Plan Your Own Award-Worthy PTA Reflections Showcase Watch Party

 

Through the National PTA Reflections program, students receive national, state, and local recognition for their artistry and originality in dance choreography, film production, literature, music, photography, and visual arts. This year is even more important than usual as it is our 50th anniversary. Since 1969, when the program was founded, Reflections has helped so many students explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, develop artistic literacy, and find a love for learning!

To celebrate, National PTA is going all out by incorporating 50th anniversary celebrations into our upcoming events, including this year’s Reflections Student Arts Showcase at the Department of Education. This year’s Reflections Showcase recognizes our 2017-18 Reflections winners with a ceremony featuring guest speakers and student performances, followed by a digital and physical art exhibit. National PTA is pleased to present a live-casting of this year’s showcase event so that you can celebrate the Reflections program’s 50th anniversary with us!

As you plan your watch party, use these ideas to make your event award-worthy!

Decorate, Decorate, Decorate!

Show-off your PTA’s artistic skills and decorate your watch party with 50th Anniversary and award show decorations. Whether it’s gold 50th balloons, a red carpet, or spotlight photo-op, a highly decorated watch party will encourage participation and fun!

Incorporate Learning into Your Watch Party

Whether your continuing to emphasize the importance of art literacy or if you want to focus on the 50th anniversary, there are a multitude of ways to make your watch party both fun AND informative.

Its Snack Time!

From pizza to cupcakes, a watch party is not complete without some tasty treats. You can use standard snack ideas, but why not dazzle your audience with some award show and 50th anniversary inspired snacks.

Finally – Share, Share, Share!

Share your ideas, photos, and videos using #PTAReflections to let us know how you celebrate the Reflections Showcase by sharing your ideas, photos, and videos using #PTAReflections.

We look forward to celebrating Reflections 50th Anniversary with all of you!

Be There When The Bell Rings for Take Your Family to School Week

National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW) is coming up fast! Throughout the week of Feb. 10-17, 2019, National PTA and local PTA units across the country will be hosting events to encourage family and community engagement, as well as celebrate National PTA Founders’ Day.

Although February is still months away, the way to ensure a successful TYFTSW event is to begin planning now. We’ve got a few event ideas for you!

  1.  Sharpen Literacy Skills: Host a family reading experience, where parents and children spend the evening reading and sharing their favorite books.
  2. Encourage Healthy Lifestyles: Try offering a healthy recipe contest or a school-wide Walk to School Day to help the whole family adopt healthier habits. 
  3. Get smart about STEM: Put on a math night, science festival or engineering game night to encourage all students’ interest in STEM education and careers. 
  4. Take Charge of Your Digital Life: Offer a PTA Connected digital learning event to help parents ensure their children act safely and responsibly online.

Thanks to the generosity of Office Depot OfficeMax, National PTA is thrilled to be able to provide 15 local PTAs with $1,000 to host a Take Your Family to School Week event. However, if you did not win one of these grants, we hope you still host a TYFTSW event!

We have plenty of guides, tips and templates online for you to plan and execute any of the events listed above successfully. A Take Your Family to School Week toolkit will be available to all PTAs at PTA.org/TYFTSW.

National PTA encourages all PTAs to make our mission come to life and to begin planning for Take Your Family to School Week this February!

Educating Communities and Closing the Digital Divide

Schools are assigning internet-based projects and using online dashboards to post homework assignments, study guides and discussion materials. While these innovative learning paths help many students thrive, they can lead to stress for students that don’t have internet access at home. Without internet access at home students rely on Wi-Fi cafes or public libraries to complete their school work. Due to limited time and resources to complete their assignments, these students are facing a digital divide that could affect their academic and future career success.

Even in today’s data driven society, some still are not subscribing to internet service. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that 11 percent of Americans don’t use the internet, citing a variety of factors from lack of interest to the cost of internet service or a computer.  

Access from AT&T provides low-income households a low-cost option for wireline home Internet access in the 21 states where AT&T offers service. To qualify for the program, at least one household resident must participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In California only, households receiving social security income (SSI) also may qualify. Other conditions may apply, click here to learn more.

As we bring more affordable access to more Americans, we are also working in communities around the country to provide people with the skills they need to maximize the value of high-speed internet access. Our Digital You® website – created in collaboration with Common Sense Media and other experts—provides parents, youth, digital newcomers, people with disabilities, and community leaders with information on the devices they use and how to maintain privacy, safety, and security in an increasingly connected world. The website addresses topics such as how to prevent cyberbullying, managing your online presence and tips on how to use devices.

Internet education resources can provide a more personalized and mobilized educational experience, meaning children from lower income homes stand to gain the most from these programs. By removing barriers and connecting students to innovative technologies, every student can have a bright and successful future.

My Experience Testifying Before the Federal Commission on School Safety

As the Federal Legislative Chair for Wyoming PTA, I testified before the Federal Commission on School Safety at a listening session in August in Cheyenne, WY. 

In my testimony, I referenced National PTA’s position statements on school safety and shared my experiences as a trustee of the local school district, Laramie County School District 1. I am proud that PTA emphasizes the inclusion of all stakeholders in local safety and security decisions and that arming teachers is not the solution to gun violence in schools.

I was listening, too, as students from Denver and Albuquerque testified before the commission on what school “safety and security” means to them. They talked about the importance of feeling safe from daily verbal and physical assaults from other students, about instances where they were in despair and contemplating self-harm. They talked about putting resources into counselors and school psychologists, not arming teachers.

Students from high schools with a large minority enrollment discouraged the commission from even arming law enforcement. In Wyoming, we rely on School Resource Officers onsite at our secondary schools, as trained and trusted professionals to respond to an active shooter. But the students who spoke at the listening session said they feared that more law enforcement presence in schools would lead to the targeting students of color and creation of more violence. These students want an environment free of weapons, staffed by caring and competent adults to help them deal with the violence that threatens them every day.

We must balance the need to protect students and staff in schools, but also ensure positive school discipline policies and procedures are in place so no group of students are disproportionately disciplined.  If the decision is made to have a Student Resource Officer in a school building, there must be a clearly defined memorandum of understanding, as recommended by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), between the law enforcement agency and the school on the role of the officer.

Of course, we need to be prepared for the rare but real possibility of disaster, as we do with tornado shelters. So, we need buildings with secure access, we need school personnel and students to be prepared for all types of emergency scenarios, and we need trained SROs. But what I gained from the listening session was what makes students afraid every day and what makes them feel safe personally, so they can learn. A gun in the Social Studies teacher’s desk drawer doesn’t make them feel safe.

I also learned the value of anonymous reporting systems, we use Safe2Tell in Wyoming, because students want to be safe and will tell adults about weapons and threats they see and hear in their schools.

These things cost money, obviously, and our fear is that pressure to cut budgets will keep our schools from meeting the daily safety and security needs the students described. I think a few of the adults mentioned that fear, too.

I trust the Federal Commission on School Safety was listening and releases a report that focuses on collaborative, evidenced-based school safety best practices as recommended in the Framework for Safe and Successful Schools.

 

How Parents Can Promote Health and Wellness Under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Four Things You Can Do

 

Parents and guardians play a critical role in ensuring that schools and out-of-school time environments are healthy. Through advocating for healthy celebrations and fundraisers, serving on district and school wellness committees, and organizing before and afterschool physical activities, parents set high standards for health and wellness in their communities. Healthier Generation has many resources to help families and community members get involved, including new shareable videos on fundraising, celebrations, and rewards.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the recent reauthorization of our nation’s education law, recognizes the learning and health connection and provides opportunities for health and wellness to be more fully integrated into education policy and practice.

How does health and wellness fit into ESSA?

  • 36 states and the District of Columbia will now hold schools accountable for chronic absenteeism. While the causes of chronic absenteeism are multifold, research shows that student physical, mental, and a school’s health and wellness environment are key factors.
  • In addition to many states including chronic absenteeism in their state accountability systems, all state school report cards must now include chronic absenteeism.
  • ESSA includes a strong focus on school climate and social and emotional learning (SEL). Nutrition and physical activity have a major impact both school climate and SEL.
  • Funding designated to support the lowest performing schools can be used to support student engagement and promote healthy, safe, and supportive school environments. Based upon a comprehensive needs assessment, schools must develop a school improvement plan. Ensuring that needs assessments examine the health and wellness environment in the school is essential to this process.
  • Funding designated to provide high-quality professional development for all school staff, can be used to train school staff on the learning and health connection, as well as to provide training for health and physical education teachers and specialized instructional support personnel (school nurses, school psychologists, etc.).
  • At least 20% of the funds districts receive from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant must be allocated to improving the safety and health of students and at least 20% to providing a well-rounded education (including health and physical education). Any school district receiving more than $30,000 from this grant program must conduct a needs assessment and use the funds to address the needs identified.

ESSA implementation is almost entirely state driven; the responsibility will be on school districts to carry out much of the work. As important voices of the community, families are in a unique position to advocate for school and afterschool to serve the whole child and meet the full spectrum of student needs.

Here are four action steps:

  1. Find out how you can influence your state’s implementation of ESSA. Read Using Needs Assessments to Connect Learning + Health.
  2. Spread the word on how ESSA can support student health and wellness with our ESSA FAQ. You can read more about what your state included in its state plan here.
  3. Invite a community partner (like parks and recreation) to join you on your district or school wellness committee to influence ESSA implementation in the district. Wellness committees can inform district and school-level needs assessments and identify sources of health and wellness data.
  4. Invite members of your local school board to your next school, family or community event. Talk to them about ensuring that ESSA is implemented in a way that supports student health and wellness.

Sign up here to get regular updates from Healthier Generation and the Healthy Schools Campaign on how states are implementing ESSA in a way that supports student health and wellness. If you have questions or need additional resources, contact Nancy Katz or Alex Mays.

Ten Questions to Help You Start the Conversation

Social media plays a big role in teens’ lives today. It’s where they connect with friends and family, celebrate major milestones, share everyday moments, and discover new passions and interests.

As parents, we want our children to connect, share and have fun through social media, and at the same time, stay safe. An important way to help ensure this is by having proactive, open and ongoing conversations with children around digital safety and setting rules together for technology use. 

Instagram, a top social media platform among teens, partnered with social media and education expert Ana Homayoun, M.A., P.P.S., author of Social Media Wellness, to create a set of 10 questions you can use to guide a conversation with your teen about Instagram. The intention is that you use these questions to learn more about how your teen is using Instagram and to ensure they’re using the app in a positive way.

  1. What do you like about Instagram?
  2. What do you wish I knew about Instagram?
  3. What are the top five Instagram accounts that you enjoy following?
  4. What are some things you think about before you post something on Instagram?
  5. If you have multiple Instagram accounts, what do you share in each account?
  6. How do likes and comments affect how you feel about a post?
  7. Do you know your followers? (If your teen has a private account, ask them how they decide who follows them.) What do you do when someone you don’t know tries to contact you via direct message?
  8. How do you feel about the amount of time you spend online?
  9. Have you ever felt uncomfortable with something you saw or an experience you had online?
  10. What would you do if you saw someone being bullied on Instagram? (Do you know about the reporting tools and the offensive comment filter on Instagram?)

National PTA has also collaborated with Instagram to create a guide for parents and guardians to help teens use social media safely and responsibly. The guide includes basics of the app, a description of the safety tools, plus a discussion guide for how to have an open conversation with teens about Instagram. It also focuses on three ways to control teen’s Instagram experience, including privacy, interactions and time on the platform.

Download the parent’s guide at PTA.org/InstagramResources and start the conversation today!

March2Success: FREE College Test Prep + More

High school students have a lot on their plates these days. Having to re-take an SAT or ACT test due to a low score shouldn’t be one of them. March2Success, a free online, interactive program created to enhance ACT, SAT and standardized test performance can help better prepare your students for important exams. From high school science, math and verbal skills to college readiness and planning tips, this online resource has the tools and information students need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

The U.S. Army-sponsored March2Success program features curriculum designed by Peterson’s and the College Options Foundation. It offers a full prep course for the ACT and SAT to complement ACT and SAT full-length practice tests and provides cutting-edge assessment capabilities and education content in an easy-to-use, self-paced format that is available 24/7. In addition to practice tests, March2Success offers a variety of study materials such as flashcards, lessons and interactive video games to make the program user friendly for many learning styles.

For students interested in a career in healthcare, March2Success recently added full-length practice tests for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and several nursing tests, making March2Success an even more valuable resource for students.

Also new this year, March2Success now offers health and wellness resources to improve the health and fitness of students and their families. The Army’s Performance Triad focuses on creating and sustaining healthy behaviors of sleep, activity and nutrition; because peak mental performance, just like optimal physical performance, is important to the U.S. Army and our nation.

Parents and teachers can use March2Success to monitor students’ progress toward their goals, view frequency of site use, and have the option to manage their students as individuals or groups. Teachers can conveniently group students by the classes they teach, grade levels or student needs.

The U.S. Army is fully committed to strengthening the education resources for our Nation’s youth and this program is the first step.  Using March2Success requires no obligation to the U.S. Army. To start using March2Success, visit march2success.com or watch this video to learn more.


Jose A. “Tony” Castillo is Education Chief for U. S. Army Recruiting Command.  In his role he oversees several outreach initiatives and promotes Army education resources designed to help young people explore various career paths and succeed in their post-secondary future – as professionals and as citizens.

School of Excellence: Bringing the National Standards to Life

The benefits of family-school-community partnerships are many: higher teacher morale, more parent involvement, and greater student success are only a few. That is why PTA developed the National Standards for Family School Partnerships. The standards are the foundation for the National PTA School of Excellence program and are embedded into our practice. They articulate what family engagement should look like at the school level.  These standards are in use by school, PTA and community leaders nationwide as a framework for thinking about, structuring, and assessing family engagement.

Here are some actual examples of how some 2017-2019 National PTA Schools of Excellence brought the National Standards to life in their schools.

Standard 1: Welcoming All Families

  • Bob Beard Elementary PTA in TX

We have welcoming signs all over our school.  Our Festival of Nations event is a wonderful opportunity for our families to come celebrate the diverse cultures represented at our school.  Beard families provided music, games, traditional clothing, dance and food from 23 nations across the globe represented by 44 of our Beard families.  We hosted both a dance for our boys to bring their special ‘gal’ (mom, aunt, family friend) and another dance for our girls to bring their special ‘guy’.  We hosted ‘Family Movie Night’ where families brought tents, sleeping bags and chairs along with picnics to all gather around and bond while watching a movie together and then hanging out. Also, 2 Grandparents Breakfasts, College Night, Open House and Howdy Nights to just come explore and get to know each other, Pizza Nights with our WATCH D.O.G.Z. and kids, our Fear-Factor eating contest between our two administrators brought hundreds of families to come out, bond and cheer them on.  Career Day brought many family members to school to teach our students about various occupations, and Kinder Round Up brought our new little ones in with their family members to explore and meet other families.  National Walk-to-School Day was really fun as we had hundreds of moms and dads and family members all walking and biking their little ones to school that morning.  We also hosted 2 Beautification days on Saturdays that brought our family and community members out by the truckloads with their gardening and yard tools to spend time together making Beard a more beautiful place.  We are a No Place for Hate campus.

Standard 2: Communicating Effectively

  • Leroy Collins Elementary PTA in FL

We communicate in a variety of ways, allowing us to reach every family. The Principal sends out a weekly telephone call-out every Sunday evening, letting families know what is coming in the follow week. Both Collins & the PTA send out Parent Link text messages with importation information. We also utilize Peachjar to send home flyers as well as sending paper flyers home. We have websites (www.collinspta.net , collins.mysdhc.org), a PTA facebook page (CollinsElementaryPTA). When notices were sent home to families regarding the Partnership Survey, every student was sent a flyer in both English & Spanish providing them with information about the survey and a link to follow. They were also directed to our Facebook page and website where links were posted to access the surveys directly. Paper surveys were also available. Our school website has every staff member’s email address listed to contact them directly. Through various methods of communication we’ve ensured that everyone knows what’s going on at our school and exactly how they can help if they choose to. We’ve promoted volunteer opportunities on signup.com, on PTA FB page, text, emails, flyers, and in personal conversations at various events.

Standard 3: Supporting Student Success

  • Hightower Trail MIddle School PTSA in GA

Given that our main goal this year was to support the implementation of college and career-ready standards, we focused on involving students and parents in the communication and activities regarding these standards.  The PTSA worked closely with the administration and counseling department to provide several opportunities for students and parents to learn and be involved including: a parent seminar with the principal on how to read your student’s Milestone/EOG test scores, Q&A documents on understanding your student’s progress reports and test scores, Move On When Ready open houses, several coffee with the counselors sessions for parents on study skills and organization, and also our annual college and career week.  This week features a day dedicated to supporting your high school, college spirit day, dress to impress day and career look alike day. Teachers do lessons about careers and they discuss the college they attended. We also feature teachers on the morning news show. Our Career Day was highlighted on Cobb TV. We also held three STEM career events for each grade level.  Every student is also given an account for the career cruising program which is an Internet-Based Career Interest Inventory. The students choose three possible careers based on their interests. The 8th graders receive a core guidance lesson on high school, college, and careers and each student develops a four-year plan. As a result of our efforts, our ‘Always’ score went from 42% to 50% for the question on the transition to high school and increased from 38% to 47% on the question regarding sharing information on student achievement data.

Standard 4: Speaking Up for Every Child

  • Casey Elementary PTA in MS

While our state legislatures convened, we supplied parents with links and bills as they pertained to education in MS. We supplied names and phone numbers of the House and Senate members so they could contact them to express their opinions of the bills that were on the floor. We also participated in PTA day at the Capital.  Parents were invited each month for all PTA board meeting to express ideas or concerns within the school so we could in turn work with the principal to improve our success rate. It was with these efforts and working with the community volunteers that our 3rd grade class passed state testing at 100%!

Standard 5: Sharing Power

  • Allen Elementary School PTA in TN

We encouraged participation and represented our PTA/school during the district’s Superintendent search.  Our PTA was represented at every Superintendent Parent Advisory Board meeting, stake holders meeting, public meet-and-greet, and Board of Education meeting.  We provided parents with pertinent information regarding every candidate (access to resume, interview summaries, etc).  We encouraged our parents and community to reach out to our school board leaders via phone/email with their superintendent choice.Collaborating with the community – We have worked hard this year to partner with our community to achieve student success.  Registration Day Ice Cream Social:  Prior to the first day of school, PTA invited families to join us for an ice cream social to learn more about PTA and local organizations that benefit our students.  During the ice cream social, PTA hosted local organizations allowing parents to network with PTA Board Members, administration, teachers, support staff, and local organizations.

Standard 6: Collaborating with Community

  • Westerly PTA in OH

Through the Cyber bullying program all students in both grades (3rd and 4th) at Westerly took part in classroom cyber awareness lessons and anti-bully prevention activities during their scheduled library time. Through these activities, the focus was to give all students guidance and ability to understand and prevent them from being victims. This collaborative approach with Mrs. Basel (School Counselor) and Miss Harris (School Librarian), Mr. Reynolds (Technology Director) and Detective Krolkosky (BVPD Detective) educated children about the basics of going online, and  helped them become safe, responsible and respectful digital citizens.

To learn more about how your PTA can bring the National Standards to life and earn a National PTA School of Excellence designation, visit PTA.org/Excellence or email Excellence@PTA.org.

 


Amy Weinberg is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships 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.

 

What Do Successful Schools Look Like?

As a parent, I have a good idea of how my child’s school is working for her. I talk to her and her friends about what is going on there. I see the work that she is doing. I communicate with her teachers and other school staff.

But while I know that my daughter is at a school that’s good for her, it’s harder to figure out whether it’s a successful school overall. Is her school helping each of its students reach their fullest potential? What does such a school look like?

The Learning First Alliance, which includes organizations like National PTA and whose members collectively represent more than 10 million educators, parents and local policymakers, have pulled together to research and answer that question.

The result of that effort is “The Elements of Success: 10 Million Speak on Schools That Work,” an anthology that identifies six elements that are common to all successful schools. It also makes clear that there is no one model for a successful school—in each success story, educators, parents and local communities have developed programs specific to their goals and challenges, within their communities’ setting.

While all successful schools share the six elements, how they are implemented and integrated depends greatly on context. The elements are:

  • Focus on the Total Child: Successful schools support all students’ needs—inside and outside the classroom—to help them become effective, empowered learners. They design and carry out programs that offer all students a rich educational experience, supporting their academic and social/emotional learning and physical development.
  • Commitment to Equity and Access: Successful schools ensure all students have access to high-quality services and support systems, enabling them to set and reach high goals for learning. In them, equity does not mean equality; they recognize some students need additional resources to have the same opportunity for success as others. They also recognize diversity is a strength.
  • Family and Community Engagement: Successful schools effectively engage families and communities in support of students. In doing so, they identify barriers to such engagement and work to overcome them.
  • Distributed Leadership: Successful schools define leadership broadly. Leadership is distributed among principals, teachers, parents, community members and others in the building, and decision-making is a shared endeavor.
  • Strong, Supported Teaching Force and Staff: Successful schools are staffed with educators—including teachers, principals, school counselors, technology specialists and others—who are well-educated, well-prepared and well-supported. These educators meet high standards of practice, and they benefit from continuous learning opportunities.
  • Relationship-Oriented School Climate: Successful schools create a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility among staff and students and with families and communities. These schools are safe, welcoming and respectful to all.

These elements are all widely known. But two things make this collection of research unique. One is consensus. “The Elements of Success: 10 Million Speak on Schools That Work” does not reflect the expertise of one individual or one organization. It reflects the collective wisdom of all the various public-school interest groups—parents, teachers, administrators and more. Together, they agree these are the elements needed for a school to perform at a high level.

The second is the emphasis on interactions. A school with good teachers and poor leadership won’t be successful. Nor will a school with strong leadership and teachers that focuses solely on test scores. The interaction between all six of these elements is critical.

So how can parents and PTAs use this information? One idea is to use this research as a conversation starter. Bring parents, teachers, administrators and others in the school community together to honestly assess where you are in terms of each of these six elements. Identify your strengths and where additional support is needed. Then work together to make sure your school is meeting the needs of every child who attends.

The report and supporting materials are available at LearningFirst.org/ElementsOfSuccess.

Anne O’Brien is Deputy Director at the Learning First Alliance.