Championing Arts in Education for More Than 40 Years

National PTA recently announced the 2010-2011 Reflections award recipients. The announcement made me look back at our history with and the importance of arts in education. It’s no secret, arts programs and classes are often the first to be cut from the school day when education budget cuts hit.

This is so unfortunate because studies continue to show that when children express themselves through the arts, they are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, more likely to participate in a math or science fair, and are more likely to be elected to a school office. National PTA and its local PTAs nationwide know these facts.

We believe in the importance of arts in education. We believe that children should not be denied an outlet for their artistic expression because of budget cuts. That’s why for more than 40 years we have sustained our very own Reflections arts program. Thousands of PTAs across the country have made it possible for students to be involved in the arts, when they may not have had the opportunity otherwise.

We’re proud of the millions of students that have participated in this amazing program throughout the last four decades. This year PTAs at all levels have seen, first hand, the true talent our students have from pre-k through the 12th grade. Either in visual arts, literature, photography, music composition, film production or dance choreography our students have an untapped talent that so many of us would be amazed to see.

For example, I was in Arkansas recently for the Arkansas PTA convention. I took part in their awards program in which more than 400 students and parents attended… and that’s just one state! It’s inspiring to see that we’re all working together to continue to champion arts in education.

Visit the National PTA newsroom ( for the announcement of the 2011 national winners and visit the general website for more information on how your PTA can participate in next school year’s Reflections program.

Finally, please join me in celebrating the best and the brightest our PTA schools have to offer when it comes to arts education!

Looking for Superman at a School Near You

As part of NBC’s Education Nation, I had the honor of taking part in two town hall sessions. One was a Teacher Town Hall, and the second session regarding the newly released film “Waiting for Superman”.

Recently following a special premiere screening, I provided commentary and addressed what I believe the film emphasizes as a need for parents to do; get involved in the conversation.

Now, as far as I am concerned the two town hall sessions talked about parents, talked to parents, but did not talk with parents. Parents are critical in making education reform a reality in our country. At hand, how important is reform in our communities?

We can all agree that every community in our country have schools with varying degrees of challenges. Many out right fail the students. So again, what is it going to take to get parents, grandparents and all adult care givers involved?

A quality education is a civil rights issue that should lift every child’s opportunities. A child should not have to cross their fingers nor should parents have to lay awake at night worried when it comes to getting into a quality school.

I am blessed that my two sons are attending a good school, but so many parents in our country see their children attending “drop out factories.” A practice that can end if we all agree that reform is a must-have conversation.

Parents need to get their heads out of the sand. So respectfully I must ask again, “What in the hell is it going to take for parents, adults or any role model to get involved in the school reform conversation?”

Let’s take the steps to get there….First see “Waiting for Superman,” and next get your friends, neighbors and family involved in the conversation to make critical changes.

Chuck Saylors,
National PTA, President

Dad, Does Superman Exist?

Dad, Does Superman Exist?

Last night (September 15th) I had the opportunity to join several hundred government, education and community leaders in the DC area at the Red Carpet Premiere of “Waiting for Superman”, a documentary on the state of education in the United States. I didn’t sleep well afterwards. The message of this film kept running through my mind.

The film talks about several of the challenges that face public education, what should take place to correct these challenges and highlights some successful practices in communities related to educational environments, like charter schools. More importantly, this film shows viewers the challenging stories of five students (and their families) who want to attend a high quality school. It is a blunt, to the point film that calls it like it is; which I like!

Now you are probably asking, “What kept me awake last night?” Easy, the stories of these students and more specifically why their families are placed in such a position that they are pinning their educational hopes on a lottery, not for money but for one seat in a school that will provide a quality education.

I also fought in my mind the question of, “What does a quality teacher look like?” That’s not easy to address because it is a tough question. First, anyone who is willing to serve as a teacher should be respected for their desire to help children succeed; but teaching is a profession and not a job. There is no time clock, the production line is a mind; a child’s future. Second, not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. That’s just a fact of life, so what do we do to address that issue? Pay for performance? Eliminate tenure where it exists? Do teachers unions help or hurt? And more importantly, “When will parents get off the couch and get engaged in the conversation?”

PTA has long been the leader in helping see that teachers and schools have the resources they need to be successful, but even with millions of members there are still millions more who don’t care or don’t believe they have the time to get engaged in this conversation. Why? More specifically, “What are we going to do to get these parents involved in the conversation?”

The rules must change! Our elected officials need to step up and provide the regulatory support, not just the funds, for school districts to attract the best teachers; and deal with those who should explore a job elsewhere. We should pay quality teachers a salary commensurate with quality performance. We should also have a school building that is safe, secure, healthy and technologically equipped to meet the needs of students today. No parent should be placed in a position of passing three public schools (that they see as failing) to enroll their children in a private school. That itself sends a sad message. So what is it going to take? When are our parents, and others, going to get off the couch?

My first suggestion is to see this film when it arrives in your community. If you leave the theater without a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, you have bigger issues to address. And more importantly, begin frank discussion with all stakeholders about how we provide every child with a quality education.

This film should touch your heart and more especially, make you think. The time has arrived for parents and the broader public to ask these critical questions. The time is now to get off the couch and stop waiting for Superman?

Check to see when “Waiting for Superman” opens in a theater near you.

Yours in PTA!
Chuck Saylors
National PTA President