Membership Matters: Focus on the Mission

FastCompany recently published an article asking, “Which brands inspire consumers the most with their missions?” The article, written by Adele Peters, reports on an annual survey called the World Value Index. The World Value Index evaluates companies, nonprofits and some social movements that have come to be identified as brands–and studies how well their purpose or mission succeeds in inspiring consumers. Do you think your community knows the PTA mission by your activities and actions?

“To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.”

Enso, which published a list of the top 10 brands on the World Value Index, identified two questions that you can ask yourselves and your board to improve your community’s awareness of the PTA mission:

  1. Are we inspiring our parents to use their power to support the mission?
  2. What could we be doing more of to inspire and engage people in our purpose and create more value?

Take some time this summer to answer these questions with your board.

This past year, National PTA served 16.5 million children out of the 50 plus million children in the USA. Out of all PTAs, more than half—55%—are in Title 1 schools. A recent PTA study asked parents if they believed that their local PTA lived up to the mission. The response was eye-opening as many participants were unaware of the mission.

Once they heard the mission, they felt that ours is a cause that they could support.

We have a great deal more work to do to secure our children’s future. You are our grassroots ambassadors and we need you to live the mission. PTA is about advocacy, family engagement and student success.

As PTA, we believe in speaking up for all children and our members lend their support on all advocacy efforts both federally and statewide. PTA is the oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association and has been for the past 120 years. And we’re not slowing down. Over the last year, National PTA endorsed 17 bills and sent over 70 letters to Congress to advocate on behalf of children and families.

We know that parents first want information to help them raise their children. Please take a few minutes to check out the PTA website, where you can find a wide variety of information under the Family Resources tab, such as our parent guides, health, safety and special education information. Or, feel free to share the Our Children Online Magazine, which offers more general parenting advice. As PTA members, you can take those resources and deliver them to your community.

Family engagement resources and activities can be found on our website as well.  The School of Excellence program embodies the values of PTA—school and community improvement through effective family engagement—and can bring the home and school closer together.  The program provides a roadmap on how to implement change in your school. Enrollment starts now and ends Oct. 1, 2018.

National PTA also offers grants for other activities, including arts education and STEM programs. It is important to check the PTA website often.

As you plan for your year ahead, take a hard look at our PTA mission and plan activities that promote student success and family engagement. Our education systems and schools are facing difficult issues such as school safety and budget cuts—so get involved. We need YOU.

Thank you for all that do in the name of PTA for families, children and educators each and every day.


Mary Jo Neil is a national service representative for National PTA.

Becoming a School of Excellence: Pearson’s Corner Elementary School PTA

Do you want to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvements or do you want to see the meaningful work your PTA and school is already doing recognized nationally? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to become a nationally-recognized PTA School of Excellence? Here’s how one PTA took part in the program and celebrated their designation as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Pearson’s Corner Elementary School (PCES) PTA in Virginia committed themselves to improving family, school and community partnerships by enrolling in the School of Excellence program. After taking a Baseline Survey of their school community, PCES PTA created a plan to improve and implement effective engagement practices at their school—building off the Roadmap to Excellence they received from National PTA with recommendations customized to their survey responses and focus areas.

Ashley Owen, PCES PTA President and School of Excellence Program Leader said, “the Roadmap to Excellence tool was an invaluable resource that our board was eager to reference to help shape our efforts.” Towards the end of the school year, PCES PTA administered a Final Survey to their school community to see if their hard work had made a difference. Upon submission and review of a Final Application, in August 2017, PCES PTA was designated as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence.

This amazing PTA worked hard throughout the school year to improve their communication efforts. The PCES PTA disseminated information in a variety of ways, including a monthly newsletter, a trusted website and a popular Facebook page that was updated several times each day with friendly greetings. They also had a PTA bulletin board, posted information on the school marquee, sent information using the school’s email blast system, sent PTA information in student folders and sent information in the mail. Their easy-to-navigate PTA website looked professional and acted as a clearinghouse of information seen as a reliable and trusted a source of information.  Furthermore, a PTA newsletter was used to communicate upcoming events and news. It was distributed through email, posted on the website and publicized on Facebook.

To honor their School of Excellence designation, PCES PTA worked with the school principal to hold a celebration ceremony during the school’s Fall Festival. Their excitement for this event and honor can be felt through Owen’s remarks; “We are so excited to be recognized for the significant progress we made over the past school year with welcoming and empowering our families to support student success and school improvements. We focused our commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming school-community and were excited about our results. We worked with determination toward this honor and are proud to share with everyone this accomplishment. This honor is so exciting for us, for Hanover County and our local and state PTA! We are shouting it from the rooftops and wanted to let you know!”

Congratulations, Pearson’s Corner Elementary School PTA and thank you for sharing your story with us!

You too can join the ranks of over 600 PTAs across the nation in becoming a designated National PTA School of Excellence. By enrolling, your PTA will identify and implement an action plan toward school improvement while attracting new, action-oriented members who want to focus on issues that affect our children the most. And being a National PTA School of Excellence will open the door to other opportunities and honors for your school. To enroll in the School of Excellence program, visit PTA.org/Excellence or email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions.


Amy Weinberg, MA is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2018-2019 School of Excellence program.

Join the First-Timers Experience at National PTA Convention!

Are you a PTA mission believer and achiever? A PTA leader of leaders? An advocate who wants better for our students and schools nationwide? Then we’ll see you at 2018 National PTA Convention & Expo June 21-24 in beautiful and historic New Orleans, La.

In true New Orleans hospitality, we will welcome our first-time attendees with extra kindness. We will show you how to navigate National PTA’s largest and most comprehensive leadership development experience while making the networking easy for you!

Here are your three FIRST steps to making sure this is your best PTA decision ever:

  1. Come to the First-Timers’ Boot Camp. Join the Convention General Arrangements Committee and other first-time attendees at this must-attend event designed just for you on Thursday, June 22 at 1:15 p.m. in Room 235/236. Walk in knowing who you came with and walk out knowing at least five new friends. You’ll hear about the business, special events and learning experiences at Convention, and then your National PTA First-Timer Friend will help you design a plan for workshops and networking experiences that will match your goals for the weekend. Finally, you will take a tour of important locations like the workshop rooms and General Meetings. Leave this workshop feeling oriented, confident and connected.

 

  1. Meet back up with your First-Timer Friends for an Expo Hall tour and #PTAProud team-building experience. Your National PTA First-Timer Friend will give you a special invitation to explore an Expo Hall tour designed just for you. Meet National PTA’s sponsors, connect with National PTA Board Members in the PTA Booth, and then head over for a fun #PTAProud Team-Building Experience. Enjoy a fast-paced icebreaker with your new friends and then take a group selfie at our #PTAProud Wall. Leave this experience with a #PTAProud Recipe for Teamwork that you can take home and facilitate your own PTA team-building experiences!

 

  1. Pack a sweater—even though the average temperature in New Orleans is 90. Trust us. Every Convention Center looks a little different but offers the same chilly relief from blazing summer heat. So, bring a sweater or jacket that will help your mind to stay focused on all the possibilities National PTA’s Convention has to offer!

If this is your first time at National PTA’s Convention & Expo, get the VIP treatment—join the First-Timers Experience!

Didn’t register yet? There’s still time. Visit PTA.org/Convention to register today.


Mary Pat King is the director of education and leadership development at National PTA.

Help Your Child Feel Confident and Ready for the State Test

Spring is here—with longer, warmer days and the promise of the end of the school year. As the school year winds down, it means it’s that time of year when children across the country are asked to “show what they know” by taking their state’s annual test in math and English language arts.

As the expert on your child, you see firsthand all the different ways your child is developing.  Along with grades and teacher feedback, the state test can help you know how well your child is mastering the grade level skills needed to keep progressing in school.

Most state tests today go beyond the “fill in the bubble” tests, covering skills children need to succeed in the real-world—like critical thinking and problem-solving. These tests also provide valuable feedback on your child’s academic progress and whether your child is performing at grade level. With this detailed insight, you and your child’s teacher can best support your child’s learning and growth.

As your child prepares to take this year’s annual state test, Learning Heroes partnered with the National PTA and Univision to connect you to your state’s practice test and other free resources. Here is what you need to know:

The what, when and how

Ask your child’s teacher about details such as: How long does the test take? When will my child be taking the test in each subject? When and how will I get the results?

How to use the score report

Last year’s state test results can help you and the teacher understand where your child may still need extra support and where progress has been made.

Bring on the challenge

We know tests can be nerve-racking but you can boost your child’s self-confidence by showing them to take on challenges with a positive attitude and determination. Remind your child to take their time and just try their best. By looking at the practice test together, your child will know what to expect.

It’s about the big picture

Along with grades and classroom work, the state test is another measure of how well your child is progressing in grade-level math and English. Even if your child gets good grades, check out the state test results to see how well your child understands specific concepts needed to be ready for the next grade.

You can set your child up for success on test day—familiarize yourself with what is expected of them on the test, review the grade-specific practice test, and be ready to ask your child’s teacher about how best to support your child’s preparation at home.

This post was originally published on the 74 Million. It is republished with permission.

Bibb Hubbard is the founder and president of Learning Heroes.  Learning Heroes connects parents to useful information and simple actions they can take to help their child thrive in school and life.  Visit bealearninghero.org for free and easy-to-use resources, learning tools, and more.

 

The Military Education Savings Account Act: Detrimental to Public Schools and Families

Earlier this year, Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) and Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced House and Senate versions of the Military Education Savings Accounts Act (HR 5199 / S 2517). This bill would create an Education Savings Account (ESA) program that would allow children with an active-duty parent in the military to use a voucher to attend a private school.  National PTA opposes this bill as it would divert much-needed public funds away from public schools and into the hands of unaccountable private schools.

ESAs are simply private school vouchers by another name. They shift public money—in this case, federal taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be used to fund public schools—to expenses including private school tuition and homeschooling. National PTA opposes any use of public dollars to fund private schools. We must adequately invest in public education and strengthen our system of public schools, not divert public school funding into private schools that are not accountable to the public and create division and separation throughout the community.

Like all voucher programs, this program would undermine public education and harm students. However, this military ESA program has additional problems unique to its funding and the population it would impact.

This voucher program would divert federal funding from Impact Aid

Impact Aid is a program that helps fund school districts that lose local tax revenue (which traditionally funds public schools) because their district includes federal tax-exempt land such as military bases, national parks, Native American reservations or federal housing.

Reducing Impact Aid funding for public schools and funneling those dollars to private schools would significantly undermine the public schools that serve the majority of military-connected students. It would leave those students, as well as the non-military children at these public schools, to attend a school with fewer resources.

This voucher program will not benefit most military families

The voucher program would only benefit those families who can afford to enroll their children in private schools. The voucher amount is $2,500 (with a small percentage of $4,500 vouchers available for students in “heavily impacted districts”), but the average annual cost of a private elementary school is $7,700 and high school is $13,030. Military families would be left to pay the remainder of the tuition.

Military families do not want this voucher program

Groups representing military families, Native American students and public schools oppose this proposal. These groups include organizations such as the National Military Family Association and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).  The National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) and NMFA explain, “the proposal is a bad deal for military families—and a disaster for local public school districts charged with educating our nation’s children.”

The men and women who serve our country deserve excellent public schools for their children—not private school vouchers, which undermine religious freedom, strip students of rights and protections, lead to declines in students’ education outcomes and lack accountability to taxpayers. To learn more about this proposal and how it would be detrimental to public schools, visit the National Coalition for Public Education’s page on vouchers for military-connected students. And to learn more about National PTA’s positions on vouchers, visit our website.

Founded in 1978, the National Coalition for Public Education supports public schools and opposes the funneling of public money to private and religious schools through vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, and portability. 

4 Ways to Engage in Your Child’s Education

This piece was originally featured in Mediaplanet.

Over 40 years of research shows that regardless of a family’s income or socioeconomic background, students whose families are engaged attend school more regularly earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs and have higher graduation rates.

Here are four ways you can help your child reach their full potential:

1. Talk about school matters at home

Encourage your child to talk about their day and express any concerns. It will help you understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what activities they like and don’t like. Two-way communication is essential to developing an active and positive relationship and an open, ongoing dialogue is critical to keep your child safe, happy and learning.

2. Be a partner in your child’s learning

Every child’s education experience is unique, and ensuring it remains a positive one is a shared responsibility between families and educators. It is important to develop a relationship with your child’s teacher, keep the lines of communication open and work together to support your child.

3. Advocate for your child  

You are your child’s best advocate. It is important to speak up for your own child — and every child in your school community — to ensure they are treated fairly and have access to opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential. Use your voice to advocate with local school boards and state and federal government to ensure your child’s school has the resources to provide a world-class education to every student.

4. Join up with your PTA

Get involved with your local parent teacher association. Families are busier than ever and as an on-the-go parent, you will find support from others in PTA who share your questions, concerns, hopes and dreams for their children. You will also be part of a dedicated network of families, educators, businesses and community leaders who are working to ensure all children — including yours — receive a high-quality education.

The work your family does at home to support and reinforce what your kids are doing in school will have a significant academic impact. Don’t strive for perfection — remember that involvement looks different for every family — and any level of involvement in your child’s education will help ensure they have every opportunity for success.

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.

The Leader in You

Did you know that PTAs are run by volunteers? From the local level to the National PTA board of directors, volunteers govern our PTA association. Have you ever wondered how you can get more involved in child advocacy or education-related work?

It starts by raising your hand and getting involved. That’s what I’ve done, and it’s taken me from my local unit all the way up to the national level. At each level, my skills and knowledge in PTA, nonprofit governance and leadership grew. Here’s my story:

I first became interested in PTA when my daughter entered kindergarten. Even though I was a Girl Scout leader and served on the board of directors for the preschool, I had never attended a PTA meeting in those first two years. However, at the end of the second year, I noticed that the PTA had a vacancy in the office of president. I figured that it was a great opportunity for me to grow my communication and people skills and serve others, especially children and families.

I was elected and decided to attend my state PTA’s summer leadership conference to learn more about PTA, as well as my duties and responsibilities. This became a defining moment in my PTA journey—I was in awe! More than 700 individuals were in attendance at the conference, all focused on a mission to better the lives of students and their families. I was able to network with other like-minded volunteers and learn from state leaders about the structure and history of PTA. I knew then that I wanted to be part of this movement where parents, families and educators work together to advocate for children and youth.

After two years as a local leader, I moved up to the council level, where I first served as the vice president and then president. It was at this time that I experienced how effective and important PTA’s advocacy efforts were in my county and throughout the state. While attending our elementary school PTA meeting, I learned that the school’s playground needed to be replaced. Our council worked tirelessly to present testimony to show the school board all the elementary school playground equipment and the disparities between the schools. Based on our efforts, the school board decided that the county would take on the expense of the playgrounds.

My leadership journey continued as I served as the first vice president and then president of Maryland PTA. There was a great deal to learn in running a nonprofit business with staff while managing local units and fulfilling the PTA mission. Working with staff was a new experience for me, with oversight and direction as well as hiring and firing. Part of the work also involved working with local units to talk about the PTA programs and learn about nonprofit governance. All of these experiences added to my skill set and cemented my passion for child advocacy.

It was while volunteering with Maryland PTA that I learned about National PTA’s advocacy efforts, nonprofit laws and business management. I remember attending my first Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, where I learned about the important issues and met our state legislators when we went to PTA day on the Hill. To this day, I am excited to attend the conference and am proud to participate in advocating on behalf of our members to the legislators. I believe this is an important part of our mission.

Two years after my term as president of Maryland PTA ended, I was elected to the National PTA board of directors, which I served on from 2009 to 2011. During that time, I gained a greater awareness of the diversity we have in our education system and how rural states operate.

I believe in PTA so much, that I am now on staff as a national service representative where I’ve been on staff for over three years.

My volunteer PTA leadership journey has offered many experiences and opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. Throughout the years, I’ve made many lifelong friends and gone on adventures that I would have never dreamed possible. I have been involved in important advocacy work for the children, families and educators fulfilling the mission of PTA. I treasure the work I’ve done and what I’ve learned along my journey. I hope you take the opportunity to raise your hand, and start your own.

Mary Jo Neil is a National Service Representative at National PTA.

Delegate or Do it Yourself?

This piece was first featured on Portland Council PTA’s blog.

Have you delegated a task, only to find out that the result wasn’t what you expected? Do you micromanage because you want things done properly? Many PTA leaders fail to delegate because they think it’s quicker to do it themselves—they can’t trust others to do the work or feel that they will just end up re-doing it themselves, so they may as well do it from the start. They are usually afraid that tasks won’t be completed in a timely manner or to a standard that they expect, so they often don’t delegate.

But delegation is a critical component for an effective PTA.

When you delegate successfully, you further the PTA as a whole, because as people gain confidence and experience, they will also grow as leaders. Delegation isn’t just a matter of telling someone else what to do. Truly effective delegation is assigning the right tasks to the right people and then guiding them to be successful in their tasks.

So how do you effectively delegate? Here are a few tips:

  • Develop an action plan for tasks. Give timelines, deadlines and expectations to your team. Give people plenty of time to ask questions and then complete the tasks.
  • Check in frequently, but don’t monitor too closely. Setting progress update meetings from the start will allow you to set your expectations and check in along the way. It also gives you a chance to make sure that the project is moving in the right direction before it is beyond the “point of no return.” Don’t be afraid to give constructive feedback, but also don’t micro-manage.
  • Break down larger projects into smaller tasks and delegate pieces out to an entire group of people. This can help keep work manageable while developing a team atmosphere. Again, be sure to assign each task to the person best suited to handle it to keep the project moving. There is nothing worse for your volunteers or board members than waiting on someone else in order to complete their own work.
  • If something does fall through, don’t take the work back on yourself. Accept that sometimes things need to fail to succeed. Reflect on if the project truly needs this task to be completed. Use caution if you need to re-delegate tasks to another person, as that can cause hard feelings between people.
  • Be sure to give credit where it’s due, but don’t place blame when things fail. The end result of the project was a team effort, whether it succeeded or failed.

Delegation takes some practice, but doing it effectively will free you up to do the things that only you can do for the PTA. When you delegate effectively, you can save time, balance your own workload and achieve more for your PTA, while furthering the growth of the organization and future leaders. That’s a win-win for everyone!

Lisa Kensel is the Portland Council PTA President.

Recap: Senate Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing for Next Secretary of Education

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, an education advocate and philanthropist to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. Members from both sides of the aisle had the opportunity to ask Ms. DeVos questions about her positions and plans for the Department of Education (the Department) should she be nominated.

In a statement regarding the announcement of the confirmation hearing, Laura Bay, President of National PTA stated that “we respect the confirmation process and pending her confirmation, we stand ready to work with Ms. DeVos to ensure that the priorities of National PTA are included in the new administration’s education agenda.”

National PTA also joined with other leading organizations to express concerns regarding several previous education positions of Ms. DeVos in letters to the committee on Jan. 9 and 13, 2017.

During the hearing, many Democrats expressed concern about Ms. DeVos’ previous advocacy efforts on behalf of private school vouchers in addition to her lack of formal experience in the public education sector. Republicans, on the other hand, largely praised Ms. DeVos’ work and were encouraged by the potential opportunity of having a representative outside of the traditional public education sphere to bring different ideas to the Department.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the HELP Committee is expected to call for a vote on Ms. DeVos’ nomination on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The vote will likely fall along party lines with all Democrats voting against Ms. DeVos’ confirmation and all Republican Senators voting in favor. The vote will ironically coincide a week after National School Choice Week, which now in its seventh year of advocating for education options. National PTA has a longstanding history of opposing any private school choice system—vouchers, tax credits or deductions—that would divert public school resources.

In addition to the diversion of public resources to private schools, National PTA will continue to oppose private school choice systems because many of these programs do not have the same civil rights, protections and services for all students — particularly those with special needs. Furthermore, recent studies confirm that school vouchers do not help students achieve better in school, and in fact, they can lead to lower academic achievement.

Learn more about private school vouchers and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for federal education updates and advocacy efforts.

Lindsay Kubatzky is the Government Affairs Coordinator for National PTA.

Bullying: It All Comes Down to Culture

Bullying

In my elementary school years, I was badly teased, excluded and ridiculed. Almost every day I would come home from school crying, feeling defeated, crushed and not wanting to return.

Only the constant support and encouragement of my mom and dad got me through it all. The strength that I ultimately gained through the process of overcoming the bullying inspired me to create my own bullying prevention presentation, which combines music and messages of bullying prevention, positivity and encouragement.

So far, I have performed my assembly at over 350 schools and 150,000 children nationwide. My newest project, a free Bully Prevention Video Package, is currently being used in over 2,700 schools, representing more than 1.6 million children.

School Culture

According to Dr. Kent D. Peterson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, school culture is “the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school.” During my school years, there were some personas that put me in a great mood all day, and some that left me appalled.

A toxic school culture is detrimental and leads to an intolerance and unhappiness among all students and administrators. A healthy school culture is what turns a mediocre school into a great school, and a great school into an EXCEPTIONAL school. Here are some characteristics of EXCEPTIONAL SCHOOLS that I have observed and that parents should insist upon.

Top Four Characteristics of Exceptional School Cultures

  1. Positive/uplifting leadership—Encourage your school’s principal to be invigorated, inspired and invested in the spirit and demeanor of everyone in it. Culture trickles down from the top. 
  1. Mutual respect—Establish mutual respect. This is the key to opening critical doors to conversation and understanding about difficult topics, such as discipline, etc. among parents, teachers and students. 
  1. Display students’ artwork—Get those bare walls decorated with students’ colorful artwork. Seeing their own creations displayed inspires students to be more imaginative and more invested in their school community. 
  1. Strong and positive rapport between staff and parents—Develop good relationships between your school’s faculty and administration and families. A seamless transition between a student’s home and school life happens best if parents and administrators communicate well and stress similar values in each place.

More of What I’ve Learned About Culture

  • Disciplining works. Condescending tones DO NOT. In my experience, when an adult speaks to a child in a loud volume and/or with a condescending tone, the child either doesn’t listen and puts up a wall, or becomes timid and retreats inside their shell.
  • Become a safe space for them. When children retreat inside their shell, it is more difficult to help them because they won’t necessarily open up to you the way you need them to. Let them know that they always have a safe space in you. Then, back that up by actively and genuinely listening.
  • Focus on the DO’s, not the DON’T’s, and be their example. I attribute the success of my assembly to two things. One, my age, and therefore my ease of connecting with students. Two, my emphasis on the DO’s instead of the DON’T’s. My experiences show me that children want to make the best and healthiest choices, but they can’t always do that unless they see it being practiced all around them. Tell them, but more importantly, show them, what to do through your own behavior.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is: kids will be kids, but they all want to be better. It is our responsibility, as leaders, to help them become the best of themselves. A thoroughly positive school culture will do that, not only for the students, but for the entire school community.

It’s so easy to say we’re going to do something, but it takes something completely different, a true investment of time and talent, to actually do it. Many of the schools I’ve visited hit the nail on the head already, establishing good, safe school cultures, but the majority have not. Help make YOUR school truly exceptional. With more and more examples of excellence, we can make safe, welcoming schools the rule.


Lizzie Sider is an 18-year-old singer/songwriter, recording artist and Founder of the bullying prevention foundation, Nobody Has The Power To Ruin Your Day.