An Inside Look at National PTA’s New Digital Safety Initiative

Last week, I visited Texas to help Chapel Hill Preparatory School in Dallas host the first Be Internet Awesome Family Workshop. I’m a new staff member at National PTA, so this was my first opportunity to see PTA members in action. My first impression? PTA parents are dedicated! These parents came ready to be vulnerable—no small feat with the amount of parent-shaming that goes on today—and talk openly about tough parenting issues, provide support for one another and create solutions together.

Families began to trickle in for dinner before the workshop started, allowing people to eat, relax and meet one another. With every activity, parents became more comfortable with each other, letting down their guard to voice their concerns about password security and how to keep their kids safe online. Soraya Gollop, the community liaison for Chapel Hill Prep was elated their PTA was able to put on this event, saying, “Our parents found it really helpful because this is an issue which concerns them. This is a program well worth running.”

What does it take to host an event like the Be Internet Awesome Workshop? Well, National PTA and Google will provide you with all the resources you need to host a successful event. You can visit PTA.org/Connected to find flyers, volunteer forms, an event planning checklist, email templates, sample agendas, evaluation forms and more materials you can use to plan, promote and host the workshop. Our community liaison in Texas noted she, “appreciated the amount of support materials and how clear it was what you needed to do in order to put the workshop on. The results were really fantastic.”

At the close of the event, Chapel Hill’s cafeteria was buzzing with parents continuing conversations on digital safety. Parents were excited and ready to incorporate what they learned with their families.

While we at National PTA have been thrilled with the feedback from the first Be Internet Awesome workshops, we want to make sure we are meeting the needs and learning styles of all families, so we are also working on another event model—our Digital Families Community Events.

During these events, families work together at station-based activity sessions that present real-world scenarios that happen in the connected world. They discuss the best ways to react, who to reach out to for help and how to plan for similar situations before they happen.  Like the workshops, National PTA and Facebook have created easy-to-use materials to assist any PTA with hosting their own event, from start to finish.

These guided conversations give families another way to connect with one another about their lives online, in a positive environment. During the first Digital Families Community Event, a parent attendee commented, “I’m happy to see the things my kids already know. I never would have guessed that they knew to ask permission before posting information online about other people.” It’s that kind of enlightenment and togetherness that makes a hosting digital safety events so vital.

If you are interested in bringing one of these events to your PTA community, make sure to apply for a grant today. Applications can be completed at PTA.org/Grants.

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!

Celebrate Global Handwashing Day, October 15, 2018!

October 15, 2018, marks the 11th annual Global Handwashing Day. This observance increases awareness and understanding of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent disease around the world.

Handwashing is simple, inexpensive, and can dramatically reduce the number of young children who get sick. Educating students on the importance of handwashing with soap and key times for when and how to wash hands properly is essential to preventing diseases like cold and flu. Together, parents, teachers, and school administrators have the power to create a culture of handwashing in schools that can help improve attendance by keeping everyone healthy.

Here are some easy ways your school can participate in this year’s campaign:

1)      Join the CDC social media campaign – Post a photo of yourself or others showing your clean hands using the hashtag #HandwashingHeroes. Check out the campaign webpage for more details.

2)      Tune in to CDC’s Facebook Live – CDC will host a Facebook Live presentation on Global Handwashing Day at 11 a.m. EDT. During this presentation, a CDC expert will talk about the importance of handwashing and give a live handwashing demonstration on how to properly wash hands with soap and water.

3)      Order free posters Remind school children to fight off germs by washing their hands. Display the posters in highly visible public areas, such as schools bathrooms, work areas, and restrooms.

4)      Promote on social media – Visit the social media library to share some of our sample social media messages and use the #GlobalHandwashingDay hashtag to help promote the observance day. You can also create your own messages.

5)      Use web content syndication – Add the latest content from CDC’s Handwashing website to your organization’s website. The content is automatically updated when CDC updates it, so your content will always be current and accurate.

6)      Share Health Promotion Resources

ü  CDC Wash Your Hands Feature

ü  Buttons and badges

ü  Posters

ü  Fact Sheets

ü  Podcasts

Visit CDC’s webpage on Global Handwashing Day more information. Thanks for your support in helping to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing!

 

 

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.

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!

Schools Honored For Excellence in Community Engagement and Growth

Through the National PTA School of Excellence program, PTAs examine how their school communities feel the school measures up to the research-based indicators of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. PTAs and schools then work together to address areas for growth and create new ways for families to support student success. The National PTA School of Excellence designation is awarded when a PTA and school have achieved an exhibited and high level of family-school partnerships.

National PTA is pleased to recognize a record number of local PTAs across the nation who have earned the 2-year designation. This August, 279 schools have been announced as 2018-2019 National PTA Schools of Excellence for their leadership and accomplishments in building strong, effective family-school partnerships!

Check out how these PTAs made a tremendous impact on continuous school improvement through the School of Excellence program. Enroll your PTA in the 2018-19 School of Excellence program now thru October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.

Barnard Asian Pacific Language Academy – CA

Barnard PTA in California chose to focus on improving education by growing family participation in advocacy for the 2017-18 school year by creating an environment in which parents felt welcome, engaged and involved with the school. Throughout the school year, the PTA hosted many community events to engage families in a variety of social, academic and community-building activities; all of which were free to parents and students.

Beaverdam Elementary– VA

To support student success and keep parents informed about what their students were learning, Beaverdam Elementary School PTA  in Virginia took on the task of implementing a school/PTA newsletter.  Every quarter, teachers, administration, and the PTA submitted articles to inform parents about what their students were learning and what they could expect in the coming months.  The newsletter also includes the school’s progress, programs, and upcoming events.  In addition, the Beaverdam PTA recorded a talent show and posted videos on Facebook, which not only showed off the school and student talent, but it allowed Beaverdam’s community of working parents who could not attend during the day to see the performance and share this experience with other family members and friends!

Glendale Elementary– FL

The resources provided through the School of Excellence program paved the way for Glendale Elementary PTA in Florida for better communication with ALL families and uniting the PTA and school with one cohesive mission in making the culture and climate welcoming for all families. Glendale Elementary PTA and school created multi-language informational signs for all entrances and ensured that every communication was provided broadly and in multiple languages. Through the school year, Glendale PTA expanded their outreach and exposure anytime there was a school event providing the school, parents, and students with timely information. As a result, event attendance and participation was at an all-time high.

Rabbit Creek Elementary– AK

In Alaska, the Rabbit Creek Elementary PTA, in partnership with the school’s art teacher, helped to support the arts by displaying student art work to brighten up common spaces such as the front office and the library. The PTA also supported the music teacher in her production of the 4th grade play by funding new microphone headsets, set decorations and props needed to make the play a success. After being dormant, the PTA helped resurrect the Rabbit Creek Reflections program A parent, who happens to be local artist, spent a great deal of time coaching kids and encouraging them to let their creativity shine.

Canyon Rim Elementary – AZ

Canyon Rim Elementary PTA in Arizona emphasized welcoming diverse families into their school by designing a welcome sign in 18 languages which received positive feedback. One of the school’s moms, who is from Ukraine, said she felt more welcome when she when she stopped by the school every morning. The cafeteria manager, a native German-speaker, also expressed her appreciation to the Canyon Rim Elementary PTA.

These are just some examples of how PTAs can make long-lasting and positive changes. Congratulations to all of our 279 2018-2020 School of Excellence designees. Interested in becoming a National PTA School of Excellence? Learn more and enroll thru Oct. 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.


Amy Weinberg is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.

How Families Can Drive Social and Emotional Learning

Think back to the many wonderful moments of summer break as a child. Having the freedom to play, lead, think, and simply exist in your own unique way, testing your limits and sharing your imagination and ideas without the filters and regulations of the academic environment.

Now, imagine losing all of that in an instant. All of the joy. All of the freedom. All the imagination. That can be what it’s like for youth to begin the school year and shift into an environment where their social and emotional well-being is not adequately encouraged or supported.

As an active parent in the educational system for nearly two decades, I have witnessed firsthand how competing pressures on schools and educators have drawn attention away from students’ individual abilities, needs, strengths, and circumstances. It seems that the learning environment has become less focused on each student’s success and personal growth.

The time has come to place social and emotional learning back at the forefront in our schools – and it is now more important than ever.  Families, schools, and communities working together are the key to making social and emotional learning and development in school the norm for every child. That’s the central message of the Family Call to Action from the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. Developed by parents, for parents, the Call to Action lays out what we need from our schools – and each other:

We Need Our Schools to Know and Teach the Whole Student

Schools need to move away from one-size-fits-all policies to better meet the needs of each and every student.  When a student’s comprehensive development is fully supported, they are free to build critical life skills such as responsibility, respect, teamwork, self-control, and strength in the face of adversity. They are better able to overcome intellectual and personal challenges they may face in life.

We Need to Be Partners in Our Children’s Learning

Students need to see that their families are involved and invested in their educational well-being in positive ways. This includes attending meetings, conferences, after-school activities, and supporting homework and outside enrichment opportunities. It also means engaging directly with your child about whether their social, emotional, and academic needs are being met.

Be relentless in challenging policies that stifle personal growth and well-being. Collaborate with teachers, administrative staff, and district leaders to ensure that programs and policies are tailored to  individual social and emotional needs. Demand that school leaders communicate clearly and often.

We Need a Whole Community Approach

Extend your efforts beyond the school walls and into the community. Families, local businesses, and community organizations all have a role to play in educating our children. Programs such as mentoring, career shadowing and internship opportunities, and after-school tutoring services are essential to a complete education.

We Need Schools to Integrate Social, Emotional, and Academic Growth into the School Culture and Climate

Social and emotional development takes place all day, not during a 30-minute lesson. Encourage leaders in your school to shift resources that are being used inefficiently to instead support a whole student approach to learning.

We Need to Support Adults Who Support Our Children

The teachers and staff who educate our children are essential, and they need our support. Educators need ongoing professional development and mental health support to be as effective as they can be. Parents and families should have access to learning opportunities as well.

Make Your Voice Heard! 

Sign the National Commission’s Family Call to Action to urge schools to support students’ comprehensive development, then share the sign-on message with families in your community.

Together, we can give future generations of students a solid foundation and the opportunity to practice vital skills every day to develop the self-confidence, compassion, and critical thinking needed to become the model citizens and leaders that they desire to be.


Makeba Giles is the mother of four children who attend public schools and a founding writer of FaithHealthHome.com, an online magazine featuring health, family, and current events for the positive lifestyle. She is a member of the Parent Advisory Panel for the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

Go Back to School Thinking About Your End Game

It begins again! When’s the first PTA meeting? When is Open House? Do we have enough volunteers? Where’s the budget? Who has the membership forms? It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of preparing PTA for a new school year. Want some advice? Think about the “end game” to help you focus on what matters. It’s so much easier to get to where you want to go if you know where you want to end up!

How many young people will your PTA touch this year? How many will decide to be a writer because of the PTA assembly, shine in a PTA Reflections program, get active in a PTA fun run, or have their futures open wide during a STEM night? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, will your PTA be able to say it positively influenced the lives of 100% of the children in your community? Think about the excitement your PTA can generate as you work toward that goal and think about how great it will feel to achieve it.

How many families will your PTA benefit this year? How many adults will get involved in their child’s education, have fun as a family, advocate on behalf of a child, or create a healthier, safer home environment because PTA provided the opportunity and resources? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t you love to report that your PTA made a positive difference in the lives of 100% of the families of your community? Think about the partners and members you can attract as you work toward that goal and how amazing it will feel to have that type of impact on children and families.

How many community members will your PTA influence this year? What services and programs can be made available through partnerships, how many non-parent adults will be become school supporters, how many resources can become available to families, children and schools because of the relationships your PTA builds? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t it be deeply satisfying to report your PTA’s role in improving your community and increasing the support it provides to children, families and schools?

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that movement as a member, volunteer or leader? PTA is out to change the world. How will your PTA take us all one step closer to our end game?


Deborah Walsh is the National Service Representative Manager for National PTA.

Cobb Middle School – Rise to Excellence Celebration

 

Cobb Middle School PTA in Frisco, Texas had a great deal to celebrate at their Rise to Excellence event as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence and the 2017 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner. Cobb Middle School is the first school in Frisco ISD to receive the School of Excellence designation and the first school in Texas to receive the Hearst Award, National PTA’s highest honor for effective family engagement. Filling the auditorium in attendance at the celebration event were Cobb Middle School students, staff, administration, the PTA Board of Trustees and past PTA presidents, Texas and National PTA, Deputy Superintendents, the Mayor and his wife. Student performances from band, choir, theater and cheer groups adorned speeches from students in Teen Leadership, administration and PTA leaders.

In his speech, a Cobb Middle School 8th grader, James Kair, extended gratitude to the PTA saying, “They are the people who make Cobb stronger compared to other middle schools. What we have here at Cobb is special. We reflect back what the parents and teachers show us. This is not the case at all middle schools. We take it for granted because we’ve all been so fortunate our whole time here to have such amazing, amazing people running our school…it’s those selfless parents who volunteered their time to make our experience better.” James went on to explain that receiving the award was an enormous honor and show of support stating, “This is a big deal. This is what it’s liked to be loved. This is what it’s like to be cared for. Not many people can say that they have that. Life is a mountain. Taking a tumble down a mountain is not nearly as bad when you have someone behind you picking you up.” Cobb Middle School Principal, Kecia Theodore, started and ended her speech with cheer and applause. The excitement was palpable. She recognized everyone in the room for their efforts in enabling students to thrive. In her words, “PTA is awesome. PTA here at Cobb is woven into the fabric of who we are. I cannot imagine having a day here at school we do not have PTA here to support us. Students, please know this is a special day for us so today, we stand a little taller, we smile a little wider. This is a time to show your pride.”

Heather Ashwell-Hair, Vice President of Leadership at Texas PTA, broke down the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the process of becoming a nationally-recognized School of Excellence and how Cobb Middle was the top-ranked, #1 School of Excellence to earn the Phoebe Apperson Hearst award saying, “I know how much of a team effort this was.” She went on to  explain that only 143 PTAs were recognized as 2017-2019 National PTA Schools of Excellence and that Texas recognized 18 of these PTAs. Leslie Boggs, National PTA President-Elect, shared the legacy of National PTA’s co-founders, Alice Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst over 121 years ago. She described the Cobb students as fantastic and special, and asked them to bring their voices to make positive change.

Melinda Samberson, PTA President of Frisco ISD PTAs, Immediate Past President and 2016-17 School of Excellence Program Leader at Cobb, spoke about her personal involvement in the school, having three children that span 8 years at Cobb. Regarding the School of Excellence, Melinda said, “The great thing about this award and honor is that it wasn’t just me, or the PTA, or the teachers, or the principal or the families or the students, but It was a unified effort to make Cobb Middle School better; A true family-school partnership. And because of the collaboration, it wasn’t just the PTA or the school that benefitted, but the students and families and the entirety of this campus. This award sparked interest …as we all strive for excellence, our community wins.” In her role as Council President and with 10 years of PTA experience, Melinda is now working to make Frisco ISD Council’s vision come to fruition, to make all schools better, saying, “We can do this together as a team and the students will benefit. That is the power and value of PTA.”

It is clear that Cobb Middle School PTA is incredibly honorable and remarkable, working collaboratively with the administration, teachers and staff to make their school a true School of Excellence. To learn more about Cobb Middle School PTA’s journey to become the 2017 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner visit PTA.org/Hearst. To learn more about how your PTA can become key partners in continuous school improvement and to enroll in the School of Excellence program visit PTA.org/Excellence or email Excellence@PTA.org.

 


Amy Weinberg is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.