Maximizing In-Person Learning in the Era of COVID

We have the tools to keep students in the classroom and safe from COVID; we just have to use them—was one of the takeaways from a National PTA–hosted symposium on maximizing in-person learning days for students across the country.

The symposium, which took place during the National PTA 125th Anniversary Convention in June, featured a two-part panel discussion moderated by NBC News Correspondent Rehema Ellis on how our nation can plan a path forward from the COVID pandemic and how parents and caregivers can support student safety and well-being.

National PTA President Anna King kicked off the event, noting that, “it is vital to ensure the continuity of education for every child and to support children’s success socially and emotionally.”

The first panel included U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., MBA, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Ed.D.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Murthy discussed how research and science can help inform parents’ and caregivers’ decision making around vaccinating children to protect them against COVID, as well as the mental health impacts of the pandemic on students and resources for parents on how to support their children.

As of July 28, 2022, over 140,000 children under 18 have been hospitalized and over 1,700 have died since the pandemic began.

“We should not tolerate those kinds of losses if we have a tool that can reduce hospitalizations and death,” said Surgeon General Murthy. “That tool is the vaccine.” He said that testing is another tool at our disposal that can help keep kids safe and keep them in class by detecting infections early on.  

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Cardona highlighted the resources made available through the American Rescue Plan to promote safe school operations and in-person learning. He also implored parents to help keep schools accountable with how they spend the money they received and how vital family engagement is at this time.  

“As the father of two teenagers, I know parenting can feel like you’re building the plane as you fly, and over these last two years with the pandemic, not only were you building the plane, you were flying it through a monsoon, but you did it,” said Secretary Cardona. “For the last two years, together we fought COVID, and for the next two years, together, let’s fight complacency.”

By complacency, Secretary Cardona was referring to the status quo in education prior to the pandemic, in which the education system “worked for some but not all.”

“Instead,” said Secretary Cardona, “let’s embrace this disruption in education to reimagine parental engagement. Let’s embrace intentional collaboration with our students’ best and more influential teachers: the parents.”

The second panel featured Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Board Chair Timothy Shriver, Ph.D.; American Academy of Pediatrics President-Elect Sandy Chung, M.D.; and National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Shaton Berry, MSW. They spoke about the need to protect children’s mental health in addition to their physical health.

“We all want our children to feel emotional safety so that they can feel physical safety,” said Dr. Shriver. “You don’t get to physical safety unless you have emotional safety.”

But, as Dr. Chung pointed out, our nation faces a shortage of the professionals we traditionally turn to for help: mental health providers. “We were always taught to refer to mental health providers, but there is a national shortage,” said Dr. Chung. “I was referring kids to someone, and they would have to wait six months to get an appointment.”

Dr. Chung encouraged parents and caregivers to reach out to their child’s pediatrician or other health care providers for help. “Whether or not your pediatrician may know exactly what to do will vary depending on their training and experience,” she said. “But if they don’t know what to do, they’ll know where to help you find care. The key here is just to remember you’re not in this alone.”      

“In this conversation about mental health,” said National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Berry, “we’re looking at it wrong. We’re looking at it from that the school is going to fix the community. And we have to think about how the community has to fix the school. If we’re not having conversations about mental health in our family, it’s never going to come into our school building.”

Berry had the following advice for parents: “As you’re having conversations with your babies every day, instead of saying, ‘What did you do today?’ Ask them, ‘How did you feel today?’ And change the narrative of how you’re talking about feelings and how you’re engaging with your child because that is a different conversation.”

The symposium was supported by Proud National PTA Sponsor Thermo Fisher Scientific and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ We Can Do This campaign.

Four Tips for Leading with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Mind

Talking about diversity, equity and inclusion is the first step but to walk the walk, we need to look intentionally at different approaches and perspectives. Before you dive in, step zero is finding what motivates your diversity, equity and inclusion work. 

Checking Your Practices and Your Privilege 

Now that we reconnected with our why. Let us go and check our practices. We need to try them all and find the ones that are the best practices for our community. Yes, what works for my area might not work for yours, but if we need, we can adjust it or move to another practice. Once we find those best practices, we need to adopt and document them to help our PTA grow.  

It can be challenging to examine our privilege, but we need to understand what got us here, what we earned, and what we didn’t. We need to think about what we have and what we can give or start for the community. We need to consider when we make unconscious assumptions. Recognize talent and potential are equally distributed, but opportunity is not. 

Reducing Unconscious Bias 

To reduce our unconscious bias, we need to be aware of what it is and how it can affect the people around us. Our values, family experiences, culture, and experiences are huge factors in how we see, judge, and categorize others and ourselves. We need to question ourselves and the group we work with. Ask yourself: What evidence do I have? Is my opinion based on the truth? Is this always true? With this information, we can start creating inclusive practices for our events (meetings, programs, fundraisers, etc.).  

Creating a Welcoming Space 

Our greetings and acknowledgment are vital to setting the tone. A smile and cheerful hi make a difference. Move around. Don’t always sit with the same group. Make it a conscious decision to shift where your board members sit every so often. It says a lot when we are playing on our cellphones during meetings! If we disagree with something, we should provide constructive feedback rather than giving a negative response. If you are the lead for the event, ask for everyone’s opinion. We need to create a supportive dialogue where we acknowledge feelings and clarify our conversation so we can avoid assumptions. Be open to challenging questions and situations and make sure the final decision is balanced. 

Developing Leaders for Lasting Impact 

Dive into the data. In our PTA world, it doesn’t matter if 30% of your board is from minority groups if we don’t provide the opportunity to grow as leaders. Acknowledging intersectionality is important, highlighting invisible or layered identities of our community. Recognize that unconscious bias requires mitigation, not only training. Take the time, not the easy shortcut, and recognize non-linear experiences. We, as a group, need to explore the evidence, find a solution for all to move forward, and make sure to act.  

Add ‘Get My Child Vaccinated Against COVID’ to Your Summer Plans

Great news: Our younger kids can now get vaccinated against COVID!

After a thorough review of the safety and effectiveness data from the clinical trials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized COVID vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years. That means that everyone as young as 6 months in the United States can now get the protection of a COVID vaccine.

Parents and guardians have been eagerly awaiting this news. Since the pandemic began, over 130,000 children under age 18 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died. This year, kids under 5 years old have been more likely than older kids to be hospitalized with COVID.

Also, as many as 1 in 4 children who get COVID experience long COVID, in which they have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Many kids are also getting multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness caused by COVID that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, and brain. Over 8,500 children with COVID have also had MIS-C; 69 of those children have died.

There’s no way to predict how COVID will affect your child if they get it. They might be one of the lucky ones and just have the sniffles, but the risk for more severe illness is very real. Even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID. One study found that almost half of children ages 0–17 who’ve been hospitalized with COVID had no other health issues. That proportion was even higher among children under 5, according to another study

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS or MIS-C and long COVID.

There are two different vaccines available for children. The number of doses your child needs depends on their age and which vaccine they get. See the table below for details.

If your child is male and age 12 or older, they may benefit from waiting longer between the 1st and 2nd vaccine doses. Talk to your health care or vaccine provider. 

Once your child is up to date with their COVID vaccines, you can send them to school and to play with others, confident that they have the best possible protection against COVID.

Where to find COVID vaccines for children

COVID vaccines for kids are available at pediatricians’ and other doctors’ offices, community health centers, rural health clinics, children’s hospitals, public health clinics, local pharmacies, and other community-based organizations.

To find free COVID vaccines for your child, talk to your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor. You can also find vaccines for children near you at vaccines.gov.

Congratulations to National PTA’s Outstanding Interpretation Awardees!

Thousands of young artists from across the country participated in the 2021-2022 National PTA Reflections program by creating original works of art in response to the student-selected theme: I Will Change the World By….

Winning student artworks advanced from the local PTA level to the district, region, council, state and, ultimately, to the national level. This year, National PTA received over 900 student submissions from 47 State PTA Congresses.

Credential arts professionals conducted two rounds of blind review to determine the 200+ students who received national-level recognition for their artistic accomplishments. Just seven students earned the program’s top honor: the Award of Outstanding Interpretation. They were selective because of their distinctive interpretation of the theme, creativity and technical skills.

Each Outstanding Interpretation awardee represents one of the Reflections program’s six arts categories and the Special Artist division, which include Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts. Reflections encourages students with disabilities to fully participate in the program by welcoming young artists to enter through the Special Artist division.

We are excited to introduce this year’s exemplary Award of Outstanding Interpretation recipients!

Oviya Gowder–Dance Choreography
James Clemens High School PTSA, Alabama

Oviya conveyed a powerful message in her dance choreography, Save The Children. The piece addresses human trafficking and its threat to young adults. To set the tone for her work, her artist statement begins with a quote from author Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one, but I am one. I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” She continues to demonstrate the power of one’s actions to prevent tragedy by learning to recognize signs of human trafficking.

The artwork earned top marks because of Oviya’s original interpretation of the theme. She shares, “The Reflections contest gave me a platform to raise awareness about something that is not usually brought up or talked about. My career interest lies in the pediatrics area, and this inspired me to create a piece revolving around the safety of children.”

Yasmeen Fas–Film Production
Green Township PTA, New Jersey

Yasmeen’s film production Reduce, Reuse and Recycle incorporates careful research to demonstrate how individuals can save our planet. In her artist statement, she explains, “What is something that we all can do to help our planet? The answer is: Recycling!” The video includes compelling statistics, such as the fact that energy saved from recycling a glass bottle is equivalent to powering a lightbulb for up to 4 hours.

To explain her inspiration for the work, Yasmeen shares, “When walking my dog around the neighborhood I noticed some trash on grassy areas, behind the buildings, along sidewalks and around drains on the streets. I didn’t like what I saw, so I went home, grabbed a trash bag and picked it all up. I really wanted to show that even a small thing like that could help keep our neighborhood clean. Imagine if everyone did the same, then it would change our environment for the best!”

Dao Nguyen–Literature
Castillero Middle School PTA, California

Dao’s poem, titled Dandelion, reflects the beauty of one’s individual power. Her artist statement details this concept: “The world is a big place, and I know that being only one person in it can be daunting for young people like myself. So Dandelion is a poem about how even if you’re just one human, you can still have an effect on this world through what I believe is most important to share with other people—your passion, ideas, and stories.”

Dao shared nature’s influence on her writing. She explains, “Plants like dandelions spread their seeds around the world so they can continue to grow, even in unexpected places. [It’s] like how you can share your knowledge and creativity, so it inspires other people.” Dao notes another influence on her writing is the future reader’s perception. She notes that metaphors and analogies can be used “to connect the dots like you’re painting a picture so the reader understands your message.” Read Dao’s poem.

James Jordan–Special Artist, Music Composition
Syracuse High School PTSA, Utah

James’ thoughtful introspection stood out with his music composition piece, Change the World Right. In his artist statement, James explains, “The lyrics in the song explain how changing the world can be a positive or negative impact on others and yourself. It’s important to reflect on change because you can make decisions that could be influential and beneficial for others to learn and experience. The story behind the lyrics is how I overcame challenges in my life and adapted to a changing world.”

The song’s significance is deeply personal to James. He notes the challenges he has faced, sharing, “I struggled with autism for many years in school.” Yet, that he is “clever and artistic” and has harnessed the power of the arts to express himself. James explains, “This song is a puzzle piece of my life that will remind me of the inspiration I had to change the world. This year’s Reflections taught me that inspiration could come from anywhere and whatever happens next is a world with you in it.”

Listen to James’s song.

Sonia Singh–Music Composition
Acadia PTA, New York

Sonia shares a compelling melody with her musical composition, Rainbow. In her artist statement, she shares, “My composition, Rainbow, relates to the theme I Will Change The World By… through spreading the message that we can build a better tomorrow. Recent times have been very trying and there has been very little light in the world. Through my uplifting songs, I will help people see that there is always a way to make their lives brighter. Even if things seem bleak, we can bring out the light from inside us and together make a rainbow for everyone.”

The song allowed Sonia to convey a powerful moment in time. She shared, “I wrote this song after the worst of COVID-19 when things were starting to open up and we finally had hope for the future. In the past, there have been plenty of setbacks for us as people but I’ve realized that what matters is that we always get up again and never stop fighting.”

Listen to Sonia’s song.

Arsal Shaur–Photography
County Parkway PTA, New York

Arsal’s photograph, I Can Change the World by Enlightening Others with Knowledge, conveys a message that is near and dear to the mission of National PTA. In his artist statement, Arsal explains, “I am grateful that I have the opportunity to get an education. There are many children in the world who cannot get and afford to have a basic education. I can change the world by spreading knowledge. I can raise my voice so that every child in the world can have a basic education, at least.”

The details in the photograph further the artwork’s significance. Arsal notes that “the book in the photograph represents knowledge and the brightness in the background shows the light which knowledge brings in our lives.”

Jasmine Roldan–Visual Arts
Hicksville High School PTSA, New York

Jasmine’s detailed visual arts piece is titled Say Their Names. In her artist statement, she writes, “As a female of color in America living in such corrupt times, I hope to change the world by advocating for civil rights. All the people displayed on this piece have been subject to unjust violence leading to their deaths. Their names written within the word ‘EQUALITY’ correspond to their faces. Some of them were grandmothers to their grandchildren, track stars, or as young as 10 years old. Say their names. By doing just that, you too can change the world.”

To further highlight her inspiration for the work, Jasmine explains, “I create art to show just how much people, ideas, things matter to me. Their lives matter along with those, including myself, that look like them. I hope to ignite a spark within everyone to reflect on what they can do to be the change they want to see in the world.”

Congratulations to our I Will Change the World By… Outstanding Interpretation winners! We look forward to recognizing your achievements at the 2022 Virtual Outstanding Interpretation Reflections Winners Celebration, which will be available on National PTA’s YouTube channel July 21, 2022.   

For more inspiration, please visit PTA.org/ReflectionsAwards to find the official Reflections awards announcement, the complete list of the 200+ student winners, and our digital gallery of student works. Stay connected to National PTA on social media (@NationalPTA and #PTAReflections) as we continue to recognize and celebrate student talents throughout the year.

How PTA Leaders are Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth

Across the nation, states are seeing a dramatic rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment, and particularly anti-transgender legislation. LGBTQ+ youth need PTAs to help protect their rights and stand up to bigotry. As we celebrate PRIDE month, here are stories of PTA leaders who are using their influence to support and celebrate LGBTQ+ youth.  

Celebration & Allyship in Round Rock, Texas 

As students at Canyon Vista Middle School returned to school following the COVID-19 school closures, teachers noticed an increase in acts of bias including the use of slurs against LGBTQ+ students. To address this increasingly hostile environment and to help LGBTQ+ students feel supported, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club set out to host their first annual pride parade in 2021. PTA president Aidan Larson got involved, partnering with teachers and GSA sponsors, including Paige Crain, to create safer spaces for LGBTQ+ students in their school.  

Their activism wasn’t free of pushback. Historically, the environment had been hostile, with educators opposing the use of rainbow safe space stickers in their school. Paige and the other sponsors didn’t let that stop them. With the PTA working hand in hand with Paige and the GSA, they marched forward with their plans to host the celebration. 

The 2021 Pride parade was a success, engaging folks from across the school district and a variety of exhibitors. The team had recruited a variety of partners including the Texas Freedom Network, Out Youth, and a local church who came to distribute pride flags. While families from around the district showed up, there was not universal support. 

To ensure the 2022 Pride parade could take place without issue, the PTA again partnered with the GSA. Aidan also met with the school principal to show support for the GSA’s ideas for Pride week.  

When a neighboring middle school PTA promoted Canyon Vista’s Pride parade, not only did executive board members voice their opposition, several resigned due to their discomfort. The PTA president stood her ground, understanding the importance of supporting LGBTQ+ youth. She even managed to find a silver lining to the situation. “It was a lot of pushback,” she shared, “but I think the important part is [that] it made room for people to see that this is what PTA is, and finally, maybe a place that we can be a part of — not a high school girls club.” 

Listening to LGBTQ+ Youth in Lynbrook, New York 

So often students are talked at, by parents, teachers, and coaches, and we forget how important it is for us to take time to listen. Ivy Reilly serves on the Lynbrook High School PTA and received a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) grant from National PTA’s Center for Family Engagement in 2022. She also worked to ensure LGBTQ+ youth thrive by offering them an opportunity to share challenges, barriers and concerns of being identified as part of the community. Ivy decided to focus on the LGBTQ+ community after noticing that many students transitioned during the COVID-19 quarantine. She wanted to make sure that LGBTQ+ students and transgender students in particular, were being supported by the PTA. 

Ivy coordinated with the school administration and the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) advisor to speak with GSA members. She approached the first conversation with a learning mindset. She knew she didn’t have all the answers and that she might not phrase everything correctly, but she didn’t let the desire for perfection stop her. Instead, she saw engaging students as a learning opportunity. “My job is to learn from you so I can help you,” she told them.  

Most of the conversations revolved around ordinary teen issues from extracurricular activities to homework, highlighting the commonalities LGBTQ+ students share with the wider student population. But occasionally more serious issues arose, including a child worrying about if their parent was embarrassed of them because of the way they look, and another student worried about their family sending them to conversion therapy. 

These conversations have motivated Ivy to work on getting LGBTQ+ resources added to the district’s website. She informed the principal about some of the needs that arose from these conversations. She’s also hoping to bring Challenge Day to the Lynbrook community to help build bridges of understanding at the high school. She shared that she remains dedicated to using the PTA platform to support LGBTQ+ youth. “Our goal is to take care of the kids,” she said. “Maybe we’ll get to the parents later, when they’re ready, but the kids need our support now.” 

What can you do? 

If these PTA leaders have inspired you to start advocating for LGBTQ+ youth, there are lots of things you can do to get started! Explore this map to find LGBTQ+ community centers near you, and consider partnering with them on programs, services or events. You can also connect with your school’s GSA. If your school doesn’t have one yet, help create one!  

For more ideas and inspiration, visit www.pta.org/LGBTQ for more resources, including an LGBTQ+ glossary and our podcast episode featuring leaders from the Human Rights Campaign.  

Welcome to Thrive

Thrive. The PTA Learning Community

Greetings PTA Members,

Welcome to Thrive: The PTA Volunteer Learning Community!

Thrive! is PTA’s new online learning community for volunteers. Thrive brings PTA leadership development to you. Through Thrive’s engaging, short courses, you can take training at your own time and place—even from football practice, a dance studio or a soccer field.

I’m so excited about the potential that Thrive brings to National PTA. Leadership development has been a priority for PTA for many years. But our reach has been limited. Throughout this pandemic, we have learned that online is working for our members. Our impact has been expanding, with more people coming to meetings and trainings. So just think of how many future leaders we will be able to reach through this new online community of learners!

What is Thrive?

Thrive is Engaging: Thrive engages every volunteer in their own time and place. Because you can stop a course and start back in your own time, Thrive makes leadership development fit into your life when and how you need it to. Your leadership development thrives in your life!

Thrive is Empowering: Thrive empowers all volunteers to advocate for all children. Volunteers gain new knowledge and skills that help their local and state PTAs operate at peak level. Thrive’s accessible content means every volunteer has access to the most up-to-date, high-quality information about best practices and techniques for helping all children achieve their potential.

Thrive is for you: No matter where you are in your leadership journey, as a lifelong learner there is something in Thrive for you!

Remember, it’s the quality and power of individual actions that can make the difference. The more we learn, the louder our collective voices will become to create change for all children and young people.

Ready to get started? Our help page contains instructions for signing up and taking courses.

Anna King, National PTA President

6 Tips for Keeping Children Safe From COVID This Summer

By We Can Do This, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Public Education Campaign

We’re headed into summer, but we’re not out of the woods with COVID. Cases are going up all over the country, and COVID can make children very sick.

Since the pandemic began, over 100,000 children have been hospitalized with COVID and over 1,500 have died. Over 8,200 children with COVID have also had multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, and brain. And as many as 1 in 4 children who get COVID are experiencing long COVID, where they have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Here are six tips to follow to keep children safe from COVID this summer.

1. Get vaccinated against COVID as soon as possible

Vaccination is the best thing children can do to protect themselves from the dangers of COVID.

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS-C and long COVID.

Right now, everyone ages 5 and older can get vaccinated. Find COVID vaccines near you at vaccines.gov.

2. Stay up to date with COVID vaccines

To stay up to date with their COVID vaccines, children ages 5–17 need to get two initial vaccine doses at least 21 days apart, followed by a booster shot 5 months after their second dose. A booster shot is an extra dose that helps keep up your protection from the vaccines.

Children are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose and immediately after their booster.

3. Wear a mask

Children are just as likely as adults to get and spread COVID.  

To maximize protection from highly contagious variants and prevent possibly spreading COVID to others, both vaccinated and unvaccinated children ages 2 and older should properly wear a well-fitting mask inside public places when the risk COVID poses to their community is high.

For everyone’s safety, CDC recommends that everyone ages 2 and older wear a mask on public transportation and while in airports and stations.

4. Avoid close contact, crowds, and poorly ventilated spaces

Because of how COVID spreads, children should try to avoid close contact with people who are or might be sick, including within their household, by staying at least 6 feet away.

Children who aren’t up to date with their COVID vaccines should stay at least 6 feet away from other people when inside public places and avoid crowded places and indoor spaces that don’t have fresh air from the outdoors—especially if they’re at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID.

5. Wash hands often

Handwashing removes germs from one’s hands. It helps prevent getting infections and spreading infectious diseases to others.   

Children should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place or after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. If they don’t have soap and water, they can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

6. Test to prevent spreading COVID to others

Getting tested is the only way to know for sure whether you’re infected with COVID and reduce your chances of spreading the virus to others.

If a child tests positive, that means they’re infected with COVID. They should isolate, and you should tell everyone they’ve recently had close contact with, to avoid spreading the virus to others.

The Achievery, Created by AT&T

Connecting students to a new world of digital learning

Student learning at The Achievery

AT&T launched a free digital learning platform that aims to make online learning more entertaining, inspiring, and accessible. The Achievery, created by AT&T, is a growing online library of learning activities for students in grades K-12 to use wherever they are – at home, in the community, or in the classroom. Lesson plans are paired with engaging videos featuring popular Warner Bros. Discovery characters (think: Wonder Woman, Craig of the Creek) to help connect students to a new world of digital learning through stories that spark curiosity.  

AT&T developed The Achievery as part of a $2 billion, three-year Connected Learning Initiative created in 2021, to help bridge the digital divide in underserved communities through investments in broadband access, low-cost internet service, computers, and education and mentoring resources. The Achievery supports this initiative by providing access to high-quality online learning content at no cost.

Making online learning accessible… and fun

The Achievery was developed with feedback from parents and educators who suggested that lessons featuring popular entertainment media would be a great way to keep students engaged in digital learning, which most believe is here to stay. AT&T collaborated with Warner Bros. Discovery to feature clips from films, TV shows and animated series and then worked with leading education groups to develop activities that spark a sense of fun while helping students advance in important academic and social-emotional skills. (Every activity is linked to specific Common Core and CASEL standards.)

Families can use The Achievery to support distance learning, as a homework supplement, or as enrichment to keep kids’ minds active during school vacation and prevent summer learning loss. Activities are searchable by grade level, academic subject, and specific standards to help children and adults find the content that meets their interests and needs.

Learning Made Lively

Sample Activities from The Achievery

Make a Jumping Game

Students learn how to use block coding to design and create their own interactive online game—with their own unique characters, obstacles and rules.

  • Grades: 3-8
  • Academic focus: Language, Media & Technology
  • Social-emotional focus: Self awareness
  • Collaborator: Scratch

Your Story Matters

Students learn about the elements of a story and find inspiration for story ideas from your own life.

  • Grades: 3-5
  • Academic focus: Writing
  • Social-emotional focus: Self awareness
  • Collaborator: Young Storytellers

Parents take The Achievery for a test drive

To provide early feedback on the platform in action, National PTA recruited a diverse set of more than 250 parents to preview several learning modules from The Achievery with their kids. Parents then provided robust feedback through surveys and focus groups. The goal: Help AT&T understand how The Achievery’s content and site design can meet families’ at-home learning needs.

Overall impressions of the platform were positive. Most notably, parents expressed appreciation of the quality content, and that their children were captivated by the familiar characters. Parents said they were happy to see young, diverse, and relatable people featured in many videos as well—individuals who their children didn’t see as a traditional “teacher.”

AT&T Assistant VP of Corporate Social Responsibility Mylayna Albright says, “We’re grateful for our collaboration with National PTA and for their help gathering this comprehensive parent feedback. The Achievery is designed to provide quality educational content everywhere children learn, and we’re eager to make the platform an engaging, easy-to-use resource that families can count on to support their children’s advancement and love of learning.”

The Achievery is live!

PTA’s cohort of “early adopter” families showed a lot of enthusiasm and engagement in exploring The Achievery. Now, it’s your turn! We invite you to set up a free account and try out some activities with your kids.

Get started: theachievery.com

What Parents are saying about The Achievery

Toia Elliott, Indianapolis, Indiana

Toia Elliott tested The Achievery with her youngest child, a sixth-grader who she describes as a unique learner. “She likes to think of things on her own,” Toia says. Her daughter was especially drawn to the Scratch coding lesson which allowed her to unleash her creativity. In fact, she enjoyed the lesson so much that she’s continued using Scratch on her own.

Toia sees The Achievery as an especially helpful tool for “breakaway time” in the evening when her kids are ready to take their minds off of school.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re in school. You’re having fun, and you’re doing some entertaining activities. But she’s also clearly learning something, which is great.”

Michelle Grenell, Muskegon, Michigan

Michelle Grenell is homeschooling her two children who have special health needs. Before the pandemic, they’d tried using standardized homeschool curricula, but she says, “My kids weren’t thriving. I was stressed out. We weren’t learning anything.” Now, she aims to keep a variety of activities on hand so she can be flexible with her children, whose needs vary daily. So far, The Achievery has been a great fit. After a successful preview of the poetry hunt and another module on storytelling, they’ve begun using The Achievery as a part of their at-home learning diet.

What Michelle appreciates most about The Achievery is that it doesn’t feel like “school,” so her kids are happy to engage on days when learning feels like a struggle or she can’t supervise them as closely.

“So many times parents think: I’m not the best teacher right now, I’m not the best mom—especially post-pandemic—and you feel a little bit better [with a platform like The Achievery]… I felt like I was okay to have a migraine that day. Because they were still learning something.”

Nicole Alexander, West Linn, Oregon

Nicole Alexander’s seventh-grade daughter is very creative but remote learning during the pandemic was a big challenge. Now, that she’s back at school, things have improved, but her mother is still eager to find activities to make summers and evening screen time more productive. The combination of watching the video and physically holding a book, pencil and paper really worked.

Nicole is eager to start matching lessons from The Achievery with specific learning standards where her daughter needs support. She sees The Achievery as a way to bridge the gap between home and school.

“There’s a lot of catch up [when they bring home a school assignment], trying to figure out, are you helping your child in the right way? This would be far easier… You could just send them to The Achievery, look for the standard they were working on in class and find a related lesson.”

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Katie Bayerl is a contracted writer for National PTA, helping bring stories to life about sponsored PTA efforts and the impact of these efforts on families, schools, and communities. Katie has degrees in education from Brown, teaching from Tufts, and writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has worked as editor of a teen-generated magazine, led the communications efforts of a Boston nonprofit, and helped hundreds of writers and nonprofit leaders tell their stories.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service. No endorsement of AT&T or The Achievery is implied.

We Are Well Beyond Enough Is Enough

In less than three weeks we’ve had a mass shooting in a grocery store, a shooting at a church, shootings at three separate high school graduations, another horrific shooting at a school, and more gun violence in our communities. This past weekend in my home state of Oklahoma, 1 person was killed and 7 injured after a shooting at an outdoor festival in Taft, Okla.

Last week, 19 children and two adults killed in an elementary school—second, third and fourth graders. Our precious children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews.

And this was at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school this year alone. Why?

There are no real words that can accurately convey the horror, anger, sadness and disgust I continue to feel, as gun violence continues to take innocents lives in our country.  

We have called for change repeatedly. We have prayed for change. It’s past time to make change to save lives.

In America, we teach our children that they’ve inherited life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but for far too long children have been taken from us because of inexplainable and senseless violence. Instead of confidently going to school and learning in a safe and peaceful classroom, these incidents have made us focus on safety measures and drills for active shooter situations. These incidents also have our children living in fear, wondering if a shooting like this could happen at their school. And parents and guardians are afraid to send their children to school, what should be a safe place and the best place for them to learn and thrive.

If we can’t protect our children from gun violence and keep them safe at school, how can we help them reach their full potential? And who will carry our nation into a brighter future?

There could not be a more urgent time for our elected officials to take action and for everyone to come together to be there for our nation’s students. We immediately need real solutions that will save lives and make our schools and communities safer for everyone.

PTA has been the conscience of our country on issues affecting children and youth for 125 years, and we will not go numb and we will never stop speaking loudly and demanding more for every child and young person across our country.

PTA will be heading to Capitol Hill June 15 to meet members of Congress in-person and advocate for youth safety and violence prevention and youth mental health. We urge everyone to join us.

We also ask everyone to use our VoterVoice system to send an urgent message to your members of Congress to insist they work across the aisle and pass sensible gun safety and violence prevention policies that ensure our children are protected from harm.

It’s time to recharge our efforts and actively engage in your local communities in creating safe and supportive schools for our kids. Host a school safety forum and have a conversation with your school principals about school safety policies and procedures.

Join us in showing support for gun violence prevention on Wear Orange Day, Friday, June 3, by wearing something orange, taking a picture of yourself in your orange and posting it on your social media accounts using the hashtags #Enough and #EndGunViolence.

And as we all deal with these heartbreaking events, we must also make sure to take care of ourselves and our families and talk to our children about what happened in Uvalde. It’s important that our children hear from us to help counteract fear they may feel and give them reassurance. Use these resources on mental health, grief and loss and use these tips for discussing difficult situations with children.

We’ve been thinking and praying. It’s time to replace thoughts and prayers with action, policy and change. Let’s do something to save lives and help our children and young people feel safe again. We will not rest until they are able to feel safe in our schools, and thrive to reach their full potential.

Helping Families Navigate Today’s COVID-19 Environment

National PTA hosted a virtual town hall May 18, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support families in navigating today’s COVID-19 environment. The event featured CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager Dr. Greta Massetti, White House Senior Policy Advisory Dr. Cameron Webb, American Academy of Pediatrics Spokesperson Dr. Ilan Shapiro, National PTA President Anna King and PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West. The town hall was moderated by Spectrum News National Health Correspondent and mom Erin Billups.

“At PTA, we remain committed to making sure that our students, families, schools and communities have what they need as the COVID-19 environment evolves,” said Anna King, National PTA president. “We’re continuing to provide communities–through virtual events like the town hall and in-person events like pop-up clinics–with important information, resources and professional expertise, especially as we move into the summer months.”

During the town hall, Dr. Massetti, Dr. Webb and Dr. Shapiro spoke about being parents themselves and how research and science can help inform parent and caregiver decision making around COVID-19 and vaccinating children. 

“The past two years have not been easy, but our parents, educators and children have shown remarkable innovation and resilience. The health of our children has been at the forefront of my mind, in my role at the CDC and as a parent. Research and science played a critical role in our guidance and recommendations, specifically around vaccines,” said Dr. Greta Massetti, CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager.“Vaccines continue to play a leading role in our health strategy and enable students to return to in-person learning. By allowing children to learn in safe and healthy environments, vaccines not only protect children’s physical health but also their overall health.”

“I’ve been approaching the pandemic not only as a policy advisor to the White House but also as a parent,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, White House Senior Policy Advisor. “My number one goal is keeping my kids healthy and safe, and the first step in doing that was making sure that I was only engaging with data-based, truthful information. The data shows that the COVID-19 vaccine, specifically for children 5-11, is safe and works. Harnessing data and science and applying that to your decision-making process is key. It is our responsibility to not only protect ourselves, but also the more vulnerable members of our community.”

“In addition to my job as a pediatrician, I also have the job of father. I wanted to make sure that my kids are safe, happy and protected–and this was accomplished by getting them vaccinated,”said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, the medical director of health education and wellness at AltaMed Health Service and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.“Honest, fact-based conversations like this National PTA town hall provide parents and caregivers with the necessary information to make them comfortable in this changing landscape.”

Moderator Erin Billups also spoke with PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West about PTA’s ongoing efforts to keep children healthy and in school by building vaccination confidence in local communities.

“We wanted to make sure that we were providing reliable, science-based information to enable families to make the choice around vaccination that’s best for them. The next step was the proper dissemination of this information to communities of all shapes and sizes,”said Christel Wesley, vice president of Adams Elementary PTA in Norman, Okla. “Our pop-up clinic gave parents and caregivers a safe space to speak with a pediatrician, which is not something all families have routine access to.”

Sandra West, president of Miami Dade County Council of PTAs said, “Data became really important to us because it allowed us to prioritize the areas of need to concentrate on. Access to vaccination sites, even in a big city like Miami, was a challenge, and it forced us to come up with solutions. Our pop-up clinic was initially drive-through only and didn’t take into account how many residents don’t have access to a car. When we created a walk-up section, we were able to reach a whole new group of people who wanted to get vaccinated but didn’t previously have access.”

The impact of the pandemic, both physically and mentally, has been felt by families nationwide. Now, as most localities have lifted their mask and COVID-19 restrictions, many parents are now faced with a new set of decisions about how to best protect their children against the virus. A recording of the town hall can be watched on National PTA’s Facebook page.