New Civil Rights Data Collection Survey Highlights Need for Improvement

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

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

Chronic Absenteeism Plagues Our Children’s Academic Participation

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

Disproportional Instances of Restraint and Seclusion 

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

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

Minority Groups Are Offered Fewer College Preparation Programs

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

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

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

You can also make a difference if you:

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

Blake Altman is the government affairs intern at National PTA.

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Summer Tips for Incoming PTA Leaders

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Summer vacation is here! While these months can be filled with road trips to the beach, summer camps, long nights and lots of “R&R” time—summer is also an opportunity to plan a smooth transition into the upcoming school year. Just as teachers must plan the next school year’s curriculum, PTA leaders have an assignment of their own, too.

At the end of their term, outgoing leaders transfer their procedures books to the incoming leaders. Even if an outgoing leader thinks the information is of no value, with these books you will have a better idea of what was done in the past and how the PTA went about doing it. Outgoing leaders can also offer valuable insight on things yet to be done, what they would do better and suggestions on how to be more effective and efficient in the performance of your new duties. Take notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Start planning now for your own smooth transition into office. Here are a few tips for incoming local leaders to consider:

Share contact information with outgoing leaders and set up a directory to be and remain connected. With previous leaders’ contact information, you’ll be able to reach out for additional support throughout the year or to ask for insight as problems arise.

Review procedures books given to you from outgoing leaders. If there are none, do not worry; start one by getting and reading your local unit bylaws. The PTA unit’s secretary should have a copy. If you can’t find it, call your state/congress office; they’ll be happy to mail or email you one.

Visit PTAKit.org and review the sections that may apply to your new position.  If you don’t see your position listed, the information this website contains is of value to the entire PTA board.  Even if you’re an experienced PTA leader, it is worth reviewing every year as it is updated with the most current information and trends to help you and your unit to be successful.

Check out your state PTA’s website.  They may have information that can start you off on the right foot for the year. For example, templates, training opportunities, resources, program materials, newsletters, etc. You might find ways to connect with your state through Facebook, Instagram, Legislative Alerts, Twitter, etc.

Take advantage of the e-learning courses. National PTA offers online training courses to help you grow as a leader at PTA.org/eLearning. Although you may want to start with what you’ll need for your own PTA position, please take all courses. As a board member, it’s important to know the role of each position and what to expect.

Meet with your school principal to learn about school goals and objectives for the incoming year. Share with the principal the programs the PTA would like to hold (Reflections, Family Reading Experience Powered by Kindle, Healthy Lifestyles, Fire Up Your Feet, Take Your Family to School Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, Connect for Respect, etc.) and how these programs will support the goals and objectives of the school. Think about becoming a School of Excellence in the process!

Set up a communications plan. Newsletters and social media keep everyone informed, engaged and proud of what the PTA is doing. Go through your PTA’s goals, identify specific strategies your PTA or committee will use to achieve each goal and then create a step-by-step plan for each strategy. This is key to growing membership and gaining members and community support.

Have a successful PTA year and thank you so much for your dedication and commitment to the mission of PTA!


Ivelisse Castro is a national service representative at National PTA.

 

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Be a Summer Meals Champion!

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It’s that time of year: Teachers have wrapped up their lesson plans, students have all handed in their finals, the physical education department has packed away the sports equipment and the school nutrition staff have hung up their aprons. Summer is here!

For many, the final toll of the school bell is full of promise. Days spent splashing around the pool, riding bikes with friends and competing in watermelon seed-spitting contests lie ahead! But for some, summer takes on a different meaning. For the child who remembers the times he had to go without lunch last summer while his mom was working two jobs, summer can mean being hungry. For the single dad who is struggling to figure out how to cover the extra costs of feeding his kids now that they aren’t receiving breakfast and lunch at school, summer can mean feeling stressed.

But it doesn’t have to be that way… USDA’s summer meals programs make it easy for children to continue receiving the daily meals they need when school is out for the summer. At tens of thousands of sites across the country, kids and teens 18-years-old or younger can come together in a safe environment to eat healthy meals at no cost. Often, the sites offer opportunities to engage in educational and physical activities as well. These sites are strategically located in areas where many children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year, to ensure access for those who need it most.

Last year, USDA served about 3.8 million children more than 190 million meals through the summer meals programs! But this still only represents about one in six of the children who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year. That is the critical summer meals gap we’re working tirelessly to fill. The goal of the summer meals programs is to fuel children and teens to reach their highest potential, but that can only be done if families know about the programs and how to find a site near them. That’s where you come in!

As parents, teachers and/or community leaders, you can be a summer meals champion by helping to spread the word in your communities. Pass out information at school, tell your neighbors, announce it at sports practices, send an email blast through your community listserv, post it on Facebook or ask to post a flier at your local grocery store—it doesn’t matter how we get the word out about the summer meals programs, just that we do. Together, we can give kids and teens the summer they deserve and ensure they return to school in the fall fueled up and ready to learn!

Find a Site Near You:

  • Visit the Summer Meals site finder (in English and Spanish; mobile version available)
  • Call (866) 348-6479 (English) or (877) 842-6273 (Spanish)

Text FOOD (English) or COMIDA (Spanish) to 877-877, operated by a USDA partner

You can also find Summer Meals promotional materials and resources, and learn how to participate in the program.


Dr. Katie Wilson is the Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Engaged This Summer

Summer break is an important time for children to bond with family and friends, participate in enriching outdoor activities and enjoy a break from school. But while enjoying the free time and taking advantage of all the season has to offer, it is essential that children do not take a break from learning.

Research shows that children experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer months. Keeping children engaged in learning during summer break will help ease the back-to-school transition when the time comes and help them start the new school year on the right foot.

Summer activities provide fun, teachable moments—connecting real-life activities to what children have been learning in school reinforces those skills. These moments also provide great opportunities to expose children to new ideas and information and allow parents to encourage creativity.

Here are four ways to optimize learning during summer break:

Explore a National Park, Museum or Historic Site—Parks, museums and historic sites provide opportunities to bring learning to life for children. Many historic sites stage reenactments of battles or demonstrations of life during that time period. Almost all of the parks have activities for children. Ask your children to identify things they learned in school and nurture their navigation skills by making a scavenger hunt for your outing. You can also put your kids’ math skills to the test by giving them a set amount of money and having them manage their spending throughout the day.

Read Every Day—Studies show that reading daily during summer break is the most important activity families can do to prevent learning loss. Take your kids to the local library and borrow books to read over the break. And spend time reading together as a family—it helps children develop their literacy skills and excel academically.

Go to a Cultural Festival—Many communities host cultural festivals during the summer months, which are great occasions for children to learn about different cultures. Sample authentic food and drink, listen to storytellers, watch traditional dances and enjoy the artwork created by local artists from that culture. After attending a festival, discuss the experience as a family and encourage your kids to Google answers to any questions.

Keep a Journal—Summer activities abound, and recording them in a journal is a great way to capture those memories. As an added bonus, encouraging your kids to write about daily events helps boost their vocabulary and practice their handwriting as well as their grammar, spelling and creative writing skills.

Family schedules can be grueling during the summer—running from camps to swim meets to baseball and softball games—but it is important to keep learning a priority. Engaging in educational activities for an hour or even 30 minutes each day will support children’s success and ensure they start the new school year on track.


 

Laura Bay is president of National PTA, a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement. In addition to leading National PTA, Bay is a coordinator for assessment and instruction for the Bremerton School District in Bremerton, Wash.

 

 

 

 

Summer Trends: What to Wear at the Reflections Celebration

What-to-Wear5Have you ever dreamed of living the life of a red carpet celebrity? Or are you just in need of a nice night out on the town? If so, and you’re a passionate PTA member or honored student, you are welcome to attend the National PTA Awards & Reflections Celebration.

At this year’s award’s celebration, all guests will be greeted by taking a walk on our red carpet, followed by a plated dinner and desert, as well as student performances and tributes to the winners of our Reflection Awards.

Held during the Think BIG! Think PTA… 2016 National Convention & Expo, there will be many opportunities for wining, dining and of course lots of selfies! To make sure you’re ready for an elegant night-out in Orlando, here are some trendy-yet-classic style tips for the summer of 2016.

Bold Prints

A major trend fashion followers are seeing this summer is big and bold prints. Bold prints make an exciting statement and nothing else says “I’m confident” quite like a lively floral print or a geometric pattern. Small floral prints are for the spring, so why not make a statement this summer with a bold print instead? Orlando’s night life and tropical climate will definitely welcome your beautifully bold fashion statement.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Slip Dresses

Fashion statements are great, but comfort is also a necessity for successful night out. Free-flowing fabrics and light textures are ideal for the Florida heat, so thankfully a trend this summer is the slip dress. Play it up with eye-catching accessories, like a strappy shoe or a statement necklace.

Photo Credit: The Trend Spotter

Photo Credit: The Trend Spotter

White Trousers

To change up the routine of a dark or neutral suit, brighten up your choice of outfit with a white trouser. They can be dressed down for casual occasions or dressed up for occasions like our gala; overall a smart choice. Tommy Hilfiger, Dior Homme, Polo Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein’s 2016 summer collections are all displayed here, sporting the white trouser.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest and Shutterstock

Fun Trends for Kids

A great way for kids to express their personality is through their style!  Allowing children to help pick out their outfit can let them express their creativity and have fun! Consider pairing formal and casual elements together, as well as colors, patterns and textures. This will be a highly photographed event, with some famous Disney stars attending, so make sure your kids are cool and confident.

Whatever you wear, let it express your personality and your flawless sense of style!  Don’t be afraid to try this summer’s formal trends and to reflect the beachy culture of Orlando. Everyone at National PTA hopes you are looking forward to this highly-anticipated event, and now you and your families’ outfits are sure to impress!

For more info about this year’s awards, visit PTA.org/Convention. Don’t forget to follow us on social media at #PTAcon16 to see behind-the-scenes pics and more!


Olivia Kimmel is the PR & Social Media Intern at National PTA.