Goodbye Summer Break, Hello ESEA Reauthorization

A few months ago, Congress debated bills in the House and Senate to reauthorize the outdated Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB). Like public schools across the nation, Congress is back in session, and it is time that the bills be moved forward for reconciliation and then signed into law. And it is imperative that effective, evidenced-based family engagement strategies are included in the reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB.

A new school year means new expectations and new material to learn. It is essential that families are engaged and families and schools collaborate to support student achievement and ensure a successful year.

To strengthen family engagement in education, schools and districts need the resources and capacity to implement best practices that have been proven to positively impact student learning. This is why we need Congress to finally reauthorize the ESEA/NCLB. It is crucial that Congress finish its work and provide updates to the current law so all children receive a high-quality public education and reach their full potential.

What we need from Congress

  • Convene a conference committee as soon as possible to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills and produce a bill that can be signed into law.
  • Maintain the provisions in both ESEA/NCLB reauthorization bills that support state and local capacity building through Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs).
  • Continue to invest in family engagement strategies for local education agencies in Title I.

Let’s get this school year of to a great start by arming schools and districts with the resources they need to provide a world-class education to every student. Congress can take the lead on this through a successful reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that includes necessary family engagement provisions.

You can stay in the loop on the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization or get action alerts from the PTA Takes Action Network. Join the network today.

Laura Bay is president of National PTA.

How to Help Kids Be More Active Every Day


This blog post was published in Healthier Generation’s blog.

As #Commit2Ten brings national attention to the critical role physical activity plays in preventing childhood obesity, I would like to keep the conversation going with some other benefits – mainly academics. Studies show that kids who get the recommended amount of daily physical activity also do better in school. Healthy kids have higher attendance rates, get better grades and behave better in class. That’s why we are challenging the nation to start moving today to support the active lifestyles our kids need to live healthy lives tomorrow.

One of the best places to teach good physical activity habits is at home, and parents can set a great example for the whole family. So, what can families do to increase the amount of physical activity they get each day?

5 Steps to Create an Active Home   

1. Make exercise a family routine.

  • Walk or bike to school together.
  • Take a family walk around the block each night after dinner.
  • Play upbeat music and dance your way through family chores.

2.   Play together. Instead of going to a movie or restaurant for your next family outing, plan something active.

  • Discover free and low-cost physical activity options near your home (parks, bike paths, hiking trails, tennis courts or community swimming pools).
  • Spend an afternoon at the local playground.
  • Play a round of miniature golf together.

3.    Set family fitness goals.

  • Post goals on the refrigerator along with a way to track everyone’s progress. Cheer each other on as goals are achieved!
  • Train together for a charity walk or run.
  • Get pedometers and have a contest to see who takes the most steps in a given week.

4.    Exchange “screen time” for active time.

  • Limit recreational screen time including computer, tablets, video games, and TV, to two hours or less per day.
  • Encourage your kids to sign up to participate in some form of physical activity. Everyone can find something they enjoy.
  • Support your child by making a commitment to attending practices and showing up for games or performances.

5.   Break it up. You don’t have to get all of your physical activity in at once.

10 Steps for Your PTA to Increase Physical Activity

PTAs and other parent groups also have an important role to play in ensuring kids have access to quality physical education and opportunities for daily physical activity during the school day.

This school year I encourage your PTA to:

  1. Advocate for quality physical education that meets national guidelines and state standards.
  2. Encourage participation in the Presidential Youth Fitness Program.
  3. Join your school wellness committee.
  4. Raise funds for new athletic or playground equipment that promotes physical activity.
  5. Organize a “clean up our playground” event.
  6. Form walking or running clubs for students and families.
  7. Host Fire Up Your Feet, turkey trots, walkathons or other fun runs that raise money for schools.
  8. Create a walking school bus or bike train—groups of students who walk or bike to school together – with parents rotating supervision duties.
  9. Organize a Safe Routes to School program to create a safer environment for children to walk and bike to and from school.
  10. Participate in Walk to School Day (October) and Bike to School Day (May).

Bonus: Download the #Commit2Ten Toolkit for ideas to get more active today as well as sustain that activity throughout the year.

Remember: Exercise is most effective and more fun when it’s done as a group. You’ll promote your child’s health and learning, and feel better too!

Laura Bay is the president of National PTA, an educator from Poulsbo, Wash. and mother of three adult children.

Ways to Get Involved Beyond Back-to-School Night


This article was featured in the PBS Parents blog. Read the original article here.

Back-to-school night is still one of my favorite times of the year. This is the night parents and teachers have all been waiting for — crowded hallways, filled classrooms, smiling faces, welcome banners and ice breakers — the perfect mix of anticipation and excitement.

As a mother, it was an opportunity for me to meet my children’s teachers and find out what was in store for the school year.

And as a former teacher, back-to-school night helped me foster relationships with my students’ parents by understanding their needs and concerns. In both roles, it was an exciting start to a year of planning and a whole lot of learning.

But how do you stay connected and keep this enthusiasm and momentum going throughout the year?

Research shows children whose parents advocate for them are more confident and achieve more at school. There is nothing more exciting than to know you’re involved with your child’s school and education.

The challenge for many parents is figuring out what they can do. I have heard the hearts of many parents who ask, “How can I be involved in my child’s school and learning when I work a full-time job and keep a busy schedule to support my family?”

While every parent’s involvement is different, being engaged in your child’s learning is an essential foundation to their success.

Here are ways to get involved beyond back-to-school night at school and home:

Join the PTA
Get involved with your local parent teacher association. Even if you are an on-the-go mom or dad, you will find support from other parents in PTA. You will be part of a dedicated network of families, educators, businesses and community leaders who care and want to provide a high-quality education for all children. That means, even if you aren’t able to be at every meeting, you know there are a group of parents who are invested in the success of every child at your school — including yours.

Connect with your child
Listen to your kids. According to the Harvard Family Research Project, respectful two-way communication is important in achieving meaningful home-school dialogue. Let them express their concerns about their day or a homework assignment. Learn about their strengths and weaknesses and what activities they like and don’t like. Talk to your child while riding in the car or playing outside. Two-way communication is essential to developing an active and positive relationship. Then if any issues come up at school, your child will feel more comfortable talking to you about it.

Volunteer and be present at school
Be a chaperone at your child’s next field trip. Help out with the school band or events like prom, bake sales or family reading nights. Volunteer to speak on Career Day. Talk to your child’s teacher about opportunities to help in the classroom or for school events. You don’t have to do it all — do what you can. When your child — and their teacher — see you volunteering your time, they know you care.

Get engaged online
If you’re not engaged online — think about it as a way to stay in the loop. In a recent Pew study, more than 70% of parents already have an active social media presence and are active on the Internet. Try to participate in #PTchats (parent teacher chats on Twitter) or post your child’s academic work and photos from a successful school event or activity. You can also attend online webinars and read parent blogs to stay abreast of school, parenting and student issues.

Find helpful learning resources
National PTA’s most popular parent resources on our website are the Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which provide a roadmap to what students should be learning in math and English language from grades K-8. Our parents also love our fun reading activities from the National PTA Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle, which reinforces core literacy skills.

Think of an after-school strategy
Most parents are not able to pick up their child from school or meet them at home when they get off the school bus. Your child’s school may offer an after-school enrichment program — or ask your PTA network about a community program — which can be a safe haven when your child’s school day is over.

I hope these tips and resources will help you be involved in your child’s school year from back-to-school night through the last day of school. Remember, what you do as a parent truly makes a difference in your child’s success. Have an awesome school year!

Laura Bay president of National PTA.

Empowering Youth to Improve the Health of Our Nation

FUTP60 2015 Event 2This summer, I participated in the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) Student Ambassador Summit in Chicago. Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.

I attended the third day of the summit with 150 FUTP60 student ambassadors. The day began with a build-your-own-breakfast with the students and listening to them share their experiences from the earlier days of the summit. The students were excited, energized and eager to share their experiences with leadership.

Following breakfast, the students rotated through three different sessions:

  1. Inspirational storytelling workshop using Adobe Voice
  2. Create-their-own smoothie team competition
  3. Create-their-own “viral videos” about fueling up for back-to-school with a professional camera crew from MTV

After the sessions, I joined a student team for a FUTP60 challenge from the 2015-2016 Playbook. The teams had a great time constructing visual displays to demonstrate ways they could make changes in their school around the playbook challenge. Creativity and leadership development were key to the great visual displays each of the teams constructed.

The afternoon was centered on students sharing their “youth talks” and explaining why health and wellness really matters. Each of the talks filled all of us in attendance (students, advisors, guests and mentors) with hope, inspiration and laughter! These talks are the key to the success of FUTP60—it all comes together when students use their own voice to share with their peers the importance of health, wellness and physical activity!

I ended my time with this inspiring group of students by participating in a forum with three other adults during which we each shared our perspective of why health and wellness matters to everyone. Each of the panelists built off of the experiences of the day by echoing the importance of students reaching other students as the key to increased health and wellness of our society.

The FUTP60 student ambassador program puts students at the center of our future success in changing the tide of health and wellness for all children, families and adults—there’s no better way to change the world than with these inspired and motivated students!

Laura Bay is president of National PTA.

Be A Learning Hero


(Photo Credit:

It’s hard to believe, but a new school year is here!

At PTA, we know the importance of family engagement at every level of education to support children’s achievement. We also know every parent wants the best for their child; they want to be heroes. And as students head back to school, we want to arm families with tools and resources to help their children start strong and stay on track to success.

We’re excited to collaborate with Scholastic, Common Sense Media, GreatSchools and many more of the country’s most trusted education organizations to empower parents with the information and tools they need to be “learning heroes” for their children and support their success this and every school year.

Through a new website,, parents can find tips, fast facts, videos, guides and other resources specific to their children’s needs—all for free! These include:

  • Super 5: The Learning Heroes Back-to-School Toolkit for Parents, which provides five important practical steps parents can take to prepare for the new school year
  • Skill Builders, which are designed to help improve children’s skills in areas where they need support
  • Learning Tools in English and Spanish from trusted sources to help parents help their children succeed in math and English Language Arts—searchable by grade, subject and content type
  • Homework Help Desk, through which parents can get one-on-one support from trained teachers to help their children with their homework assignments

As part of the launch of, I participated in a radio media tour on August 17. During the tour, I spoke with radio stations across the country about the initiative and the resources available to families to help them support their children’s learning and development. Listen to an interview that aired on the nationally-syndicated USA Radio Network.

I encourage you to visit and sign up to receive regular updates with tips, tools and resources as well as share the website with fellow parents to help them “Be A Learning Hero” and ensure a successful school year.

How to help your kids at school — even if you don’t understand what they are doing

It’s back-to-school time, and it’s not just kids feeling the anxiety. Parents have their own set of worries with a new school year starting, so, here is some help from Laura Bay, an educator from Washington state who is the president of the National PTA. She offers some words of advice on how to help your kids at school — even if you don’t understand what they are doing.

This blog post was featured in Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet” blog. Read the full post.

Back-to-school is a stressful time. There are new people to meet, and there is pressure to fit in. There is new material to learn, and it seems to get more challenging every year. Then there are the stakes, which couldn’t be higher.

And I’m just talking about the parents.

The elephant in the room for many parents is that the expectations for our children are different than when we were in school. Students are now focusing more on critical thinking, analyzing, and problem solving, and some parents have grown unsure about how—and whether—they can help their children in this new environment.

The answer for parents is clear—yes, we can.

To help parents help their children, the National PTA is trying something different this year. Along with other national organizations such as Scholastic, National Council of La Raza, GreatSchools, and Common Sense Media, we’re helping launch Be a Learning Hero — a public service partnership designed to support parents to be learning heroes for their kids at back to school and throughout the school year.

The new site, Be A Learning Hero, acknowledges that education has changed. It doesn’t opine, and it doesn’t advocate. Lots of parents don’t have time for that anyway. Instead, Be A Learning Hero takes a practical stance and addresses this question: if our education system is evolving, and therefore impacting how teachers teach and how students learn, how can we best help parents support their children?

We’re not talking about supporting children with new back-to-school outfits or school supplies. We’re talking about simple, actionable steps all parents can take to help their children succeed in school. has just released the five steps called the SUPER 5, that empower parents to support their children’s learning and development for back to school:

1. Learn what the specific learning goals are for your child’s new grade.

2. Know where your child excels and where there is room to grow.

3. Spend time in your child’s school and be in regular contact with his or her teacher. Given that not all parents’ schedules always align with the school day, parents can also use phone calls, text messages, emails and school websites and apps to keep in touch with their child’s educators.

4. Promote your child’s emotional intelligence — it matters for academic success.

5. Make home another space for learning, and get tools for boosting your child’s math and English skills at the kitchen table.

Parents can visit for practical, trusted resources to turn these tips into action at home. We want our children to be successful, and we want to feel like we’re contributing to our children’s success. Even if we don’t remember the Pythagorean theorem and haven’t recently read any books by Roald Dahl or Judy Blume, we can still help our children succeed by understanding their learning goals, monitoring their progress and knowing how to help.

Laura Bay is National PTA President.

Special Video Message from President Bay: Thank You PTA Advocates!

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment that strengthens family engagement provisions in the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind. The passage of the amendment is a testament to the power of our collective voice to make a difference for all students and schools.

I want to take a few moments to thank you for your advocacy efforts because this could not have happened without you being a voice and your hard work and dedication to the mission of PTA.

Thank you again to all of our members and advocates and keep up your tremendous advocacy on behalf of our nation’s children and families!

Laura’s Corner: Our Children Are Counting on Us

Copyright 2014 Lifetouch National School Studios, IncWelcome to my new corner of the blog!

I am honored to serve as the 54th president of National PTA and am excited about this opportunity to strengthen our mission to make every child’s potential a reality.

I look forward to connecting and working with you—our members—to achieve this goal.

PTA brings together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and is a powerful voice for all children from schools and local communities to state legislatures and the halls of Congress.

We understand and believe that opportunity starts and ends with access to a great education, and as president, I want to diversify the association’s education platform and strengthen programs that support the whole child.

We can do this together by:

  • Advocating to make sure that all children have a safe place to live, learn and thrive
  • Working to enhance PTA’s STEM and early learning efforts and college and career programs
  • Diving deeper into health issues to meet every child’s physical, social and emotional needs
  • Ensuring that all families are engaged in education and PTA and are at the table to be a voice for their and all children

In Laura’s Corner, I will share my experiences as I visit communities across the country and meet the people who are making a difference every day for our nation’s children and schools.

You can also follow me on Twitter @PTALauraBay and share your questions, concerns, suggestions and activities. I want to know the positive strides you are making in your schools and communities and the challenges you face in advocating for every child.

Thank you for your support and your commitment to PTA! And thank you for all that you do for our children!

Laura Bay is National PTA President.