Supporting Arts Education through PTA’s School of Excellence Program

National PTA believes that all students deserve the opportunity to take part in high-quality arts programming. Through the National PTA School of Excellence program, PTAs can support this effort by making a commitment to enhancing and improving arts education access and programming in their school and community.

National PTA’s Schools of Excellence have a history supporting the arts in their school communities, with the 2022-2024 Schools of Excellence making their own mark on this important work.

Eden Gardens Magnet Elementary, Louisiana

Using the School of Excellence program to identify opportunities for continued development, the Eden Gardens PTA School of Excellence Team focused their Excellence Action plan on ways to reignite the National PTA’s Reflections program in their school, driving inclusivity in arts education and supporting student talent. With a new focus on improved program promotion, the PTA used various communication methods, including social media, newsletters, and flyers, to promote the program.

Standing out as best practice in their work, Eden Gardens PTA focused on an alignment between Reflections and an existing student leadership development program to gain school support. Recognizing implicit connections between the programs, the Excellence Team used their improved communication strategies to explain the common goal of helping students and families achieve student success in all areas of their lives.

The PTA used Reflections to elevate the creativity of Eden Gardens students, celebrating and recognizing their artistic talent. This gave students positive reinforcement that their artistic talents are essential to their growth and development into future leaders.

Eden Gardens PTA hopes to continue intertwining Reflections into the school’s academic programming and noted that the School of Excellence program offered a great a way to structure and advance the PTA’s goal of recognizing student creativity as one of their many strengths.

Bransford Elementary School PTA, Texas

To advance and support the arts in their community, Bransford Elementary PTA focused on enhancing family-driven arts programing and opportunities for students in every grade level. By supporting campus-wide arts initiatives, the Bransford Elementary PTA efforts would reach as many students as possible.

Bransford Elementary PTA’s Reflections program was highly successful and had a wide reach in their community. The PTA received 15 Reflections submissions, seven of which were recognized at the district level, and three went to the state competition! From across the district, their elementary campus had the most submissions recognized at the state-level showcase. The PTA also supported school-based arts programming, like the Orff Ensemble, which went on to be one of only two elementary schools to perform at the state-level music convention.

Additionally, Bransford Elementary PTA supported the schoolwide musical, with the Excellence Team pointing to the musical as part of their arts integration programming. The musical, which was open to every child, boasted 182 participants, which is nearly half of their student population. With so many ways to be involved in the musical, the PTA encouraged family engagement. From building sets, sewing costumes, volunteering time or donating financial resources, the musical programming brought together families who were all willing to contribute towards building students’ artistic success.

Recognizing the impact their focus on arts integration has had on family engagement and student success, the PTA intends to continue their work on promoting and supporting the arts, utilizing the $48,000 they raise through fundraisers to continue arts integration into the school’s curriculum. Ultimately, Bransford Elementary PTA is confident that their investment in enhancing and funding the arts will serve to build even more comprehensive arts programs for the students in their community.

Desert Willow Elementary School, Arizona

The Desert Willow Elementary PTA collaborated closely with their administrator to support and enhance the arts through the PTA Reflections program. Along with hosting and promoting Reflections, the PTA coordinated supporting events and opportunities that further integrated the arts into their school and larger community.

The PTA worked with teachers to encourage their inclusion of Reflections art projects in their classrooms that focused on the program theme “Show Your Voice!” This increased student participation in Reflections. By making Reflections and the arts part of everyday school life, the PTA ensured that all students had the resources and time to create art and, most importantly, have their creations celebrated and exhibited through their PTA Reflections Night Celebration. 

The Reflections Celebration had further benefits of enhancing the PTA’s community partnerships and relationships. The event was highly musical, with performances from a local high school jazz band and a local symphony. The most highly praised musical component was a “musical instrument petting zoo” where a locally owned music store allowed students to try out different instruments. The “petting zoo” had a line from the beginning to the end of the event!

The celebration also fostered family engagement with an emphasis on bringing the arts to school and back home. Through a collaborative art project, students and families created a peace sign display that hung in the school cafeteria for many weeks as a reminder of the event and its impact on the community. To further the family engagement at home, students were given art kits that included supplies for additional art projects, as well as a musical shaker to experiment with rhythm and music.

By the end of the school year, Desert Willow Elementary PTA saw an increase in positive responses to the School of Excellence program survey, and they credit the outcomes to their highly impactful arts programming. The results highlighted how the arts integration programming increased the PTA’s role as a central figure in their community and as a partner to local community groups and businesses. The PTA emphasized this greater sense of community as one of the most valuable takeaways and plans to continue their focus on the arts.

Moving forward, the PTA intends to explore ways to solve transportation issues for after school music clubs, continue with the Reflections program for a second year, fix the school’s broken kiln and look into scholarships for after school drama and art programs.

Advancing in the Arts in Your Community

These spotlights are only a fraction of the immense work accomplished by Schools of Excellence and their investment in the arts. If you’re interested in advancing the arts in your community, check out all the available resources from National PTA at PTA.org/ArtsEd. Then, take it up a notch by getting your own PTA involved with the School of Excellence program! You can use your ideas and passion for the arts, as well as National PTA programs like PTA Reflections, to achieve the designation and gain recognition for the work your PTA does to bring the arts to your school! Local PTAs can enroll at PTA.org/Excellence until October 15.

Clermont PTA: A Journey to Excellence

Clermont Elementary School PTA’s School of Excellence Celebration was a perfect example of a party at an elementary school—filled with the joyful laughter of children and based on values that bring communities together. I had the pleasure of attending the event, and it was wonderful to see firsthand exactly why they deserved to be designated a 2019-2021 National PTA School of Excellence.

The National PTA School of Excellence designation is awarded to PTAs that commit to and prove success in building effective family-school partnerships at their school. Clermont Elementary School PTA is one of just 326 PTAs nationwide to earn the two-year 2019-2021 National PTA School of Excellence designation—and one of only 19 PTAs to earn the designation in the state of Virginia!

How does the School of Excellence program work?

PTAs make a commitment by enrolling in the program and worked throughout the school year last year to make gains.

They start by surveying their school community members and, with their feedback, work for months to create and implement an action plan for improved programs, policies and procedures.

At the end of the school year, they survey their stakeholders again to see if they made progress and then provide a final application with a narrative outlining what they did and why you all deserve to be recognized.

So, what did Clermont Elementary School PTA to earn the designation?

To engage and inform the “Clermont community,” Clermont Elementary School PTA started using a variety of new-to-them methods—Facebook, Twitter and weekly PTA newsletters—to better communicate with families. Two-way communication, including inviting their families to participate in meetings, was also used to ensure that the parent voice was active in discussions with district administrators in the selection of and priorities for their new principal. All of that hard work certainly paid off. In their end-of-year survey, Clermont Elementary School PTA showed a 20% improvement in Communicating Effectively!

But that’s not all! The PTA also wanted to improve the sense of community and family-school partnership at Clermont Elementary. So, they hosted a Veteran’s Day program in collaboration with school board members, state delegates and community leaders. Active military and veterans visited classrooms and set up stations for students to visit with the goal to bring families closer together, share stories about what it is like to serve in the military and show just how many veterans there are in their community.

Are you ready to start your journey to excellence? You can learn more about the School of Excellence program by visiting PTA.org/Excellence and you can enroll starting May 1.

Amy Weinberg is a Manager of Programs & Partnerships for National PTA.

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. 

100 Black Men of America Annual Conference: Ensuring Excellence for African-American Youth

National PTA President Otha Thornton poses with Michael J. Brown, president of 100 Black Men of America, Inc., and Curley M. Dossman, Jr., chairman of the Board for 100 Black Men of America, Inc.

National PTA President Otha Thornton poses with Michael J. Brown, president of 100 Black Men of America, Inc., and Curley M. Dossman, Jr., chairman of the Board for 100 Black Men of America, Inc.

I recently had the honor of participating in 100 Black Men of America, Inc.’s 28th Annual Conference in Florida. The focus of the event was Education in an Era of Change, Ensuring Excellence for African-American Youth. The conference brought together leaders from across the country from government, education, health and wellness, civic, and entertainment industries for empowerment and enrichment, to share best practices, and discuss issues facing youth, their families and the communities in which they live.

100 Black Men of America, Inc. is a volunteer organization of approximately 10,000 members and partners dedicated to making a difference in the lives of youth, improving our nation’s communities, and enhancing educational and economic opportunities for all African-Americans. The organization meets a crucial need by impacting underserved youth through mentoring, education and empowerment.

As part of the conference, a black-tie gala was held during which a number of awards were presented. I am honored to have been recognized with the 2014 Chairman’s Award for Parent Engagement. The award truly is a testament to our association and the efforts and dedication of all of our members to increase and strengthen family engagement in education and make a difference for the lives and futures of every child. In addition to the gala, I also participated in a panel discussion during the conference.

For more information about 100 Black Men of America, visit www.100blackmen.org.


Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.

What Makes a Strong Family Engagement Policy?

Ensuring that every child can reach their full potential means investing in meaningful, inclusive and culturally competent family-school partnerships. By prioritizing policies that uplift the priorities outlined in the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, PTAs can advance transformative family engagement in their local community and beyond.

What makes family engagement policy meaningful, inclusive and culturally competent? Here are some key characteristics of a strong family engagement policy. 

Model family engagement policies are inclusive of diverse cultural and linguistic practices.

Supporting the success of all students means cultivating meaningful family-school partnerships with families from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

For example, in Washington, state legislation implemented language access programs in schools so that family engagement resources could be accessible in diverse languages. The commitment to providing inclusive and culturally responsive resources to families in Washington’s statewide policy allows for language barriers to be broken down and increases the capacity for every child to reach their fullest potential.

Model family engagement policies are rooted in evidence-based family engagement research.

Referencing research-based statistics that demonstrate how family engagement practices support the wellbeing of the whole child showcases the validity of family engagement in practice.

The same Washington state legislation provides a powerful basis for policy implementation by referencing how family engagement has been shown to have positive impacts for children: “50 years of research has shown that family engagement has beneficial impacts on student grades, test scores, drop-out rates, students’ sense of competence and beliefs about the importance of education” (Orwall et al., 2021).

Model family engagement policies facilitate active collaboration between families, schools and community leaders in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of family engagement policy.

When school district leaders make important decisions regarding children’s education, families must have a seat at the table. Inclusive approaches to decision-making cultivate a community where all individuals are valued, seen and actively heard.

In Michigan, statewide policy through executive order established a Michigan Parent Council to empower parents from diverse backgrounds across the state to make education and budget policy recommendations to legislators.

Model family engagement policies provide opportunities for families to become leaders in their communities through engagement opportunities at school.

Quality family engagement invests in developing the leadership skills of families so that they can empower their children to do great work.

In Florida, state legislation called the Family and School Partnership for Student Achievement Act directs school districts statewide to provide parents with detailed information regarding their child’s educational opportunities. Through streamlined and effective communication practices between parents and families regarding children’s rigorous academic opportunities, scholarships, test accommodations and course of study choices, Florida is working to support student success by building meaningful family-school partnerships.

Why does this all matter?

Only when all families are respected, included, and given opportunities to shape their children’s education, can we ensure that all children can meet their full potential. PTAs can help break down educational barriers by advocating for policies that support culturally responsive, two-way communication and opportunities for underrepresented communities to share in decision-making and co-creating solutions.

As a member of PTA, you can help by…

  • Learning about the updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships that will roll out in the fall
  • Encouraging parents in your community to run for a seat on their local family engagement council
  • Enrolling in the National PTA’s School of Excellence Program to strengthen family-school partnerships at your school
  • Scheduling meetings with your school district staff and board of education to share with them the importance of meaningful family engagement

About the Author

Lauren Manning is a senior at Gettsyburg College and was Summer 2022 intern at PTA through the Eisenhower Institute Public Policy Fellowship

Membership Matters: The Annual Report

Ending the year right is as important as getting it started right. One important and valuable step for wrapping up your PTA year is putting together and offering your members some type of Annual Report. This is an end-of-the-year report that sums up all of the great work your PTA has done and is a powerful resource to inspire support for your association.

Among other things, the Annual Report allows:

  • Everyone recruiting members to easily show what your PTA has done and what their membership will support.
  • Everyone who is or has been a member to see what their membership helped to support.
  • Everyone in your community to see what your PTA accomplished.
  • Your PTA to show appreciation for everyone who supported your initiatives with their attendance, volunteer work, support or sponsorships.
  • Your school to show how family engagement contributed to making a difference in your school community.

Putting an Annual Report together is not difficult. You may want to include the following:

  • The total number of members for the year.
  • The PTA mission-related activities/initiatives organized or sponsored by your PTA to support the students, the teachers, the families and/or the community—every group impacted by your work. List all your PTA did throughout the year:
    • to welcome all families
    • to promote two-way meaningful communication
    • to empower families to support their children’s academic achievement
    • to empower families to secure their child’s safety, well-being and best learning, social and emotional opportunities
    • to work alongside your school leaders to secure public funding and resources that support the best learning conditions in your school or community
    • to work collaboratively with the business, faith-based organizations and various other communities your school is part of?
  • A list of all activities organized or sponsored by your PTA that raised funds to support the mission-related activities or initiatives
  • A thank you section with:
    • A list of all volunteers who helped to make possible all activities or initiatives of the PTA.
    • A list of businesses, individuals and/or organizations who supported the work of your PTA.
  • Other special accomplishments of your PTA.

Your annual report document doesn’t need to be wordy. Just a reflection of all the work that you did. I’ve seen annual reports in the form of a written document. I’ve seen annual reports in the form of fun videos with pictures of all the activities the PTA organized throughout the year. Because of this exercise, you may discover your PTA is already doing the work of a National PTA School of Excellence and would only need to register and complete the application process to be recognized.

Distributing your Annual Report via a short message with an attachment or a link to a simple PDF or video shared via social media channels or text is also a great way to inspire your members to renew their membership and to continue to support PTA. We can’t wait to see your annual reports!

Need some help? Check out these resources:

Thank you so much for all you do to advance the PTA mission for all children.


Ivelisse Castro is a national service representative for National PTA.

Support the Arts at #PTACon18

This year at our 2018 Convention & Expo, National PTA has made a commitment to the arts by supporting New Orleans-based nonprofit KID smART in their work to engage children in dynamic, creative and rigorous learning through the arts.

KID smART was created in 1999 in response to the decreasing availability of arts education in local public schools with the vision to empower all children to unlock their full academic, creative and personal potential. Their current focus is arts integration—linking instruction in the arts with instruction in the academic curriculum to increase students’ academic achievement, build their critical thinking skills, foster creativity and imagination and enhance their social and emotional growth.

In a KID smART classroom, students might learn the water cycle through dance, understand fractions by mixing paint colors or explore complex vocabulary words through pantomime. The learning is rigorous and dynamic; it is designed to engage students with a variety of learning styles and abilities so that all may excel.

KID smART is supporting arts education in the New Orleans area by:

  • Partnering with K–8 public schools to embed professional teaching artists in classrooms
  • Increasing the capacity of teachers and professional teaching artists to deliver arts-integrated instruction that meets next-generation academic standards
  • Creating and demonstrating models of excellence in arts-integrated instruction
  • Providing arts enrichment in after-school and community-based programs
  • Working alongside others to advocate for the arts and broaden the conversation around the definition of student achievement.

As you can imagine, serving over 3,000 students and 800 teachers annually with a limited budget, KID smART is in need of art supplies. This is where you come in! Please consider donating art supplies either online or in person at the 2018 National PTA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, where KID smART will be showcasing Louisiana mask-making traditions through a fun, hands-on mask-making activity. Drop by during PTA Palooza on Saturday, June 23 from 10:15 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To learn more about KID smART, please visit KIDsmart.org. To donate art supplies online, check out KID smART’s Amazon Wish List. Thank you for your support in giving back to this wonderful organization.


Amy Weinberg is the manager of programs and partnerships for National PTA.

Parent-Teacher Partnership Results in Trip to the White House

STEm-NSF“There are so many great teachers out there that need to be recognized,” says former local Virginia PTA president Christie Olsen. A few years ago, Christie took her own advice and nominated her twin daughters’ teacher, Stephanie Chlebus, for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Stephanie went on to become the 2012 PAEMST awardee for mathematics in Virginia, for which she received a certificate signed by the President, a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a trip for two to Washington, D.C., where she met President Obama.

“Stephanie is unique as a teacher, in that she makes every single one of her students feel like they are just as good as the next student in mathematics,” explains Christie, who was able to see this first hand with her daughters. “She’s always willing to provide more challenges for students that are excelling, while using her talents to find innovative ways to teach the kids that might not be getting it.”

Building Partnerships and Keeping Communication Open

As we all know, the relationship between parent and teacher is an important one. Christie nominated her daughters’ teacher, Stephanie, for the PAEMST award because she had built a partnership with her. To do this, according to Christie, there must be trust between all parties that everyone (parent, teacher, administrator, etc.) is acting in the best interest of the child. Once that is established, open communication is the best way to build the parent-teacher partnership. “One party can’t shut out the other. It just won’t work,” Christie advises.

On the other end, as the teacher, Stephanie has instituted several initiatives to foster collaboration between herself and the parents of her students. She emails parents every week to give them an idea of the objectives and content that will be taught in the upcoming days. This enables parents to have deeper conversations with their children about what’s going on in the classroom and what they’re learning each day. She also engages parents and families with several events, such as family math game night and parent Academy night.

What’s Stephanie’s advice for parents who are thinking about getting more involved in the PTA or volunteering in their child’s classroom? “Do it!” She stresses, though, to remember that every teacher is different. While some teachers may be dying for volunteers, other teachers may not be comfortable (or are not allowed) to have parent volunteers in the classroom. She suggests you offer your help and give the teacher the opportunity to tell you what they need. Like Christie, she stresses the importance of open communication.

Stephanie also points out that without the support of the PTA at her school, she wouldn’t have been able to put on the events that families love. “A strong PTA that supports its teachers, results in teachers who can run more initiatives to help its students,” she adds.

Recognizing Teachers for Outstanding Work

The importance of being nominated for PAEMST by a parent was not lost on Stephanie. “I know my colleagues see me working day in and day out to make learning relevant to students, but to have that come across to a parent through her children’s love and desire for math meant the world to me,” she shares. “Having a parent nominate me for PAEMST was the biggest compliment I can receive as a teacher.”

Both Stephanie and Christie note that parents can be involved in recognizing great teachers. Stephanie says that several parents pulled together student quotes for her PAEMST application, which helped give her application a personal touch. Christie suggests nominating the exceptional teachers in your school for awards like PAEMST.

“Any way you can recognize a great teacher for being great, or motivate them to keep doing a great job, is essential. It’s a great loss when outstanding teachers get disillusioned and leave the profession. Even if they don’t apply, and it’s just a nomination, you are still recognizing that they are going above and beyond for their students.”

Learn more about PAEMST and how to nominate a great teacher in your child’s life by April 1.


 

Dr. Nafeesa Owens is the program lead to the Presidential Awards for Excellence for Mathematics and Science Teaching program at the National Science Foundation. Most importantly, she is the mother of twin boys who are in kindergarten and is a local PTA member.

“At my PTA”

pta-alternate-fundraiser-exlarge-169

(Photo Credit: Dee Heinz)

If you are a parent or educator, then you probably have a story to tell that begins with, “At my PTA…”

This week, one of those stories gained major media attention for a PTA that took an innovative approach to fundraising—often called a “non-fundraiser.” You may have seen it on Facebook or media outlets like CNN. The Facebook post celebrates the humor PTA leaders had in addressing what most family-school organizations (and all nonprofits) have to do to operate—raise money. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It’s creative, real and admittedly, hilarious. It’s certainly relevant to today’s busy parents, grandparents and educators.

I have a story too. At my PTA, we’re using the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships to guide our approach to membership, events and yes—even fundraising.

Using these standards to guide your PTA plan is one of the things that makes PTA different than other family-school organizations. In fact, our National PTA Schools of Excellence program has proven that when these standards are used, families feel more welcomed and valued, more involved in supporting their child’s academic success, and more informed about and engaged in improving the school. They also feel more connected in their community.

Family School Partnerships croppedPTA’s National Standards shift a PTA board from planning around a calendar to focusing the plan on the needs of your students, teachers and school. By the time you get to the calendar stage of planning, every PTA effort and the calendar itself reflects the standards in action:

  1. Membership recruitment ideas that make all families feel welcome and valued;
  2. Communication strategies that allow your families and teachers to plan their involvement in PTA, and encourage ongoing feedback about PTA’s efforts;
  3. Educational PTA programs and events that link to learning and guide families on the ways to support student success;
  4. Advocacy efforts that speak up on behalf of every child’s needs and improve the school as a whole;
  5. Shared decision-making about the mix of fundraising activities that will support these school improvements;
  6. Fun, family experiences that create pride and school spirit, while connecting families to other people and resources in their community.

At my PTA, we began our planning process by sending out a survey to families and teachers that helped us to understand what they perceived about our efforts. Then we canvassed the community—sharing the most frequent feedback we heard—and we asked more questions about what we still needed to know. All of the feedback has resulted in a drumbeat of reoccurring messages explaining how we will:

  • Support our students and teachers by…
  • Improve our school by…
  • Create a welcoming and supportive school community by…

Once we determined our objectives, we sat down with the calendar and made sure everything on it achieved one of the bullets above. Will we fundraise? Oh yes, we will. We are a nonprofit advocacy organization—we have to in order to fulfill our mission! But when we do fundraise, everyone will know how the money raised will make the school a better place for our kids. At my PTA, that’s what we care about most.

Do you have an “At My PTA” story you want to share? Email Programs@PTA.org. We want to hear it and highlight you in one of our future blogs, e-newsletters or magazine articles!


Mary Pat King, MS is the director of programs & partnerships at National PTA. She is also a vice president for her local PTA.

ED Celebrates Award-Winning Student Art in the National PTA’s Exhibit ‘Believe, Dream, Inspire’

Reposted from U.S. Department of Education’s HomeRoom blog.

Travez

Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition/High School Division, performs his winning rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

On January 13, 2015, more than 200 teachers, family members, arts education leaders, PTA members, policymakers, and local-area students came together to honor student artists from 21 states at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) auditorium and art gallery. The young artists – and winners of the 2014 National PTA Reflections program — came to celebrate their works of visual art, film, dance, music, and creative writing based on the theme Dream, Believe, Inspire.

Two dynamic artists performed their winning pieces. Travez Bradford, recipient of a National Award of Excellence for Music Composition, performed his rap Believe, Dream, and Inspire. With a whirlwind of energy, Jillian Miller, winner of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything.

Jillian Miller, recipient of a National Award of Merit for Dance Choreography/Intermediate Division, performed her lyrical dance You Can Be Anything. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Prior to the start of the ceremony, Travez, who had traveled with his grandfather from Natchez, Mississippi, talked about his musical inspiration: the gospel rap he experienced at church. His winning composition is in response to his classmates’ fear of performing poorly on tests and failing to graduate, “Believe in yourself when other people doubt you. Dream big, even when some dreams don’t come true. Inspire yourself when others don’t.” Travez now attends community college in Mississippi.

Secretary Duncan launched the celebration by championing arts education, “The arts should be — must be — part of a well-rounded curriculum for every single child.” The National PTA’s Reflections program, he noted, “helps students gain core knowledge — in areas like history, geography, and math — alongside 21st-century skills like critical thinking and problem solving. This program prepares students for success not just in school but in life as well.”

Echoing the secretary, Dawn Small, chair of the Reflections program, observed, “These students … have gained … the ‘arts advantage.’ Their creativity is alive. … Their mind’s eye is awake. … We look forward to great things from them.”

Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, underscored the value of the exhibit and audience to help decision makers learn about the transformative power of arts education. To demonstrate that, he presented an information tool developed by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit organization for the advancement of arts and arts education. “If we do it right,” he charged, “the return on investment is a better child … a better nation and a better world.”

Otha Thornton Jr., National PTA president, stressed the importance of promoting arts education, observing that, “our children’s education is our future … we are their advocates. We are the conduits of their dreams.”

After the ribbon cutting, Vy Nguyen of Texas talked about her acrylic painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. A recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts, she developed her skill through sheer determination. Blinking away tears of joy, she shared her dream to graduate from high school and attend college. The silhouetted figure depicted in cap and gown represents this dream amid a class of graduating seniors in an eye full of awareness and hope.

Vy Nguyen, recipient of an Award of Excellence for Visual Arts/Intermediate Division, shares the inspiration for her painting Dream with Eye Wide Open. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

One of the most exciting sights of the day was the middle school class from Jefferson Academy of Washington, D.C., critiquing student art. Their art teacher Michelle Green explained their presence, “It’s been a long and arduous process of getting them comfortable with the [art criticism] vocabulary. This is a great opportunity for us to see other kids their own age from around the nation looking at artwork” and to get the desire to “join in these competitions!”

Students from Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. critique artwork in the student art gallery. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)


Isadora Binder is on the staff of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

All Department of Education photos are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.