Schwan’s Cares Continues Commitment to Help PTAs Raise Funds

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(Sponsored Post)

As a PTA local leader, you volunteer so many hours and do so many great things—because you are committed to helping not just your own kids, but all kids. We at Schwan’s Home Service also support kids in all the communities where we do business across the United States.

We are thrilled that Schwan’s continues to be a National PTA Member Benefits Provider. For three years, Schwan’s has listened to PTA members and learned how the program has increased the ability for PTAs to meet their fundraising needs while reducing the demands placed on members and volunteers.

We are excited to have helped PTAs fund that amazing after-school program or supply that new technology for the classroom or meet some other critical school need. You’ve probably dealt with traditional fundraisers of the past. You know the drill: you handle the cash, push products, corral parents to come get the stuff they ordered—it’s time-consuming, unsustainable and the results are often disappointing. We created the Schwan’s Cares™ program to eliminate all the frustrations of traditional fundraisers, because we believe that great service organizations like the PTA deserve something better.

St. Mary School in Muncie, Ind. adopted the Schwan’s Cares™ program in 2015 and has been able to achieve terrific results, raising over $2,400 in the last year. When asked why the Schwan’s Cares program has worked for them, a parent group representative responded,

“The fundraising program couldn’t have been easier. Parents, teachers and members of the community were eager to help the school, while at the same time, stock their freezers with quick and tasty foods. The program makes sense for all. It was a win-win for the school and for families.”

The program is hands-free. Schwan’s Home Service takes the orders, delivers the food to supporter’s homes and handles all money. There are no order forms and n o need for PTA members or children to knock on doors.

Schwan’s Home Service renewed their commitment as a Member Benefits provider for the third year so PTA groups can continue to use this fantastic fundraising option. The back-to-school season is upon us and PTA planning for the year is in full swing. Hopefully Schwan’s can help support your school’s fundraising needs this year.

To learn more about the Schwan’s Cares™ program, please visit Schwans-Cares.com.


Robb Kaufenberg is a New Business Development Specialist for Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. In this position, he leads the growth and development of the Schwan’s Cares fundraising program in addition to other growth initiatives for Schwan’s Home Service.

Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

National PTA Supports Passage of Bipartisan Juvenile Justice Legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives

As parents, we know sometimes our children may not make the best decisions, which is why second chances are important to give to children as they learn and grow into adulthood. However, for far too many youth, one mistake may drastically change their futures.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that police make over 600,000 juvenile arrests each year and juvenile courts handle roughly 1.2 million cases resulting in 55,000 children placed in secure confinement for non-violent offenses, such as breaking curfew.

In addition, a recent report—2016 Citizen-Readiness Index—further analyzes the state of our nation’s youth. The report finds that a large portion of our youth are unprepared to positively contribute to our nation and that a quarter of young adults in America have an arrest record that impacts their education, postsecondary and career opportunities.

Parents and community leaders have been advocating for improvements to juvenile justice laws nationwide for decades, yet we still need more opportunities for our most vulnerable youth.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives took a step forward to improving our juvenile justice system by passing the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act (H.R. 5963), a bill that would reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

National PTA and 40 state and national organizations signed on to the Act 4 Juvenile Justice Coalition letter in support of H.R. 5963. The bill would improve federal laws to prevent children from entering the juvenile justice system, protect youth currently in the system and provide greater opportunities for at-risk youth leaving the system so that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Specifically, the bill would improve the current law to:

  • Incorporate more family and community-based services and alternatives to incarceration
  • Keep detained youth separate from adults while they are awaiting trial
  • Phase out exemptions that allow youth detainment for minor offenses
  • Ensure the continuity of children’s education while detained and a smooth transition back into the classroom
  • Encourage states to use data and implement strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities among youth in the juvenile justice system

National PTA supported a similar JJDPA reauthorization bill (S. 1169) that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2015. The association is encouraged by the bipartisanship of both chambers to introduce a JJDPA reauthorization bill this Congress. National PTA urges the Senate and House to work together to ensure a JJDPA reauthorization bill is signed into law before the end of the year.

View National PTA’s press release applauding the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act (H.R. 5963) and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for updates and information on the reauthorization of JJDPA.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

The Transformative Power of Math Success: One Family’s Story

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Parents, we know you’ll appreciate a real-life tale of math success—one of the many student victories that happen at Mathnasium every day!

When Iris Kaganovich brought her fourth grade daughter Edden to Mathnasium of El Segundo, Calif. in September 2015, she was in panic mode.

“Edden had never struggled in math before,” Iris recalled when Edden ended up at the lowest level. “Our school district switched to Common Core and it was more difficult than expected. I asked around, and all of the moms referred me to Mathnasium.”

Like all Mathnasium students, Edden sat down for the Mathnasium diagnostic assessment, which pinpointed strengths and weaknesses in her math foundations.

“I had no idea that Edden was struggling with basic multiplication, word problems and other fundamental math concepts,” Iris said.

Edden diligently attended sessions two to three times a week. Both mother and daughter were won over by the friendly and productive learning environment and found the Mathnasium teaching method very efficient.

Instructors spend one-on-one time with students like Edden and teach different approaches to explain challenging topics. As a working mom, Iris definitely appreciated Mathnasium’s flexible scheduling options as well.

After two months, Iris began to see improvement.

“Little by little, Edden was advancing. She became more confident about her skills and less anxious about math.”

Remarkably, Edden’s newfound math success transformed homework time for the entire family!

Now in fifth grade, Edden continues to go to Mathnasium. Gone are the days of floundering in the lowest-level math class—Iris happily reported that Edden almost got accepted into the highest-level class this school year!

Inspired by Edden’s success, Iris decided to send her youngest child, first grader Sky, to Mathnasium, as well.

“I realized the importance of building math skills early,” she said. “There’s no better place to do so than at Mathnasium!”


Damaris Candano-Hodas is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mathnasium Learning Centers.

Mathnasium is a proud sponsor of National PTA and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

 

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Packed Lunch or School Lunch?

It is that time of the year again—back-to-school season. As you prepare your child to head back to school you may be asking yourself “did we purchase everything on the school supply list?” and “will they like their teacher?” or maybe “should we sign them up for football or soccer?” While you ponder those questions, another important one to ask yourself is “will my child be participating in the meal program at school?” The answer to this question could impact their health, your wallet and your time.

Nutrition

In order for a meal to be served at your child’s school, it has to meet strict nutrition standards. This means more fruits and vegetables, less sugar, fat and sodium and plenty of whole grains and lean proteins on your child’s lunch tray. Additionally, studies have shown that lunches from home tend to be higher in calories, saturated fat and sugar while also being lower in protein and fiber.

Cost

Your child may be eligible to receive free or reduced meals if your family meets a certain income eligibility cut-off. Make sure to fill out the income eligibility paperwork for your school to see if your child can receive free or reduced meals.

Also, you may not be saving as much money as you think by packing lunches. Studies have shown that packed lunches ring in at a higher cost than school lunches. A typical, well-balanced packed lunch may consist of a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, a bag of trail mix, a cheese stick, some vegetables and a piece of fruit, which rings at a price around $3.18 per lunch. On the other hand, purchasing school lunch at full price ranges from an average of $2.18 in elementary schools to $2.42 in high schools.

Time

If you prepare your child’s lunch every school day for the year, how many minutes do you think this accumulates to? If you spend 10 minutes preparing lunch for each school day, this accumulates to 30 hours of time spent throughout the 180-day school year.

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School Meals Tips

Here are some tips for encouraging your child to make healthy school breakfast and lunch choices.

  • Discuss the school meal your child will be having that day in a positive way, so they will be more open to trying new meals even if they are unfamiliar.
  • If possible, have lunch at your child’s school to demonstrate positive eating behaviors with your child. Make sure to try the fruits and vegetables and other meal components!
  • Discuss the fruit and vegetable options for the day and ask your child which option they will choose. This will help them feel more confident when entering the lunch line.
  • Pick a daily meal component and discuss the nutritional value of that food. This promotes a positive relationship with food and health. If you are unsure of the nutritional value of a meal component, look it up and learn together!

Packed Lunch tips

Despite the improvements to school meals, you may love preparing lunch for your kid every day and will continue to do so. Here are some tips to ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need in their packed lunch.

  • Try to build a lunch that mirrors USDA’s MyPlate, similar to that of school lunches. This includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy and lean protein.
  • Stay away from prepackaged snacks as these tend to be higher in sodium, saturated fats and sugars. These also tend to be the more expensive items in a packed lunch.
  • Stay away from added-sugar juices and sodas as these pack on the sugar and can cause your child to feel tired later in the school day.
  • Involve your kid in the lunch making process. This will create a sense of responsibility in the food process which has shown to increase consumption of the food prepared, especially fruits and veggies!
  • Check out the Alliance Product Calculator from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. This allows you to see if a possible packed lunch item is a healthy choice for your child.

So what does it come down to?

If you can pack a lunch that is providing your child with the nutrients they need for a budget that fits your family, go for it! But if you are unsure or would like to save yourself some time and money, trust your school meals program to serve a healthy and affordable meal to your child.


 

Alysa Grude, the National PTA School Meals Fellow. Alysa holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Science and Dietetics and is currently pursuing her Master’s of Public Health in Public Nutrition.

Family Engagement is Critical to Education

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This blog post was originally published on Medium.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Polling the Public on Education Shows the Importance of Family Engagement

Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) annual poll on the public’s attitude towards education was recently released. The poll revealed mixed views on education, but showed a strong relationship between school satisfaction and how engaged parents feel about their child’s school.

Less than half of the survey respondents (45%) believe that the role of public education is to prepare students academically, while the remainder of participants believe public education is to prepare students for the workforce (25%) or for citizenship (26%).

While Americans may not agree on the role of public education they do agree that a lack of funding for education is the number one problem that public schools face. Seventy percent of respondents support increased property taxes for school improvements.

The poll also found that:

  • 55% of parents oppose allowing students to opt out of standardized tests.
  • 56% of parents say their child has the right amount of homework.
  • 79% of parents review their child’s grades often.
  • 56% of parents say the new education standards have changed what’s being taught in their child’s classroom and 45% of those parents think it is for the better.

Another important finding from the survey was that a school’s ability to effectively communicate with families and provide frequent opportunities for input greatly influenced the parent’s opinion of the school’s performance.

Sixty percent of parents reported they were satisfied with their child’s school’s ability to keep them informed and involved. The poll shows that two-thirds of public school parents gave their child’s local school an A or B when they felt there was a strong family-school partnership.

The survey findings arrive in the wake of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—the new federal law governing K-12 education—which strengthens family engagement provisions and provides more state and local flexibility over their accountability systems, assessments and standards. Under ESSA, parents and other education stakeholders are required to be meaningfully consulted and engaged in new education plans and implementation of the law.

ESSA also included the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) grant program as a standalone program in the law to strengthen family-school partnerships and parent-teacher relationships. For the 15th consecutive year the PDK poll has found that Americans believe the biggest problem facing schools is the lack of financial support for education. Despite the findings on the importance of family engagement in schools and the need for more education funding, both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees did not invest in SFECs this year.

Funding family engagement programs, such as SFECs, is imperative to school improvement and student success. The PDK poll results send a clear message to Congress that the public desires more investments in education and more family engagement in schools.

National PTA and our members will continue to advocate for SFEC funding in FY 2017 and for family engagement to remain an essential part of the ESSA implementation process. Our association is committed to providing our members resources on the ESSA implementation process and ways to get involved at PTA.org/ESSA.

Sign-up to receive our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for updates and information on other National PTA priorities.


 

Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.