Parents are critical to education’s success

This column was originally published via The Detroit News. 

I was visiting a local school district, meeting with some of their student PTSA members. While there, I had the opportunity to meet the administrative team — principal, assistant principals, office staff. They were amazed that the president of Michigan Parent Teacher Association (PTA) — a statewide association — was there to visit. They felt compelled to discuss how valuable the PTSA was to their school, to the community (as if I had some say over whether or not they existed). The administrators spoke of the dedication of the PTA leaders, how they don’t know what they would do without their help. How they helped with things that the school leaders needed but didn’t know how they would accomplish.

I told them that was the message they need to spread among other administrators. I mentioned that often school officials get intimidated by parents coming into the schools. That they ‘say’ they want parents involved, but sometimes, when they hear “PTA” especially, they draw back support. As if informed, aware parents weren’t what every school — especially those in Michigan — need. I reminded them that parents are the ‘real’ bosses because it’s our tax dollars that fund these schools and without that branch, that aspect of involvement from parents, that none of this is going to work.

“We should have taped that,” the assistant principal said. “That was perfect.”

So, is parental involvement necessary for Michigan to improve in student achievement? Is parental involvement necessary for Michigan to become a Top 10 in 10 in education? Yes.

If parents aren’t active stakeholders in the educational process, we can’t succeed. PTA has known and operated on this premise for 121 years; 100 years now in Michigan. That’s why the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships are key to the transformation we seek as a state. There are six aspects of this partnership that strengthen the school community as they are established: welcoming all families, effective communication, supporting student success, speaking up for every child, sharing power, and collaborating with the community.

Every family is important and adds to the culture of the school. Effective communication allows free transfer of information between families and teachers for the benefit of the students. As communication increases, so does collaboration. Advocacy is part of speaking up for every child — once we all realize how intertwined our lives are, we will begin to make changes that are driven by the quest for student success. This should pull us out of our corners to agree that every child deserves a quality education — regardless of ZIP code. Sharing power is another aspect of coming together to foster nurturing environments that support quality schools and educational programs. Strong collaboration with the community means schools are not looked at as separate entities, but necessary to the state’s success. All these factors support student success, the supposed goal.

For Michigan to become a leading education state, the citizens of the state must push for reform that is not tied to partisan efforts, but truly focused on every child. For 100 years, the Michigan PTA has worked to ensure that every child’s possibility becomes their reality. We must restore the core of our educational structures and values so every child in Michigan will be guaranteed quality education.

Sibyl Wilson is president of the Michigan Parent Teacher Association.

Chrysler Brand and National PTA Collaborate to Support Schools with ‘Cars 4 Classrooms’ Program

(Sponsored Post) Chrysler minivans have been the go-to vehicle for families with school-aged children for more than 30 years.

Families have come to rely on the functionality and versatility offered by Chrysler minivans to transport children safely to and from school along with the available cargo space to haul bulky science projects, sports gear or fundraising items.

This relationship between Chrysler and schools in our communities is expanding after the brand became a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA last year.

Through this collaboration between Chrysler and National PTA, the brand will support local PTAs across the country in promoting family engagement in education and raising funds for their schools.

The brand’s efforts to support schools across the country will be showcased at every Cars 4 Classrooms fundraising event. PTAs and schools have an opportunity to set up test drive fundraising events through this initiative that feature the Chrysler Pacifica and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid to earn up to $3,000 for their school.

The featured vehicle for this program, the Chrysler Pacifica, represents the sixth generation of Chrysler minivan. The Pacifica is completely re-engineered from the ground up on an all-new platform and offers the first hybrid minivan to the segment. It also has more than 100 available safety and security features, the class-exclusive Uconnect Theater rear-seat entertainment system, and an array of comfort and convenience technologies.

For every participant who takes a Pacifica for a brief test drive as part of this program, the brand will donate $10 to the school. PTAs can go to http://www.Cars4classrooms.comto learn more about hosting an event. Participating Chrysler franchised dealerships will work with PTAs to provide Chrysler Pacifica minivans for the event.

In addition to the test drive fundraiser, the Chrysler brand will support PTAs in encouraging families to visit their child’s school and get more involved in their education as part of National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week Feb. 11-17, 2018.

How to Celebrate American Education Week

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This week—Nov. 14-18—marks the National Education Association’s (NEA) 95th annual celebration of American Education Week. NEA has created resources and a cheat sheet for how you can celebrate and promote the week.

Go to NEA.org/AEW for more info on American Education Week—including an online toolkit and artwork. Contact Christiana Campos for questions and more details.

About American Education Week

Each year, American Education Week is observed during the first full week before Thanksgiving.

American Education Week began in 1921 with the NEA and the American Legion as cosponsors. The goal was to generate public awareness and support for education because of concerns over illiteracy. A year later, the U.S. Office of Education signed on, and the PTA followed in 1938.

Cosponsors now include the U.S. Department of Education, National PTA, the American Legion, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National School Public Relations Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Daily Celebrations

Monday, Nov. 14: Thank You to All Educators
Across the nation, Americans are sponsoring special events and activities to thank educators and celebrate public education.

 Tuesday, Nov. 15: Parents’ Day
Schools are inviting parents into classrooms to experience a day in the life of students.

Wednesday, Nov. 16: Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day
Schools and communities are honoring school support staff—bus drivers, nurses, secretaries, custodians—for their commitment to students.

Thursday, Nov. 17: Educator for a Day
Community leaders are being invited to teach a lesson or visit a class and connect with public school students and teachers.

Friday, Nov. 18: Substitute Educators Day
This day honors the educators who are called upon to replace regularly employed teachers.

AEW Tools and Resources

Making College Happen: Advice from One Family

My son Alex and I are preparing for his first year at the University of Colorado at Denver. Paying for college can feel challenging and overwhelming, but it’s absolutely possible. Here’s how we did it:

  1. Start Early

We visited colleges during Alex’s sophomore year, and by junior year, he found a favorite. While visiting colleges with your child, stop by the financial aid office or just give them a call. They will give you a good idea about typical costs and answer questions about transferring credits. We learned that the University of Colorado at Denver offers a discount for residents of neighboring states. That’s helped us make it work.

  1. Determine the Cost

Once you find a college, determine the cost. Remember to consider not just tuition and fees, but also books, transportation and other expenditures. It might sound like a lot to keep track of, but free resources like the Sallie Mae® College Planning Calculator can help. Some colleges also offer net price calculators to help you estimate the costs.

  1. Start Simple

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on or soon after Oct. 1. The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal financial aid. Some of that aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis so it’s best to submit the application as early as possible.

  1. Apply for Scholarships

Make sure your child applies for scholarships early and often. Start searching online in August of their senior year to meet early deadlines. Services like Sallie Mae and Fastweb offer great scholarship search engines. Alex worked hard to maintain a good GPA because he knew academics are so important for scholarships, but many scholarships are based on other factors.  Set a weekly goal and don’t get discouraged. Alex completed many applications and often received the response: “great letter, but…” Don’t give up! Alex added the Make College Happen Challenge to his list and made an animated video about college planning. He placed 3rd nationally! Nothing is out of reach, so if you see a scholarship you like—have your child apply!

  1. Parting Advice

There are plenty of other ways for students to save, plan and pay for college. But the key is to start with a plan. At least, that’s what we did. And remember, this is just an example of our experience. The important thing is to create a personal plan of action to make college happen.

Good luck!


 

Veronica and Alex Gomez are a mother and son currently navigating the paying for college process. Alex recently won Sallie Mae’s Make College Happen ChallengeSM with his animated video submission detailing how he plans to pay for his college.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

10 Ways to Get Kids Reading this Summer

This blog was originally posted on the Great Schools blog.

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School’s out, the days are longer, and suddenly kids have time on their hands, and you’d like them to put down their tablet and pick up a book. After all, studies show children who read when they’re out of school do better academically than those who avoid cracking open a book.

California Library Association is asking patrons across the state to encourage their local libraries to be a part of the Five Book Summer Reading Challenge. CLA has innovative programs to share or seek at least a calculation of how many books were read. Reading just five books during the summer reduce summer learning loss–significantly more than three or four books. Here are 10 ways to get even the most reluctant reader started on a reading adventure.

  1. Get inspired by Hollywood

    Movies can be a great way to get kids excited about reading, so kick-start summer with film adaptations of popular children’s books. Parents might Netflix Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), based on a book by Roald Dahl. If kids warm up to Mr. Fox, you’ll be able to introduce them to the book version  as well as other titles by the author, such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG.

  2. Take a book-themed vacation

    “I can go anywhere!” — or so says the theme song to the PBS show Reading Rainbow. Parents could do a lot worse than taking those songsmiths to heart and helping children plan a vacation inspired by a book they love. To start, try reading Liz Garton Scanlon’s picture book All the World while planning a trip to the beach. New Englanders might visit Providence, R.I., after reading the historical young adult novel The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

  3. Meet the authors

    Kids of all ages can benefit from attending an in-person literary event. Authors routinely make appearances at bookstores to read their latest work, and these events are often sparsely attended. Seeing the person behind the words could inspire kids to try a new book. For dates and times, check local news and bookstore websites.

  4. Get cookin’ with books

    Parents of kids who aren’t interested in the more traditional children’s books might want to steer their offspring toward other genres. Cookbooks can encourage kids to master practical skills while providing a delicious payoff at the end. The American Grandparents Association recommends 12 cookbooks for kids 3 and older. And children who branch out into the world of food blogs will find endless reasons to keep reading.

  5. Wise up on magazines

    Magazines cater to many interests and can inspire kids to read deeply on subjects they enjoy. Among magazines suitable for younger readers, several well-known magazines, such as Sports Illustrated and National Geographic, offer “kids” editions. Parents’ Choice has a list of spring 2015 winners here. Teens in particular may want something for the more mature: Seventeen, Teen Vogue, ESPN or MAD — and most magazines are available for electronic readers such as Kindle and Nook.

  6. Create a readers’ theater

    Parents can bring books to life by staging scenes from favorite stories. Act out characters, read scenes aloud, try funny voices, and use props from around the house — do whatever it takes to get kids excited about the story. By imagining themselves in the roles of their favorite characters, children can make a deeper connection to what they’re reading.

  7. Listen to your books

    Parents might not realize that audiobooks are freely available for checkout at most public libraries. Take your children to the library (or iTunes), and pick out the perfect summer tale, then set aside some time to listen to the audiobook together.

  8. Throw a blog party

    Make reading social by helping your kids — or, more likely, having them help you — set up a reading blog on sites such as Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, or Tumblr. While getting them set up should be relatively painless, kids might need encouragement to keep writing, so make sure you help them stick to a schedule. For even more online fun, see if you can get your children’s friends involved as well.

  9. Organize a summer series

    With school out, children have extra time to get sucked in by the compelling narratives of popular series. For the youngest set, start with picture books such as Babar. Genre books can be particularly addictive for older kids: The Lord of the Rings is a classic — and one of the best.

  10. Be strong and read hard!

    It’s especially important for parents to model the behavior they want to see in their children. Some parents only read after their kids are in bed, but summer is a great time to take the books off the bedside table and make them part of vacation or leisure time. Whether that means booting up the Kindle or dusting off old Anna K, show your kids you still love a good read, too.

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6 Things to Do in Orlando During #PTAcon16

FloridaPTA leaders, parents and education and industry experts from across the nation will come together in Orlando, Fla. for the Think BIG… Think PTA! 2016 National PTA Convention & Expo June 30 to July 3.

Why not plan your family vacation with us at the same time? Orlando is a great city—full of fun, warm weather and family-friendly activities. We want you to experience all it has to offer. While you join us for #PTAcon16, hopefully you can find time during your stay to enjoy:

  • Thrills! Fun! And even more thrills! Stop by the Universal Orlando Resort and explore their three different theme parks, including a stop in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley for a tasty pint of Butter Beer. Cool off at the Universal’s Islands of Adventure and get splash-happy with your favorite cartoon characters in the water rides of Toon Lagoon. Then, ride through the Jurassic Park jungle and snap pictures of the nine-foot-tall velociraptor!
  • Mickey, is that you? There’s no better place to feel like a kid again than at Walt Disney World. This wondrous world of childhood magic consists of four theme parks: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Magic Kingdom Park. Be sure not to miss the nightly fireworks! End the day with the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular right in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Heads up: BIG news is coming to Disney World. Read more
  • Explore Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Since you’ll be lodging at this resort, we want to make sure you take advantage of it to the fullest! And you don’t have to be a guest at the resort to partake in some of the awesome activities it has to offer. Unwind and relax at the Mandara Spa. Visit the in-house art gallery, The Galleriá Sottil. Do a little shopping at their Disney souvenir shops, Disney Cabanas and Disney Garden or at Lamont’s, their classy boutique. There’s nothing like fine dining, so end your day with a bite to eat at one of their amazing restaurants.

For more info about the Think BIG… Think PTA! 2016 Annual National PTA Convention & Expo, visit PTA.org/Convention. Hope to see you there!


Ebony Scott is the communications intern at National PTA.

Seven Things You Need to Bring to #PTACon16

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“What am I going to wear? Am I going to get there on time? What am I going to bring?” You’re not the only one asking these questions.

This year’s Think BIG… Think PTA! 2016 Annual National PTA Convention & Expo in Orlando, Fl. is fast approaching and we want you to be prepared!

Here are some items we believe you should bring along with you to this year’s Convention & Expo:

  1. Bottled water: To have the maximum amount of fun, it’s important to stay hydrated! For those moments when it gets a little warm in the room or your throat gets dry, a bottle of water will come in handy.
  1. Cardigan/sweater: A cardigan or sweater can be a great accessory to any outfit. It can also keep you warm whenever you feel those random cold drafts in a room. Instead of suffering through the air conditioning, pack a cardigan or a light sweater. It’s a good way to beat the chill.
  1. Chargers (laptop, phone, tablet, etc.): Make sure to pack a charger for all of the electronic devices you bring on the trip. Charge all of your devices while you are asleep so you can wake up to a full charge. Also try to bring a portable charger along. They are great for on-the-go.
  1. Comfortable shoes: Try not to sacrifice comfort for style. Sometimes networking involves constant walking around and you want to make sure your feet aren’t aching, blistered or just plain worn out.
  1. Extra pens or pencils: One is never enough. You never know if your pen might run out of ink or if you happen to misplace it. Extra pens and pencils can also be great networking tools when someone around you asks for one. Help them out and offer them one of yours, you never know who you may meet this way!
  1. Notepad: I’m pretty sure you don’t want to miss a thing during the presentations. It’s helpful to jot down a few notes here and there. Taking notes could be a good way to reflect on the convention once you get home or if you want to share a few things from the convention with a colleague you can always refer to your notes.
  1. Small healthy snacks (fruit, nuts, etc.): It’s hard to focus on anything when you have an empty stomach. Packing a little something to nibble on in between meals is a good way to bring your blood sugar back up so you can really engage with the BIG things that are happening.

For more information regarding the 2016 Annual National PTA Convention & Expo and registration, visit PTA.org/Convention. Hope to see you there!


Ebony Scott is the communications intern at National PTA.

7 Ways Teachers Are Using GoFundMe to Make a Difference

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we wanted to celebrate seven teachers who embody the GoFundMe spirit of helping people and spreading empathy. We’re always amazed and delighted to see the creative, inspiring ways educators use our platform, and we think you’ll be impressed, too.

  1. iPads in the classroom to help ESL students learn Englishgofundme1

Mrs. Ellis teaches English as a Second Language in a low-income school in Denver, Colo. She recognized the huge impact having iPads in her classroom could have on her students’ progress in learning to read and write English.

With no funding directly available, Mrs. Ellis turned to a GoFundMe campaign to equip her classroom with the latest technology.

With the help of 20 community members, Mrs. Ellis hit her goal and purchased the iPads. She says, “The kids were so happy to finally get their classroom iPads and use them every day for new learning! Thank you to all the donors who made this possible!”

  1. Getting kids the books they really want to readgofundme2

Stephanie Wilson’s students are ready to develop a lifetime love of reading. There’s just one hitch: it’s a challenge for these underprivileged kids to access the books they really want to read.

That’s where this Champaign, Ill. teacher is taking charge: Stephanie has started a GoFundMe campaign to buy the books her students can’t wait to read, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Geronimo Stilton, and Captain Underpants.

In her campaign, Stephanie says, “As a teacher I spend a lot of my own money for things in my classroom and I need help! I want to provide books that my students want to read so that they will learn to love reading! I can’t express in words how thankful I am to those of you that choose to donate!”

  1. A field trip that will create lifelong memories

gofundme3Stella Kim is a special education science teacher who wants to give her students something they rarely experience: a memorable field trip away from the classroom where they can learn, bond, and enjoy themselves.

When Stella’s Oakland, Calif. school denied her request for the field trip because of lack of funds, she took matters into her own hands and started a GoFundMe campaign.

In just 17 days, 39 donors raised $1,585—exceeding Stella’s goal. Now the field trip is booked, and these students have an exciting field trip to look forward to.

  1. An after-school “Running 4 Change” program for at-risk youth

gofundme4Two years ago, special education teacher Isaias Franco started an after-school running program called “Running 4 Change.”

The program lived up to its name: the collective GPA of Isaias’s students increased by 24%, truancy decreased by 15%, and they successfully ran the Seattle Rock & Roll half marathon.

Now Isaias and his student runners are hoping to race in the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon on June 5. They’ve raised over $2,000 so far and are hoping to hit their goal of $10,000.

  1. Learning leadership skills on week-long trip to Yosemitegofundme5

Sarah Gzesh wants take her students on an ambitious trip to fulfil her Hayward, Calif. school’s mission: to develop leadership skills in all students as they prepare for college.

On a week-long trip to Yosemite, 40 high school juniors and seniors will learn to give back by volunteering at the national park and increase their appreciation of the natural world—all while taking a break from constantly checking their phones.

In just 10 days, community members stepped up and fully funded this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

  1. First grade trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Parkgofundme6

Lauren Brill and Jennifer Valenzuela spent a month teaching kindergartners and first graders about rainforest and African savanna animals, so it’s only natural they’d want to take the kids to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to see some critters up close.

The $15 entrance fee and travel costs, however, are out of reach for many of the students’ families, a large number of which are low-income.

That’s why Lauren and Jennifer turned to GoFundMe. In just a month, they hit their goal, thanks to the generous donations of community members. We hope these lucky kids have a wild time at the zoo!

  1. Stephanie’s Science Librarygofundme7

Stephanie Sample is working hard to make sure her classroom is place where students can be exposed to all the possibilities that learning science can offer.

That’s why she wants her students to have a vibrant science library where they can explore topics at their leisure.

To say her GoFundMe campaign for this library was successful is an understatement: “Woke up this morning pretty emotional seeing the generosity of SO many people towards my GoFundMe! I have to continue to add money and items to my list due to amazing contributions (which is just going to make my classroom even more amazing with more books, plants, animals and lab equipment!) My heart is ready to explode!”


GoFundMe is a proud partner of PTA Teacher Appreciation Week 2016.

Empower Your Teen for a Healthier Future

Teen STDDid you know that about one in four teens has a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? If left untreated, STDs can lead to pretty serious lifelong problems, including infertility.

Every parent wants his or her child to be healthy. While educating teens about STDs can be a sensitive and challenging task, providing your teen with information and resources about STD prevention is one step towards a healthier future.

With an overwhelming amount of questionable information available to your teen online, we recognize finding reliable information about STDs is difficult. That is one of many reasons that led the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) to develop Know The Facts First with the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the National Coalition of STD Directors.

Know The Facts First, a national public health awareness campaign, is aimed at providing teen girls, ages 13-19, with accurate information about STDs and STD prevention so that they can make informed decisions about sexual health. The campaign’s website, KnowTheFactsFirst.gov, offers a single place for teens to get straightforward information about STDs and how to protect themselves.

The campaign focuses on girls because their bodies are biologically more susceptible to STDs and they experience more damaging effects from undiagnosed and untreated STDs (e.g., chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, cervical cancer, and more). However, the campaign is also relevant to teen boys who face the same kinds of questions, worries, and pressures about sex as teen girls.

Through the campaign, teens will see print and video public service announcements and advertisements in malls, magazines, schools, movie theaters and on television and online. Partner organizations also will help disseminate messages directly to teens and adults who work with teens.

When you are ready to discuss sexual health with your teen, the campaign offers easy-to-understand information about STDs, how to prevent STDs and where to get tested. No more deciphering what is really true—you and your teen can learn the facts together. This resource can help teens ask the right questions, engage in informed conversations and in return, have healthier relationships.


This blog post was submitted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.

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Team Up and Fundraise the Healthy Way

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(Sponsored Post)

“Finally! A school fundraiser that doesn’t involve selling sweets and treats.” This is a common refrain we hear from parents who are tired of the same old fundraiser  that promote unhealthy habits. Fortunately, now there’s a new way to raise more money for your school in a positive, active and healthy way.

Active Schools Fundraising is a new tool to help PTAs, school groups and booster clubs raise money online in support of a physical activity event. Whether it’s a walk-a-thon, fun run or other active event, you can use the online platform to invite team members and ask your friends and family for pledges of support.

With Active Schools Fundraising, your school or PTA group keeps 75% of all funds raised online and 100% of onsite fees, such as registrations or giveaways. There are no start-up fees or costs, so the up-front investment is minimal. That means more money going directly to support your school or PTA.

Interested in starting a run club? This spring, we’ve teamed up with Marathon Kids to offer an additional incentive to choose active fundraising for your next school fundraiser. Here’s how it works: If you register with Active Schools Fundraising by April 1 and raise at least $500 for a 25 member run club, you’ll be entered in a drawing for one of 150 sets of 10 Marathon Kids participant spots. Marathon Kids helps get kids excited about running by providing them with the tools, motivation and support to be active through run clubs.

It’s that easy. Active Schools Fundraising + Marathon Kids run club = a winning spring fundraiser!

Whether you use Active Schools Fundraising for a Marathon Kids run club or another active fundraiser, here are a few more helpful tips about Active Schools Fundraising:

  • For the spring fundraising season, the deadline to register a team is April 1, and you can hold your fundraiser anytime through May 30.
  • Once you create a team, you can customize your team page and add your own messages and photos, or use the messaging that we provide.
  • You can take advantage of special product discounts on equipment, curriculum and programs that improve wellness in your school—offered only to Active Schools Fundraising participants.

Ready to get started? Visit ActiveSchoolsFundraising.org to register a team today and get your chance to win Marathon Kids participant spots!

 Sample Social Media Messaging to Share with PTA Local Leaders

Twitter

Active Schools Fundraising + Marathon Kids run club = a winning spring fundraiser! Learn more: http://bit.ly/1YCYtwL

Facebook

Raise money for your PTA the healthy way this spring with Active Schools Fundraising. Bonus: 75% of the funds raised go directly to your school! Register by April 1 and fundraise by May 30: http://bit.ly/1YCYtwL