CNN Announces Essay Contest to Meet Malala Yousafzai

Participate for a chance to meet Malala Yousafzai, the young girl shot by the Tablian because she wanted to go to school. Winner will also attend “The Bravest Girl in the World” a sit down interview with Malala Yousafzai and CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour at the 92nd Street Y

CNN announced today the launched of an essay contest inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old girl shot by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school.  The winner will attend a big event:  Christiane Amanpour interviewing Malala Yousafzai before an audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York.  The event will be part of a special broadcast airing Sunday, October 13th on CNN: The Bravest Girl in the World.

The contest geared to teens 13 to 18 years old, asks:  “What specifically has Malala done to inspire you?”

At age 15, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban because she insisted on going to school despite a ban, and encouraged other girls to do the same. Miraculously, the bullets aimed at her head did not penetrate her brain.  Now, after half a dozen surgeries, and despite continued threats from the Taliban, she is once again waging her campaign for girls’ education worldwide. Malala will be accompanied by her father Ziauddin, who has been her chief teacher and fellow activist of girls’ education.

Essay submission judging criteria will include literary merit/readability, persuasiveness of the argument, passion for the subject, and staying within the 300-500 word parameter. The review board will be comprised of editors.  Submissions will be narrowed down to three finalists, from which Malala will choose the the winner.  First prize will include a trip to New York City where the winner and a guardian will attend the 92nd Street Y event on October 10, 2013.  Second and third prize winners will receive signed copies of Malala’s memoir.  The contest is open to legal US residents 13-18 years old living in the 48 contiguous US and DC.

For complete rules please link to:

Reflections: The Art Program That Changes Lives

Sarah Henris is a Mom & PTA Reflections Specialist, NYS PTA

Henris One Voice Blog

I remember one afternoon when my son came home from school in his usual way. I greeted him with a hug and a kiss as he stood in the doorway; he had little to say. “Nothing!” and “Nobody!” were his usual answers. That afternoon was no different.

Picture if you can, nearly five years of afternoons, welcoming home your child from school only to hear that he did “nothing” and played with “nobody” all day long. (Tears at your heartstrings, doesn’t it?)

As usual, we sat on the couch together looking through his backpack for hidden treasures. (You see, playing our treasure game is how I learned a little more about his actual day and friendships.) Low and behold, there it was! That afternoon we discovered treasure. It came in the shape of a flyer announcing the start of an art program, new to our school. It was the REFLECTIONS Program!

Snuggling closer, gazing into his hazel eyes, I began what would become our life-changing conversation with a question. “What kind of person do you picture when I say, A Different Kind of Hero?”

As if performing a monologue, he dramatically portrayed heroes as police officers, firefighters, and soldiers. Then, with a sense of serenity and lovingness, he described his Dad as A Different Kind of Hero. Simply stating, “Before he goes off to work to save people, he helps me with my homework.” That afternoon, we talked and talked and talked. There was no turning back. That Reflections flyer and a question opened the door, setting him free.

More than forty years ago, National PTA began the Reflections program so children and youth could create original works of art, based upon a theme, for fun and recognition. That afternoon, my son definitely had fun being creative when portraying different kinds of heroes. Ultimately, he even earned recognition for his participation and work of art.

As a matter of fact, nine years later, he still considers entering Reflections a major life- changing moment. (I’m guessing you think it’s because he won. Well, how his work of art fared in the program didn’t make a difference to him at all or so he says.) He attributes that moment to learning about his courage, stepping out of his comfort zone and tackling his fears head-on to become the young man he is today. (I am so proud of him.)

As for me, my life changed, too. I attribute that moment to igniting my passion, giving me the motivation to manage our state’s Reflections program, as the New York State PTA Reflections Specialist. Nine years later, I have the privilege of encouraging the families of more than 20,000 children and youth in New York to begin their life-changing conversations.

Picture if you can, sitting with your child holding your PTA’s Reflections flyer and beginning a conversation with this question, “What is the first image that pops into your mind when I say Believe, Dream, Inspire?” (The possibilities tear at your heartstrings, don’t they?) You never know, you just might be looking back on this moment years later, as the moment that Reflections changed your entire life.

Keeping Kids Safe While Playing the Sports They Love

Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth

My kids just headed back to school this week. My third grader and my kindergartener are both looking forward to meeting new friends, getting to know their teachers, and of course, finding time to be active and play. As a neuropsychologist who works with both professional sports teams and young athletes, I meet with concerned families every day. I know that safety is a priority among players, coaches and parents. As a mom, I know that parents want their kids to stay safe while they play the sports they love. Unfortunately, athletes and parents are confused by all of the information available on concussion. From equipment fit to baseline testing, parents are hearing many different messages on concussion assessment and treatment. And they are also concerned about other health issues like dehydration and childhood obesity.

That’s why I’m so glad to be working with the NFL and the PTA on their Back to Sports campaign this fall. This program allows PTAs across the country to bring their communities together to celebrate everything we all love about sports, while also learning ways to help keep our kids safe. Families who attend Back to Sports Nights will learn key health information about concussion signs and symptoms and hydration tips, in an engaging, interactive environment. They’ll also learn about keeping kids active through NFL PLAY 60 activities and, for young football players in the community, about proper tackling through USA Football’s Heads Up Football initiative.

When I joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former NFL player LaVar Arrington to speak at the National PTA Convention this summer, I saw firsthand how passionate PTA leaders are about education, about sports and, of course, about the kids in their communities. Back to Sports nights combine those three elements for events that will engage every member of the family.

As you plan your Back to Sports event, be sure to register your event at where you’ll have the chance to receive some special giveaways from the NFL.

Enjoy the start of the fall sports season!

The National Football League (NFL) has partnered with National PTA for the Back to Sports initiative, which helps PTAs across the country educate their communities on wellness—from concussion education to NFL PLAY 60 tips on nutrition and staying active. Learn more on National PTA’s website or visit

Meet Today’s PTA Advocate: Massachusetts PTA

The first installment of “Meet Today’s PTA Advocate” is proud to highlight the recent efforts of the Massachusetts PTA in getting September declared “Arts in Education Month” by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick!


MA PTA President Eric Champy with Reflections Chair Maryalice Foise and Reflections contest winners.

 The efforts of the Massachusetts PTA are a prime example of patience in advocacy. While many of us would like for change to come overnight, oftentimes it does not. Rather, it takes many weeks, months, and oftentimes years for change to be made. The achievement of Massachusetts PTA was a result of many years of members building a relationship with the governor’s office and their own state representatives.

Beginning in 2006, the Massachusetts PTA began working closely with the state’s Parental Information and Resource Center (PIRC), attending each other’s meetings and collaborating on issues of family engagement and education reform. In 2007, the PTA was invited to take the seat they had been allotted in 2005 by the Massachusetts Legislature on the state’s Board of Education, marking the start of good relations with the state’s PTA and the governor’s office. The PTA was also heavily involved in Governor Patrick’s “Readiness Project,” a statewide initiative to develop a strategic plan for the future of education in the Commonwealth.   Building on these relationships, in 2008 the Massachusetts PTA was given representation on the Parent and Community Engagement & Involvement Advisory Council for the state’s Board of Education, and by 2010, Massachusetts PTA then-President Mary Ann Stewart was elected Vice Chair of MassPartners for Public Schools, a coalition of state education groups that have a powerful voice for children. Stewart was elected to Chair the group for two terms following her run as VC.


Students from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School provide the entertainment for MA PTA’s 2013 Reflections Ceremony

While fostering these general relationships, the Massachusetts PTA also took care to develop its arts in education policies and bolster the visibility and support of the state’s Reflections program. In 2010, Massachusetts PTA celebrated its centennial, and a key feature of the celebration was having their Reflections Ceremony held during the Centennial Conference. The success of that ceremony renewed interest in the PTA, and allowed the affiliate to move forward with strengthening Reflections around the state. In April of 2012, they held their state Reflections ceremony at the Fitchburg Museum of Art in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Reflections submissions were hung between and among the professional works of art in the museum, and families who attended received free passes to the museum. Collaborations such as this are an important part of advocacy; making your PTA’s cause as visible as possible is essential to success.

As a result of these achievements, in November 2012 the Massachusetts PTA Board asked Stewart, now acting as the state’s Federal Legislative Chair, and the state’s Reflections Chair, Maryalice Foise, to petition the governor for a resolution on arts in education month to coincide with September’s “National Arts in Education Week.” Armed with language from other resolutions as an example, and supported by Massachusetts PTA President Erik J. Champy, who began his term with a goal of boosting arts education, Stewart and Foise submitted their application to the governor’s office in April of this year, and were told in August of their success.

In addition to the importance of relationships, the Massachusetts PTA also reminds us that advocacy does not have to come in the form of overwhelming numbers, but can be a result of a small number of dedicated individuals taking the time to make the necessary connections. Stewart explains it as such: “The key to our advocacy success has been in the relationships we have fostered over the years. Because we are small here…we frequently manage advocacy through strategic partnerships and coalitions focused on child and youth education, health & safety, and well-being.”

The Reflections Gallery

The Reflections Gallery

National PTA firmly supports arts in education. PTA’s Reflections program is an excellent resource for PTA leaders to partner with schools in improving opportunities for all students to be involved in the arts. Arts education engages students in many different mediums- including music, visual arts, industrial arts, and dance-which helps students develop critical thinking skills, express their personality, and support their fellow students in a positive and respectful manner. The arts also engage families and communities, increase student interest and teacher effectiveness, and bolster social connectedness among students, families, and communities. Schools and PTAs committed to supporting arts education can work together to find opportunities for families to take an active role in supporting the arts at their schools.

For more information on learning in the arts in general, visit the following pages:

American for the Arts
The National Art Education Association
National Endowment for the Arts

Meet Today’s PTA Advocate is a new and recurring series from the National PTA’s Government Affairs department that seeks to highlight outstanding advocacy efforts for PTA by individual members, local units, and state affiliates.


¡La PTA celebra la Herencia Hispana!

Hispanic Heritage Awards photo (2)

¡No hay nada mejor como disfrutar de la camarería de amigos, y conocidos! Pero cuando ves un salón lleno de alegría, y del orgullo que todos compartimos de tener el mismo trasfondo histórico, es cuando te das cuenta de que tu familia ha crecido más allá de los límites territoriales de nuestra tierra de origen. ¿Cuál es el punto en común? La respuesta es que todos somos hijos de la Herencia Hispana. He aquí, es en este país de las oportunidades y la libertad donde más saboreas tus raíces y los logros de tus países compañeros como los tuyos. Durante la celebración del 26º Aniversario de los Premios a la Excelencia de la Herencia Hispana (Hispanic Heritage Awards), se palpaba la alegría de una gran familia, que el denominador común es el trabajo duro, la pasión por nuestra tierra y sobre todo la humildad perfeccionista de que todavía queda trabajo por hacer.

La actividad estuvo muy amena, José Antonio Tijerino Presidente-CEO y Miembro de la Junta Directiva de la PTA Nacional, abrió el acto con gran pasión y energía. Tijerino enfatizó que “el trabajo no es en vano, sin embargo nos caracteriza como un pueblo trabajador”, mensaje que se repitió de múltiples formas durante toda la noche. La actividad permitió darle el merecido tributo a la destacada labor de personalidades como Lucero, Eva Longoria, Diego Luna, entre otros. Tanto los galardonados como moderadores de la actividad hicieron hincapié a que la educación es la médula del progreso de nuestras futuras generaciones.

Es por ello, que uno de los premios de mayor impacto fue el Premio a la Educación (Education Award) auspiciado por Target. El cual fue otorgado a Alberto Carvalho, Superintendente de las Escuelas Públicas del Condado de Miami-Dade, también pasado miembro de la Junta Directiva de la PTA Nacional 2007-2009. En otras de sus funciones, es Carvalho el presidente fundador de la Asociación de Administradores y Superintendentes Latinos (ALAS, siglas en inglés).  Las palabras de Carvalho fueron de gran motivación, ya que reseñó su humilde procedencia trabajando en un restaurant en NY, pero su gran deseo de superación y lucha le guiaron a la posición que hoy sustenta trabajando por el avance académico de todos los estudiantes en el sur de la Florida.

Otro gran orgullo a celebrar que no puede pasar desapercibido, lo fue el Premio a las Ciencias, Tecnología, Ingeniería y Matemáticas (STEM Award) otorgado a la Organización sin fines de lucro de la Iniciativa Nacional de Matemáticas y Ciencia (NMSI, siglas en inglés).  Este galardón representa que nuestros estudiantes hispanos estarán preparándose para más del 50 por ciento de los empleos en los próximos años. Este programa también ha alcanzado sobre 60,000 maestros que utilizarán sus conocimientos para preparar a los estudiantes en los Estándares Académicos Fundamentales de los Estados (Common Core State Standards, siglas en inglés).

Es de real motivación saber que los esfuerzos para la educación de nuestras generaciones es un trabajo que parece lento pero está dando sus frutos. Como hispana me siento muy orgullosa de celebrar nuestra Herencia Hispana. ¡Que viva la Herencia Hispana!


National Arts in Education Week Kicks Off September 8

“The creative arts are the measure and reflection of our civilization. They offer many children an opportunity to see life with a larger perspective…The moral values we treasure are reflected in the beauty and truth that is emotionally transmitted through the arts.The arts say something about us to future generations.” –Ann P. Kahn, Former President of National PTA

Celebrate National Arts in Education Week (September 8-14, 2013) with thousands of PTA leaders across America and in military schools overseas who believe all students deserve access to a quality arts education!  Visit National PTA’s new arts in education resources page to find out how you can  provide opportunities for students to explore and be involved in the arts with PTA Reflections.


Reflections Art by Chenchen Li “In Focus”

The National PTA Reflections program is the nation’s oldest and largest student recognition program of its kind. Since 1969, the Reflections program has inspired millions of students in Grades Pre-K through 12 to reflect on a specific theme and create original artwork. Students are encouraged to reflect on this year’s theme, “Believe, Dream, Inspire.”  in one or all of the following arts categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts.

This past year, PTA Reflections leaders inspired nearly five hundred thousand students to reflect on a common theme, create original artwork and be recognized for their participation and achievement in the arts. Visit the National PTA Reflections gallery of award winning artwork.


Reflections Art by Samrath Kaur “Frozen In Time”

Become your school’s leader in the arts. As a Reflections leader, you will play a critical role in helping students explore the arts all while bringing families and schools together in a meaningful way. Reflections also connects your school with community arts organizations that are necessary for adding value and strength to your role as an advocate for arts learning in your school.

All students benefit from participating in Reflections. The arts welcome all students – despite their individual challenges — to explore ideas, express their individuality and support their peers in a positive way. Studies also find that students who participate in the arts are more engaged in their own learning, which leads to increased school attendance rates and social connectedness.

Learn more about supporting student success and the arts by downloading a unified statement recently signed by National PTA and 49 other well-known organizations called, Arts Education; Creating Student Success In School, Work, and Life.


Reflections Art by Johanna Cord-Cruz “The Moment of an Artist”

Let’s get started! Whether there is no parent group at your school now, or your existing parent group wants to realize all the benefits of PTA membership, we encourage you to contact National PTA at or (800) 307-4PTA (4782) to help  get your school’s program underway.

National PTA offers a free Reflections Leader Toolkit including leader training videos, promotional tools, and template resources to help you get started.  Contact your state PTA for program forms, guidelines, and information about regional and state level programs.

Visit to learn more.

Ethan Clark is the Manager, Arts in Education at National PTA. Contact Ethan at

Ready, Set, Go! Creating Your Back to School Routines

Routine_BlogSummer has come and gone—and for families across the nation—back-to-school season has officially begun. The end of summer indicates the end of vacations and flexible schedules and the beginning of school bells and bus schedules. Families today are involved in many activities and many strive to set consistent routines for their children. Every family has a routine, whether or not they fully realize it.  Believe it or not, it’s the simple things—from the time we wake up our children in the morning, to the time we set for bed, to the location we select to review homework – that make up family routines.

Children watch and learn habits from their parents. For that reason, setting or helping our children develop routines during this time of the year is especially important.  Routines help children learn a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline. Developing routines provide opportunities for children to experience success in what they are doing. Routines also allow for more flexibility in a day. As parents, a desire for independence is something that we want for our children as they develop through each stage of their childhood and beyond.

As you begin this school year, take 10 minutes to reflect and examine the routines you have established for your family by participating in the Learning Habit Study. This study, conducted by researchers from Brown University School of Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, and New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, examines how media use, family routines, and parenting style impact a child’s ability to learn. It will heighten your awareness about specific family routines that impact learning.

Learn more about the Learning Habit Study.

Renee Jackson, Ed.D, Manager of School Relations & Diversity. Contact Renee at

The Dish on School Lunch


Recently, we wrote an article discussing the troubling trend of cutting recess and other physical activities from school days. This week, we will discuss school nutrition. Both of these items go hand in hand towards fighting childhood obesity, improving student focus and behavior, and boosting academic achievement.

Between the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act passage in 2010 and the many media stories in between, there’s been a lot of coverage about school nutrition, but just how does all of it work?

First, let’s take a look at the history

Despite the many changes you may have heard about over the last year – the federal school meal program is nothing new. In 1946 Congress passed the School Nutrition Act to establish the beginnings of the National School Lunch Program we know today. Ever since then , Congress has reauthorized the program every 5-10 years, making improvements like the addition of breakfast, afterschool feeding programs, and nutrition standards for all foods kids can purchase at school. And while the latest nutrition updates have gained considerable media attention, Congress has been updating nutrition guidelines for school lunches for decades, following the latest nutrition science (known as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans).

Who runs the program?

For the purpose of today’s post, we’ll just focus on the National School Lunch Program.  Most public schools participate in the program, providing meals to over 29 million children each school day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the program at the federal level. In your state, the program is most likely administered by the state education agency, working directly with the school food personnel in your school district.

How does it work?

In exchange for serving meals that meet nutrition guidelines, schools receive reimbursement through cash subsidies and USDA food subsidies. Many of us are aware that schools are subsidized for meals served to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, but did you realize schools receive a reimbursement for every meal served to students – regardless if they qualify for free or reduced lunch? Here’s the rate for the 2013-2014 School Year:

Family income level: Student eligible for: USDA pays school:
At or below 130 percent of the poverty   level Free Lunch $2.93
Between 130 percent and 185 percent of   the poverty level Reduced-Price $2.53
Above 185 percent the poverty level Full-Price Lunch $ .28

*AK and HI receive higher rates; Schools with 60% or more students qualifying for free/reduced lunch receive additional $ .02 for each meal served. Source: Food Research and Action Center

What are the nutrition guidelines?

Beginning last school year, schools began implementing updated nutrition guidelines in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In general, this means that school meals now include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less unhealthy fats; the amount of sodium in meals is capped; and the maximum calorie amount is based on grade levels.  The National PTA Parents’ Guide to the National School Lunch Program provides specific details on the nutrition updates.

Why updated nutrition guidelines?

Nutrition guidelines for school meals have been in place for decades. In 2010, child advocates – including PTA members across the country – recognized the grave need to align nutrition guidelines with the most updated nutrition science and pressured Congress to pass the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.

The facts on childhood obesity are alarmingly clear. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in the United States have tripled. Today, more than 23 million children and teens are overweight or obese. The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published research last year showing that, unless Americans change their ways, more than 44 percent of adults will be obese by 2030. Not just overweight, but obese.

So why schools? Not only is nutrition critical to students’ academic success and health, schools are also a place of habit-building whether in the classroom or in the lunchroom. Just as students develop lifelong skills at schools like teamwork, persistence, and critical thinking that transcend into adulthood, habits in the breakfast and lunchroom can carry over far past graduation.

But can schools do this?

Yes! At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, 79% of participating schools across the country reported being in compliance, and in six states there was nearly 100% compliance.  It’s important to keep in mind that the school meals program serves over 29 million students a day.  Accordingly, change isn’t always going to be easy or quick.

What’s the role for parents?

Engage with your kids and your school – just as you would around any other issue in the school. Here are some tips:

Supporting your kids:

  • Review the school menu and ask your child what he or she ate at school.
  • Talk with your child about how the school lunch will make them healthier, stronger and happier. (Elementary/Middle School students)
  • Feed your child more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at home so they are familiar with them  at school.
  • Volunteer, if possible, at the school during breakfast or lunch times to observe the changes for yourself.
  • Bring the healthy improvements in the cafeteria home with you – ask your kids to point out foods at the grocery store that are served at school.
  • Enjoy as many family meals as possible together – it’s one of the best opportunities to support your child’s health, learning, and social and emotional development.

Supporting your school and other students:

  • Contact your school district or principal and ask how you can support them.
  • Engage other parents to support the school nutrition program by discussing the changes at PTA meetings .
  • Offer to organize a “taste test” of new recipes and foods.
  • Join your school’s wellness committee.
  • If you see something that doesn’t fit with these new guidelines, share the USDA’s information about the new school lunch guidelines with school leaders and thank them for helping your child and every child to be healthier and stronger.
  • And even if you pack your child’s lunch and will continue to do so, bear in mind Standard 4 of the National Family School Partnerships: Speaking up for Every Child. This means that PTA members consider what’s in the best interest for all children. Nearly 20 million students each day depend on the National School Lunch Program for a healthy, nutritious meal.

What’s Next:  

Schools will continue to update and improve the school lunch and breakfast offerings over the school year.  Next school year, nutrition guidelines for school snacks and meal options, including those sold in a la carte lines, vending machines and school stores will also be healthier! Stay tuned to the blog for specific updates related to smarter snacks in school.

Additional Resources:


Mollie Van Lieu a Senior Education Policy Strategist at National PTA. Contact Mollie at

Cooking with Kids Inspires Them to Eat Healthier

Uncle_bens2As the father of two middle-school students, I share the concern of many parents about the quality of their kids’ diets. Many parents these days are searching for a way to help ensure that their kids eat better, not just at the dinner table at home with their families, but as they go out in the world beyond the immediate reach of their parents.

Make the kitchen the heart of your home

Fortunately, there is something you can do to help get your kids on the path to better eating. And it’s not just easy, it’s fun, too! Fact is, one of the best ways to teach your kids about healthy eating is to step into the kitchen with them and cook together.

Teaching by example

When you cook with your kids, they discover a whole new world—a world filled with creativity and delicious flavors. Your kids will learn more than the steps involved in preparing a recipe, they’ll by inspired to make healthier decisions about eating that can last a lifetime.

Let’s get kids cooking!

I’m proud that the UNCLE BEN’S® Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Program is helping parents connect with their kids in the kitchen. For the second year in a row, this program is awarding great prizes to families that cook a rice dish together and make a short video.

A great opportunity for your school to win a cafeteria makeover

Uncle_Bens_Beginners_Revised (3)This year, UNCLE BEN’S® will be awarding $165,000 in total prizes—and there are TWO ways your school could be a winner, too!

  1. Family prize: Winning families receive a valuable prize package, including a cafeteria makeover for their school. Entry information is at
  2. School participation prize: Schools will be awarded a $30,000 cafeteria makeover if they have the highest number of entries in their size category (1-250 students; 251-500; 501+). The more families from your school that enter, the better chance your school has to win! So be sure to encourage your students and their parents to enter!

Entry deadline is October 6—so get the word out now!
The deadline is approaching so start spreading the word using the flyers, press releases, and other materials in our “Create Buzz Toolkit.” Download the kit now at

Tim Snyder is the Vice President of Marketing for UNCLE BEN’S®


Great Education Needs Great Standards…and Data

Otha Thornton
National PTA President

As the nation’s largest volunteer child advocacy association with more than four million members who are parents, students, and teachers, National PTA is uniquely positioned to be an influential and credible voice in advancing the Common Core State Standards. We have held discussions across the country, and have even developed an online toolkit to provide information to those who wish to advocate for Common Core.

But even as a staunch supporter of Common Core, we understand that there are still questions surrounding the standards, including a great deal of misinformation. Some of that misinformation is focused on the data collection aspects of Common Core.

I think that it is important to make it clear that the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, No Child Left Behind legislation, amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Education Reform Sciences Act of 2002, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act all prohibit the creation of a federal database with a student’s personally identifiable information (i.e., name, place and date of birth, SSN, or any other information that could be used to distinguish an individual’s identity). Federal law prohibits the reporting of aggregate data that could allow individuals to be identified. Common Core doesn’t change that. It doesn’t require any data collection beyond what is already being collected in No Child Left Behind.

The standards are a set of grade-level expectations for what students should know and be able to do. Data plays no part in Common Core. However, National PTA does recognize the benefits of data use, which is why we are working with the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) to produce a “What Every Parent Should Be Asking about Education Data and Privacy.” The goal of this parent’s guide is to empower mothers, fathers and caregivers with questions that they can ask about education data and student privacy. The front side of the guide provides questions, examples, and tips to help parents demand value from the data their state and district collect. The back side of the resource has questions parents can ask to be confident that their child’s data are being protected.

As a parent, I understand the desire to have the best education for our children. An important part of building a great education system is using data to help form best practices that are effective and results driven. Data-driven decision making for teachers is the practice of using information—including test scores, behavior, attendance, past performance, and multiple other student-level indicators—to inform professional judgment to tailor instruction and improve student learning. States have always collected data, and will continue collect data, and independently decide where that data goes and how it will be protected. The fact is that, without good data, our educators are operating in the dark. Accurate data makes intensive improvements and turnaround strategies in schools possible.

So as you advocate for Common Core, also become an advocate for data. We are all education stakeholders. Becoming literate on the positive uses of data collection will ensure that we all understand how valuable it can be in improving outcomes for students. And in the end, isn’t that what we all are looking to achieve?