience with Common Core has been significantly better for her students. As she related, the Common Core standards do not force her to teach in a way that might not be beneficial for young learners. Instead, she has the flexibility to design lesson plans instead of being restricted to pre-planned lessons.

During February, her students wrote about significant African-American historical figures using narrative writing – a high-reaching goal for such young students but one in which their teacher said they excelled. In fact, this teacher said her students are writing better pieces now than they ever have due to the high standards and flexibility of the Common Core.

My children received an excellent education in all of the schools they attended. With Common Core, all parents can be assured that their children will receive similar excellence in their schools. The many critics of Common Core focus on myths that have no basis in reality. To paraphrase what we all learned in kindergarten, if you can’t speak the truth, then at least stop spreading misinformation.

Otha Thornton is president of National PTA and a member of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

 

How the JJDPA Helps to Improve Outcomes for Youth of Color

Youth_Prison

Strengthening the legal protections for children and youth involved in the justice system has been a longtime advocacy priority for National PTA. In 2014, PTA urges the 113th Congress to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to strengthen the law’s four core protections.

Today we hear from Anna Wong, Policy and Research Associate at the W. Haywood Burns Institute, who discusses the importance of the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) core protection and how the reauthorization of the JJDPA presents an opportunity to enact policies that would reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.


States are required to assess and address the disproportionate contact of youth of color at all points in the justice system – from arrest to detention to confinement.”

This is one of four core requirements of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act (JJDPA), the federal law that sets standards for the care and custody of youth involved in the juvenile justice system and provides critical funding for the administration of juvenile justice around the country.

The requirement exists for good reason.  Research has long confirmed that youth of color are disproportionately impacted by the juvenile justice system.  Youth of color are significantly more likely than White youth to be system involved at every decision making point.   For example, according to a 2011 one-day count of all youth in residential placement facilities, youth of color were incarcerated at rates that far exceed White youth:

  • Black youth were almost five times as likely as White youth to be incarcerated;
  • Native American youth were more than three times as likely as White youth to be incarcerated; and
  • Latino youth were almost twice as likely as White youth to be incarcerated.

Worse, the incarceration rates are not justified.  The vast majority of youth of color are locked up for non-violent offenses. Policymakers and those working directly with youth must see the connections between the success of these young people now and our nation’s future.

There are a number of barriers to engaging stakeholders in work to reduce disparities. Agencies often lack accurate data to inform decision-making, or do not engage the right stakeholders at the decision-making table.  Sometimes, those leading and working in justice agencies falsely believe that simply acknowledging the existence of disparities is an admission of racism.

Despite these challenges, we know that reducing disparities is achievable. Several jurisdictions around the country have been able to overcome these common challenges, many with the help of the Burns Institute.  Based on our experience, we have learned a few things about what the work is and is not.

As a starting point, the work is collaborative.  Juvenile Justice stakeholders must agree that reducing disparities means working together to improve outcomes for youth of color navigating a rough patch of life.

It is not finger-pointing or blaming the police, judges, or probation officers for the disparities that we see, or assuming that they can solve the problem alone.

It is system stakeholders meaningfully engaging with families and communities most impacted by the justice system.

It is not placing the blame on parents.

It is relying on research and data to inform decision-making.

It is not relying on anecdote and political rhetoric to create policies that harm young people.

In short, the work to reduce disparities is possible.

But states must have stronger guidance. The core protection to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the JJDPA should be strengthened to provide states with concrete steps to reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

This means having the resources to improve data capacity, support authentic collaboration, and create community-based alternatives to detention.

But states must have stronger guidance. The core protection to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the JJDPA should be strengthened to provide states with concrete steps to reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

This means having the resources to improve data capacity, support authentic collaboration, and create community-based alternatives to detention.

Since 2002—when the JJDPA was last re-authorized—federal investment in programs that prevent and reduce delinquency has decreased by almost 50 percent. When surveyed by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, 89 percent of member states reported that due to federal cuts, fewer youth will have access to services to keep them from offending and penetrating deeper into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Reauthorizing, strengthening, and fully funding the JJDPA should be a priority in light of our nation’s rapidly shifting demographics.


Anna Wong is a Policy and Research Associate at the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI). The mission of the Burns Institute is to protect and improve the lives of youth of color and poor youth by ensuring fairness and equity throughout the juvenile justice system.  The Burns Institute has worked with states and counties to reduce racial and ethnic disparities for over a decade, and has seen how the JJDPA has been critical to further this goal.  To learn more about disparities, visit BI’s interactive state data map: Unbalanced Juvenile Justice.

Note: This piece was reposted with permission from the JJDPA Matters Blog, a project of ACT 4 Juvenile Justice, a campaign of the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC) that advocates for reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. PTA is a proud member of the NJJDPC, a coalition of youth- and family- serving, social justice, law enforcement, corrections, and faith-based organizations working to ensure healthy families, build strong communities and improve public safety by promoting fair and effective policies, practices and programs for youth involved or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile and criminal justice system.

 

 

If You Really Knew Me

Katie BrownKatie Brown is the 2014 Washington State Teacher of the Year. Katie is an ELL Specialist and Instructional Coach. The following content is reposted from Katie’s blog as Teacher of the Year.

My students are such a source of inspiration for me. Each one of them so diverse, with a special story to tell, unique barriers to overcome, and dreams all their own.

Below is a piece I wrote for the OSPI From Seed to Apple publication. Each regional ToY writes a story from the classroom. A story from the heart. These stories are then shared with our state legislators to give them a glimpse into why we do what we do every day.

We teach kids.

If You Really Knew Me
Voices of Those Often Unheard

If you really knew me,  
You would know that I only slept for three hours last night.
I think the party ended at 4:00 AM?
I’m still here.

If you really knew me,
You would know that I was at the top of my class in China.
I was ready for college.
Will I graduate?

If you really knew me,
You would know that I can’t stay after school even though I need help.
My mom has to go to work. I am responsible.
My brother is only two:
Dinner, bath, bedtime.
I’m only eleven.

If you really knew me,
You would know that I am from El Salvador, not Mexico.
But you can keep calling me Mexican.
I won’t say anything.

If you really knew me,
You would know that my earbuds are blasting Marvin Gaye.
I’m a bit of a Romantic.
What do you think I’m listening to?

If you really knew me,  
You would know that I share a room with five other people.
Do I have a quiet space to do homework?
I’m not sure what you mean.

If you really knew me,  
You would know that my dad was deported last night.
I will stay strong for my mom.
I hope I see him again someday.

If you really knew me,
You would know that I want to succeed.
I can’t act like it. I can’t talk about it.
I hope you can see through me.

If you really knew me,  
You would know that I’m writing a novel.
When I seem to be in my own world, I am.
I created it.
You are welcome to visit any time.

If you really knew me,  
You would know that you are the most important adult in my life.
I won’t tell you that,
But I will eat lunch in your room again tomorrow.

If you really knew me,  
You would know that I am the first one in my family to go to college.
You keep telling me I can go if I choose.
You keep telling me I can go if I want.
You keep telling me.
Ok.

If you really knew me,
You would know that
My name is Angelica.
My name is Jin.
My name is Thanh.
My name is David.
My name is Jose.
My name is Eddie.
My name is Antonia.
My name is Mario.
My name is Katrina.
My name is Devin.
My name is Parjinder.

Read more inspirational stories from teachers HERE