Back to School with the TV Parental Guidelines

Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind the small black box filled with letters that appears in the upper left-hand side of your screen at the start of most television shows or movies you see on TV? That’s the TV Parental Guidelines, also known as the TV ratings system, helping parents to make smart decisions about which TV shows are age-appropriate for their families.

Television is often a large part of our lives, particularly the lives of our children, and has only played an increased role during the ongoing pandemic. According to research conducted by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board (the Board) in August 2020, 64% of parents said TV usage has increased among their children. As all Americans consume more video programming, the TV Parental Guidelines continue to serve as a resource to parents looking to make more informed decisions about what TV shows their kids are watching.

The TV Parental Guidelines is excited to partner with the National PTA during Back-To-School Week and provide parents and educators with the resources they need to ensure an enjoyable and appropriate television experience. This includes the launch of new guidance for how video streaming services can incorporate the TV ratings into their services. We know there are a growing number of streaming platforms available to children and families. According to the August 2020 survey of parents, 84% of children are watching some content via streaming services. Through new guidance (described below) the Board aims to ensure that parents and families encounter a consistent ratings experience across traditional TV networks and streaming services.   

About the TV Parental Guidelines 

The television industry designed the TV Parental Guidelines—also known as the TV ratings system—to give parents more information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV programs. 

The TV Parental Guidelines include two elements: (1) an age-based rating ranging from TV-Y to TV-MA that provides guidance about the age group for which a program is appropriate and (2) content descriptors indicating that a program may contain suggestive dialogue (D), coarse or crude language (L), sexual situations (S), or violence (V). Here is a quick guide: 

  • TV-Y: Programming is typically appropriate for children of all ages.  
  • TV-Y7: Programming is designed for children ages seven and older.  
  • TV-Y7-FV: Indicates that a program contains “fantasy violence” that may be more intense or combative than other TV-Y7 programs.  
  • TV-G: Programming is for a general audience and typically most parents would find this programming suitable for all ages. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.  
  • TV-14: Programming contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: intensely suggestive dialogue, strong coarse language, intense sexual situations, or intense violence.  
  • TV-MA: Programming is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This program may contain one or more of the following: crude indecent language, explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence. 

A full guide to the TV ratings can be found here and you can download, print and share with your PTA and school community. The TV Parental Guidelines website is also a resource for parents and educators looking for information on the TV ratings. 

Here is what else you should know about the TV Parental Guidelines: 

  • The TV ratings can be used in conjunction with the V-Chip for network television—a device built into most television sets—to allow parents to block out programs they don’t want their children to see. Parental control technology in cable and satellite set-top boxes can also be used with the TV Parental Guidelines to block programs based on their rating. 
  • The Board is comprised of experts from the television industry as well as public interest advocates—including the National PTA—who are responsible for ensuring there is uniformity and consistency in applying the TV Parental Guidelines. The Board also reviews complaints about specific program ratings to help ensure ratings accuracy. 
  • Viewers can contact the Board with questions or concerns about the TV ratings system and controls by mail, email or phone. Individual ratings complaints are passed on to the network on which the program was shown for a direct response. 
  • The Board conducts a biannual survey to understand how parents view the ratings. A complete review of the key findings from 2020 can be found here. According to the Board’s 2020 survey, 95 percent of parents are satisfied with the accuracy of the ratings for TV shows on broadcast and cable television, including more than half who are very satisfied. Four in five parents (80 percent) maintain a favorable opinion of the TV ratings system—up from 76% in 2018. 

About the New Streaming Guidance  

Members of the Board include many companies that operate some of the newest and most popular video streaming services available today including, among others, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock, and Tubi. Given the rising popularity of these streaming services and others, the Board created a Streaming Task Force (the Task Force) to evaluate how TV ratings are being made available to parents on new technologies.  

In recent months, the Task Force engaged in conversations with Board member companies that operate video streaming services and initiated informal discussions with outside providers about how they are applying ratings to their own content. The result of these conversations is new ratings guidance designed to help ensure parents and families encounter a consistent ratings experience across traditional television networks and streaming platforms.   

Examples of the new ratings guidance for streaming services include the following recommended best practices: 

  • For all streaming video content that is rated, streaming services should display TV ratings on-screen at the time that a consumer initiates the playback of video. 
  • Video streaming services should apply TV ratings to all content that has been shown on television with ratings and all content that is originally produced for the streaming environment, including on an episode-by-episode basis for episodically rated programs. 
  • Video streaming services should include age-based ratings within the product experience (e.g., as part of narrative program summaries contained on program description screens or within online menus and navigation guides), to the extent practicable after taking into account technical and other reasonable limitations. 
  • Video streaming services will continue to study ratings capabilities and, if practicable in the future, apply TV ratings to additional content, including, for example, archival content that originally was shown on television prior to the adoption of the TV Parental Guidelines.  

The Board knows that as technology changes, so will the ratings guidance for all content partners and providers. The Board is pleased to be comprised of so many industry professionals who are thinking ahead to ensure that parents have relevant information to be able to navigate an increasingly virtual and platform-focused world. Through the Task Force, the Board will continue to have conversations with additional video streamers to recommend they take advantage of the new guidance to help ensure that parents have a consistent ratings experience no matter where their families choose to watch programming. 


Emily Pappas it the executive secretariat of the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board. For more information about the TV Parental Guidelines, visit TVGuidelines.org 

Grant Continues to Advance Art Through PTAs Nationwide

For over 50 years, the National PTA Reflections arts program has provided opportunities for recognition and access to the arts for millions of students, thanks to the innovation of artist, PTA leader and founder Mary Lou Anderson. Reflections boosts student confidence and success in the arts and in life.

Anderson’s vision was to increase arts access among at-risk and underserved students and we are proud to offer the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant to help continue that goal. Through this opportunity, local PTAs demonstrate a commitment to providing new pathways for students to participate in the Reflections program and increase student access to high quality arts learning experiences.

We honored the commitment of two local PTAs with $1,000 for their dedication to increase access to high quality arts learning and increase the impact of their Reflections Program. Pauba Valley Elementary School PTA in California and Robinson High School PTSA in Florida were the 2020-2021 Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant recipients! Check out what these amazing PTAs did with their grant funds!

2020-2021 MLA Grantee Profile: Pauba Valley Elementary School PTA, Temecula, Calif.

With only one entry for their PTA Reflections program, Pauba Valley Elementary School PTA recognized the need to place more focus on getting students educated and excited about the arts. As a Title I school, with a culturally diverse student body, Pauba Valley Elementary PTA saw it their mission to match that diversity in how they present the arts, with a focus on positively impacting students from both at-risk and underserved families, to advance diversity in the arts, specifically in the Reflections program.

Despite the limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic, Pauba Valley Elementary School PTA wanted to bring the entire community together to support the arts. So, they planned and implemented a series of six virtual workshops that averaged over 200 participants per event. In the planning process, the PTA realized that many students were lacking supplies, so they purchased materials and assembled kits which were distributed via drive-through pickups. They also arranged for presenters through community partnerships, where applicable.

With grant funding, the PTA was able to cover costs that would have otherwise been unattainable. The events helped to inspire students to be creative through artistic expression and demonstrate and communicate the benefits of membership in PTA to the Pauba Valley Elementary School community. The last event focused on the arts as a career, providing inspiration and information about professions in the arts.

With an incredible total of 1,800 people impacted through the virtual events, the Pauba Valley Elementary PTA said the most memorable part was, “Seeing the excitement from the students. They were engaged and learning through our hands-on activities, and it was awesome to see the seeds being planted.”

Kathy Gonzales, vice president, Pauba Valley Elementary School PTA said that the events were incredibly successful and shared, “Even though we are not together on campus, these virtual events are giving our families a chance to connect with each other and have fun while doing it. We are so excited to offer these programs to our school community during these challenging times.”

2020-2021 MLA Grantee Profile: Robinson High School PTSA, Tampa, Fla.

In May, with support from the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant, Robinson High School PTSA hosted a spoken word poetry program. The event included a two-day workshop that culminated in the Spoken Word Poetry Jam. To foster student engagement, the PTSA partnered with the school media specialist and world languages department. In addition, they incorporated a local artist and spoken word poet. Seven students participated in the voluntary presentation portion of the Poetry Jam.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the program marked the school’s first in-person workshop that students could attend at school during the school year. The students, according to the PTSA, were extremely excited to attend the in-person event and many Robinson High School teachers allowed students to earn credit for attendance and participation.

The collaboration between the PTSA and teachers added value to the event. Inclusion was key to the event’s success. The PTSA sought to elevate student voices and give them some control over the program. Students also talked about gender and stereotypes through their artwork. All students were encouraging to one another and embraced each other’s different perspectives.

One student brought her mother and grandmother to the event. The PTSA shared, “The encouragement and love between the three generations of women was inspiring to witness.” The most memorable part of the program, according to the PTSA, was the Spoken Word Poetry Jam itself. The students were enthusiastic about participating and supported one another through the process. The students also demonstrated bravery and vulnerability as they worked through some of the stress this year has put upon them.

The Poetry Jam also served as a catalyst for students to learn about the upcoming school year’s Reflections program. The PTSA used a portion of the workshop to discuss the Reflections theme and brainstorm ideas for participation. The PTSA distributed student entry forms and captured the students’ information to jumpstart their program. Robinson High School PTSA plans to continue to work through the summer to ensure students are exposed to other Reflections arts categories. The PTSA identified this specific program because it provided students with an opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment. It also fostered an appreciation for writing and poetry to express and convey thoughts and emotions through art.

With half of the Robinson High School student population qualifying for free & reduced-price lunch under Title I, these grant dollars were extremely appreciated. When asked if they would consider running the program again, the PTSA shared, “Most definitely. Based on feedback alone, our students were excited and engaged and every single one wanted to do it again.”

Congratulations, once again, to Pauba Valley Elementary School PTA and Robinson High School PTSA!

If you are planning to host a 2021-2022 I Will Change the World By… Reflections program and are in need of funding to increase access and participation of at-risk and underserved students in arts programming, APPLY NOW!

Applications for the next round of Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement grants are now being accepted through Sept. 27 at PTA.org/Grants. Two local PTAs will be awarded $1,000 to administer student-centered programs that increase access to high quality arts learning experiences and new pathways for students to participate in National PTA’s Reflections program. 

We can’t wait to support and celebrate another successful year of Reflections with you!

Learn more about Reflections, Mary Lou Anderson and her legacy by visiting our ArtsEd page and Reflections Timeline.

Enhance the PTA Membership Experience: Ask Everyone to Join

By Linda Johnson and Ivelisse Castro, National PTA, Membership and Field Service Team

Nearly 20,000 local PTAs/PTSAs are getting ready to get Back to School, Back to PTA. So much to be done and so little time to prepare for a successful PTA/PTSA year. National PTA wants to make things easy for local PTA leaders and help support a positive PTA membership experience. Since the number one reason why people do not join PTA is that they are never asked, we’ve developed a suite of customizable templates to help local PTAs ask their community to join PTA using the PTA Membership Campaign.

Templates to:

  1. Invite everyone to PTA/PTSA for Your Child as we get Back to School, Back to PTA by joining, supporting, or investing in your PTA/PTSA. This letter/email is to be used at the beginning of the PTA membership year as families get ready to get back to school. If printed as a letter, you can add your PTA membership registration form on the back or create a QR code for people to scan.
  2. Invite existing and past PTA/PTSA members to continue supporting your PTA/PTSA by renewing their membership. This letter/email is to be used as soon as your PTA membership year starts and anytime to target past members who haven’t renewed their PTA membership this year.
  3. Invite PTA/PTSA event attendees to join your PTA/PTSA to support programs and events like the one they attended. Use this letter/email throughout the year after every PTA/PTSA event/program to invite attendees who are not yet members to join your PTA/PTSA.
  4. Welcome members to PTA/PTSA and thank them for joining, let them know the benefits of PTA membership and let them know how much their membership means to your PTA and to you as a PTA leader.

Remember since the number one reason why people don’t join PTA is because they are not asked, make sure to ask this year! Sometimes you must ask more than once.  People love it when PTAs/PTSAs take the time to invite them to join or renew their membership. They love receiving a Welcome to PTA/Thank you for Joining message even more. An invitation to join makes them feel like they can make a difference just by becoming a member. A welcome/thank you message makes them feel included, valued, appreciated; it makes them feel their membership does matter.

Use these resources to Market your PTA to make it easier for your PTA/PTSA to provide a meaningful membership experience so that when it’s time to ask them to renew next year, everyone will say “Yes” again, and again, and again. For more ideas to grow your membership, you can check out 125 Ways to Increase Membership and the 10 PTA Membership Myths & Truths

Increasing membership is vital for our PTA voice to be stronger and more powerful or influential.

Have a successful PTA membership year.

P.S.: We would love to know if these resources were helpful or if you need additional tools. Please let us know by emailing us at Membership@PTA.org.

5 Summer Tips to Start Your PTA School Year Strong

Ahhhh, summer. Those long days, outdoor adventures and beautiful nights are here. You survived the end-of-year rat race, and now you’re ready for some well-deserved relaxation. 

Start your summer with a complete break from your PTA leadership duties to allow yourself time to rest and rejuvenate. When you’re ready, take advantage of the important opportunities summer provides for a jumpstart on the upcoming school year with these five helpful tips!

Tip #1: Meet with the Executive Board

Summer is a great time to gather the executive board for an informal meeting to reflect on the past school year and discuss your association’s goals. This gives you a chance to identify specific needs, necessary changes, and volunteer gaps for the upcoming school year. 

It’s also an excellent time to get together for some fun, team-building activities that help you get to know each other a little better! Have a barbecue, talk about your summer plans, or just relax on the patio together. It’s a nice way to foster an enjoyable, cohesive team atmosphere. Just remember to follow the CDC’s COVID-19 safety precautions!

Tip #2: Check in with School Administrators

Your school administrators can be hard to catch during the school year. However, during the summer, their schedule slows down considerably, making it an ideal time for a casual touch-base. 

They’ll likely be planning for the upcoming school year, which gives you the perfect opportunity to ask about their financial needs and goals. Are they hoping to give the playground a facelift or expand technology? This insight will be valuable as you plan your fundraising goals and programs for the year ahead. 

The informal feel of summer also creates a unique space for some relationship-building conversation with your administration. Building a strong connection with your school’s leadership team is key to a successful partnership.

Tip #3: Organize Your “Back to School” Welcome Packet

A little preparation goes a long way! Use this time to pull together the information you will need for your PTA’s “Back to School” welcome packet. Include a calendar of events, important dates, and membership information. Don’t forget to save the date for the official PTA Back-to-School Week, Sept. 13-17, 2021—National PTA will be sharing yearlong solutions, resources and program opportunities to help plan your school year, engage your school community and get support for students and families.

Assembling welcome packets is an easy task for children, so don’t be afraid to enlist the kids to make it go faster. It’s the perfect activity for a rainy afternoon!

Tip #4: Begin Recruiting Volunteers for Next School Year

During the summer, people are less stressed and more likely to say yes to upcoming school-year commitments. Get a jump on recruiting additional volunteers now to start your year off with a full volunteer team. Check out the National PTA Membership page for ideas.

The best way to recruit volunteers over the summer is with a volunteer form you share online. Find out the benefits of a volunteer form, what to include on your form, and grab our free volunteer form template here.

#5: Continue to Communicate with Parents

Don’t shut down your communication channels just because school is out. Staying connected with parents and families is essential, even during summer vacation. 

You can use social media and email to check in, publicize volunteer needs, share exciting school news, and give teasers to get people excited about the fun events you have planned for the upcoming school year. Just remember to keep it light and infrequent.

The back-to-school season can be hectic, especially for active volunteers like you. These five summer tips will ease the transition and lighten the load so your PTA will be all set for another successful school year! 


Booster is the parent brand for the Boosterthon Fun Run which exists to strengthen schools by increasing funds and inspiring students through a remarkable fitness and character-building experience. Dedicated to growing intentional leaders and creating remarkable experiences, Booster is located in Atlanta, GA.  Founded by Chris Carneal, Booster serves schools in more than 37 states.

Your School May Qualify for the Emergency Connectivity Fund

The FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a $7.17 billion government program designed to help schools and libraries provide the tools and services needed for remote learning during the COVID-19 emergency period.

For eligible schools and libraries, the ECF program will cover reasonable costs of:

  1. Internet connectivity for students, school staff and library patrons at locations other than schools or libraries
  2. Equipment such as Wi-Fi hotspots, modems and routers
  3. Laptop and tablet computers

Comcast is proud to support eligible applicants who apply for ECF. If your PTA is interested in working with Comcast to obtain high-speed internet service on behalf of students, school staff and library patrons using ECF, you can do so through Comcast’s Internet Essentials Partnership Program (IEPP). The IEPP is a streamlined process for eligible applicants to seek ECF funds and quickly connect families in need to broadband access at home.

Who is Eligible to Receive Funding through ECF?

Funding will be limited to nonprofit schools, libraries, schools and libraries that are eligible for support under the FCC’s E-Rate program, as well as Tribal libraries eligible for support under the Library Services and Technology Act. Funding will be prioritized for the highest needs schools based on the percentage of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program, with an additional factor based on rurality.

How Can Schools and Libraries Apply for Funding?

The initial application filing window opened June 29, 2021 and will close August 13, 2021. During this time, eligible applicants can submit funding requests to the FCC to cover the cost of eligible services, equipment and devices that will be used between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. Applicants must specify if they will submit invoices or if their service provider has agreed to submit invoices on their behalf.

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is the administrator of the ECF program and will review applications and issue funding commitment decision letters (FCDL) for approved organizations. After receiving an FCDL, approved organizations may submit reimbursement requests to USAC.

A second filing window may be opened for prospective or retrospective purchases if not all funds are used within the first filing window. Interested schools and libraries can find more information and apply at EmergencyConnectivityFund.org.

What is the Internet Essentials Partnership Program?

Comcast is using its Internet Essentials Partnership Program (IEPP) to facilitate school participation in the ECF program. IEPP provides the opportunity for school districts and other organizations to enter into an agreement with Comcast to fund and quickly connect students and families to broadband access at home through Internet Essentials from Comcast. For more information on working with Comcast to utilize the ECF program, please complete an online intake form at InternetEssentials.com/Sponsor to kick off the process to become an Internet Essentials Partnership Program partner.

IEPP ECF Partners may select between one of two speed-tier options of service.

Internet Essentials:

  • 50/5 Mbps
  • $9.95/month + tax
  • Equipment rental fees included
  • CIPA compliant through xFi Advanced Security and Parental Controls

Internet Essentials Plus:

  • 100/5 Mbps
  • $29.95/month + tax
  • Equipment rental fees included
  • CIPA compliant through xFi Advanced Security and Parental Controls

Work with Comcast

Comcast’s participation in ECF was designed and is supported by E-Rate experts. We will work with each applicant to determine the best route for reimbursement and to facilitate participation in ECF.

Our team provides dedicated support for applicants seeking to obtain ECF. Our trained agents are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. You can leverage our enrollment center to receive assistance with applications seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to Midnight EST. Comcast’s agents can assist applicants in more than 240 languages and for hearing-impaired households, American Sign Language-trained agents are available through video chat.

If you have additional questions or would like more information about working with Comcast, please email IEPP_Support@Comcast.com.

Comcast’s Commitment to Digital Equity

Over the next 10 years, Comcast is committing $1 billion to reach 50 million low-income Americans with the tools and resources they need to succeed in a digital world. We’ll do this by connecting people to the Internet at home, equipping safe spaces with free Wi-Fi, and working with thousands of nonprofit community organizations, city leaders, and business partners to create opportunities.

Internet Essentials from Comcast

Internet Essentials is Comcast’s signature digital equity initiative and the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program. In 10 years, it has helped connect 10 million low-income Americans to broadband Internet at home, most for the very first time. The program addresses the three major barriers to broadband adoption—digital literacy training and relevance, equipment, and cost—and relies on a network of tens of thousands of community partners to help families cross the digital divide.

To learn more, visit InternetEssentials.com/Sponsor

Meet the 2021 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awardees!

Each year, National PTA honors the top three National PTA Schools of Excellence with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awards for demonstrating outstanding success in engaging families in student success and school improvement. The awardees are selected by a team of Past National PTA Presidents and are the highest honor our association offers for success in family engagement. 

The 2021 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients are:  

Helen Keller Jr. High School PTA in Illinois, who received the top Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award. Miami Beach Senior High PTSA in Florida and Hembree Springs Elementary School PTA in Georgia both received the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit.  

Thanks to the generous support of the Hearst Foundation, the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Awardee receives a $2,000 grant for their school and the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Merit Awardees each receive $500 grants for their schools. We are pleased to share with you just a snapshot of the amazing work the 2021 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients put into building and growing family-school partnerships in their communities. To learn more about the accomplishments of these top-ranked PTAs, visit PTA.org/Hearst.  

Helen Keller Jr High School PTA   

Helen Keller Jr High School is a Title 1 school in Shaumburg, Illinois. Their PTA serves a diverse student body of nearly 600 students. Through the School of Excellence program, the PTA used feedback from their school community to address families’ concerns about the mental health and well-being of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Program leader Trisha Anderson said the PTA decided to enroll in the School of Excellence program because, “The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted our physical health—our mental health has also been greatly impacted. Our goal is to help our school community become aware of the importance of mental health. We hope the investment in doing this work will change the school by providing them with mental health awareness and with strategies to improve mental health.” 

The PTA worked collaboratively with school leadership and staff to implement a program to educate students and raise awareness about the importance of mental health. They provided mental health resources for families through new and revamped communication vehicles and created a forum for families to share additional tips and tools to communicate more effectively. The PTA also worked hard to connect and align the Mental Health program within the framework of existing social and emotional learning (SEL) lessons. Teachers reviewed the existing material and re-worked their SEL lesson plans to include specific mental health lessons. Physical Education teachers worked with in-person students to “chalk the walk” in order to raise awareness about mental health and hosted a mental health event during PE classes.  

The school improvement goal Helen Keller Jr High School PTA identified as part of their School of Excellence journey was finding new ways to keep families informed and to communicate effectively in an atypical, frequently changing, majority virtual school year. There were no in person events, handouts or volunteers on campus, so they updated existing channels of communications and created new channels to reach our school community. By creating new forums for informing families and encouraging two-way communication, they laid the groundwork for ongoing communication with families and put relevant Mental Health programming in place that will be used in future school years.  

Helen Keller’s Principal stated, “Working with the Keller PTA on the National PTA School of Excellence work has been a tremendous partnership.  One of the most significant takeaways came from how we communicate with our families.  From my perspective, this work has been so beneficial because it can be layered into our existing work as a building, and absolutely assists with strengthening our connections with families to ensure whole child student success.” 

We think it’s safe to say that this outstanding PTA created impactful, ongoing programming to address families’ concerns about students’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as a direct result of their increased integration with school leadership and staff, the PTA saw an increase in both parent and staff membership. Congratulations, Helen Keller Jr. High School PTA! We are so proud of the work you’ve been able to achieve to help all students achieve excellence. 

Miami Beach Senior High PTSA  

Miami Beach Senior High PTSA in Florida serves over 2,000 students, the majority of whom are Hispanic. Their greatest accomplishment through the School of Excellence program was increasing communication and collaboration among families, teachers, administrators and staff. Their school improvement and student success goals focused on college- and career-readiness standards.  

First, the PTSA helped the college counselor and the career and technical education department spread their messages to students and parents, increasing awareness of opportunities through emails, social media and zoom sessions. To help students and parents better understand how to navigate the college application process, they scheduled a series of zoom meetings by grade level and group chats through social media to capture students’ attention. 

Next, Miami Beach Senior High PTSA worked with teachers and administration to create a chart to help everyone understand the steps to take when students need additional academic support. To help families better understand how to support their child’s learning, they created a weekly email with a “tip of the week,” covering a range of educational topics. They also worked with school staff to provide grants where needed to enhance educational programming by making it more inclusive and individualized. 

Since Miami Beach Senior High PTSA started the School of Excellence program in 2019, prior to the pandemic, 90% of seniors who graduated in 2020 reported they were planning to attend either a two- or four-year university, 5% planned to either enter the military, trade school or work force and over 300 students earned industry certifications! 

The School of Excellence program helped Miami Beach Senior High reach their identified goals. The program leader said, “School of Excellence provided a framework and platform to spark discussions about enhancing communication, college and career readiness, and vertical alignment within our feeder pattern. We used it to gain collaboration and made positive gains in beginning the process of setting up future procedures.”  

The principal agrees, stating, “The School of Excellence Program provided an effective framework to shape our relationship with parents and establish intentional real-life goals for ALL students.”  Congratulations to Miami Beach Senior High PTSA for all of your achievements. We can’t wait to see what you do next! 

Hembree Springs Elementary School PTA  

Hembree Springs Elementary School is a Title 1 school that serves over 500 students in Roswell, Ga. After analyzing feedback from their school community, the PTA chose to focus their School of Excellence journey on improving education by connecting families with advocacy opportunities, increasing awareness of resources and growing family engagement to support student success. 

To achieve their goals, the PTA decided to work closely with school staff to provide a monthly, one-hour forum for semi-structured conversation between parents and school leaders. They used survey results and parent/guardian feedback to prioritize topics, such as literacy, transitions, assessments, principal updates and the “summer slide.” The PTA made sure to increase access to these sessions by offering them in the evening, reserving time for Q&A and providing translators to ensure access for Spanish-speaking families. They also launched an “advocacy newsletter,” to share information and continue to solicit ideas and feedback.  

Parents loved the PTA’s efforts. One parent said, “I think this year the virtual discussions were most timely and relevant and helpful. I found all of the sessions to be very honest conversations between school leadership and parents. I appreciated this opportunity and would like to see them continue.”  

The virtual discussions were a hit with school administrators, too. A.J. Smith, the Hembree Springs Elementary School principal said, “The Hembree Springs Community has grown through the work of PTA and the school. Our parents have gained so much through our Ask PTA! sessions. With our parents being knowledgeable and supported, our students have had better success in academics and socially/emotionally. This has been evident in our behavior data, attendance data, and academic data. Our Hawks have been impacted in such a positive way. This program has forever changed the way we approach advocacy here at Hembree!”  
 

Overall, PTA and administrators found the School of Excellence program to be very effective in helping them reach their collective goals. “The School of Excellence program provided us with valuable information that we leveraged to foster stronger and deeper relationships with our families and community members. It enabled us to be intentional and specific regarding the needs of our community—leading to the creation of programs and initiatives that will generate ongoing improvements for our school community in years to come.”  

Start Your Journey to Excellence 

As you can see from these PTA stories, the National PTA School of Excellence program opens the lines of communication and critical thinking within school communities to make data-driven decisions that yield positive, long-term results. We hope your PTA will enroll in the 2021-2022 National PTA School of Excellence program to take the first step in enriching the educational experience and overall well-being of your students. Enroll by October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence. Feel free to email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions. 

The New PTA Normal: 4 Tips This New School Year

After the upheaval and uncertainty of the past year and a half, do you find yourself anxious to get your PTA back to “normal?” What is “normal” anyway? Merriam Webster defines normal as, “conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern; characterized by that which is considered usual, typical or routine.” So maybe, after all that has happened, none of us should aspire to be “normal.”

After all, as Maya Angelou once said, “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” It is time to strive for amazing so we can accomplish astounding outcomes for children and families. This begins with two simple questions. What did we learn in the past year and half? How can we use it to do even more for children and families?

Connected, Even While Apart

PTAs around the country reported that Zoom membership meetings had higher attendance than pre-COVID-19 pandemic face-to-face meetings. They told us people with work schedule conflicts, babysitting needs, disabilities and transportation challenges were suddenly able to attend PTA meetings because they were virtual. These individuals reported how excited they were to particpate and many offered to volunteer.

So, will your PTA go back to “normal” this year with all face-to-face meetings or will you mix it up, allow more access, and throw in some or all virtual meetings? Your state PTA can help you on your path to amazing. Learn more about making the most out of virtual meetings with this video training.

Raise Your Voice for Every Child!

PTAs also reported finding their voice during the pandemic. They saw a niche and filled it, ensuring their members and community were connected and informed, speaking with one voice on behalf of their members. Many of these leaders were new to local advocacy and reported how great it felt to have an impact. They told National PTA that new members joined because of their PTA’s advocacy, seeing value in PTA for the first time and recognizing PTA was more than a fundraising machine.

So, does your PTA go back to the same routine, or do you continue to find ways to amaze and network families and community and raise your collective voices for what children and families need? Check out National PTA’s Public Policy Platform to find Policy Briefs you can use to address inequities in your community.

PTA is Not a Building

PTA leaders worked hard to overcome the mistaken impression that you need a school building to PTA. They discovered that events could be held in public spaces, that other PTAs and community associations and PTAs were excellent partners in getting things done, and that programming could happen in a virtual space.

They learned what community and non-school based PTAs have always known—you do not need a building to PTA. And, they changed the perception of PTA from a school-based fundraising organization to a community-centered resource for families, and discovered new partners, funding, and members. So, will your PTA return to its typical line-up of activities, or will you instead PTA Beyond the Building and amaze your community?

PTA’s Path to Amazing

Studies show that many Americans do not want to return to a normal workday with the same old routines and expectations. Do they want to return to a normal PTA? PTAs around the world learned to adapt to the sudden, drastic change in environment caused by the pandemic, so PTAs can definitely handle whatever the 2021-2022 school year throws at us. And we can take what we learned during the shutdown and make PTA an even stronger force for children and families.

If your PTA paused last year, start small. Use a National PTA program or grant to get going. If you need help recruiting members, visit the new National PTA membership webpage for resources and ideas. And, if you are part of a PTA that strives to return to “normal,” listen to Alice Hoffman, who wrote, “When are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes lack of courage.” Amazing and courageous—that is something for all PTAs to aspire to be.


Deborah Walsh is the manager of membership outreach for National PTA.

Getting the Most From School Meals—How Parents Can Help

Have you heard? Nutritious school meals are free for all children through June 30, 2022.

On a regular school day, millions of students have access to nutritious meals through school meal programs including the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. Sadly, a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) revealed in April 2020 alone, 54 school districts across 28 states and the District of Columbia served 21 million fewer breakfasts and 44 million fewer lunches when compared to October 2019. The fact is that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase food insecurity.

But there’s good news too! In response to concerns that children were missing out on nutritious meals, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the extension of meal service flexibilities. This means schools can now safely offer free school meals to all children, regardless of household income, through June 2022. This includes during summer break. Families should check with their school districts for more information on getting these free meals.

What’s in a School Meal?

You may be wondering what is included in these free breakfasts and lunches. The meals served through these programs must meet specific nutrition requirements, including serving fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and milk. In fact, a recent study from Tufts University found that among children in the United States, foods consumed at schools had the highest overall diet quality of any other food source.

Although these foods are healthy, some children may be hesitant to try the food from school because it may be unfamiliar, or they are just not interested in eating certain foods, like vegetables. Sound familiar? Rather than seeing food go to waste and your child or children not getting the proper nutrition for their growing bodies, you can take steps to encourage healthier eating.

Three generation family washing vegetables in the kitchen

Model healthy eating at home. Reinforcing healthy behaviors both in and out of school is key. Try some of these tips to make it happen:

  • Review school menus with your child and encourage them to try new food items. Use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about what they will be served, and the nutrients provided by the different foods.
  • Get your kids involved in meal planning at home and let them pick a new vegetable or fruit to try each week. This is a great opportunity to have older children research different options for using the fruit or vegetable in a meal.
  • Got a green thumb? Plant a garden at home, or volunteer to help with a community or school garden.

Get involved in school health activities. Although opportunities to get involved may vary in each community as schools work to safely reopen, consider some of these ideas you might be able to participate in to help create a healthier school:

  • Join the school or district committee (wellness committee) that sets the policies for health and wellness.
  • Eat school breakfast or lunch with your child.
  • Offer to help with taste tests or other nutrition promotion activities in the school cafeteria.
  • Talk with the school cafeteria manager about items you would like to see served.

Note: If your child has special nutritional needs—such as allergies, sensitivities, or restrictions due to a medical condition, talk to your school’s cafeteria manager about meal modifications for your child.

More Information:

Research shows that students who participate in the school meal programs consume more whole grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables during meal times and have better overall diet quality, than nonparticipants.(1,2) And, eating breakfast at school is associated with better attendance rates, fewer missed school days, and better test scores.(3–6)

  1. Fox MK, Gearan E, Cabili C, et al. School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study, Final Report Volume 4: Student Participation, Satisfaction, Plate Waste, and Dietary Intakes. Alexandria, VA: US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Policy Support; 2019. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/SNMCS-Volume4.pdf. Accessed June 1, 2021.
  2. Kinderknecht K, Harris C, Jones-Smith J. Association of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with dietary quality among children in the US National School Lunch Program. JAMA. 2020;324(4):359–368.
  3. Murphy JM, Pagano MR, Nachmani J, Sperling P, Kane S, Kleinman RR. The relationship of school breakfast to psychosocial and academic functioning. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152:899–107.
  4. Murphy JM, Pagano M, Bishop SJ. Impact of a universally free, in-classroom school breakfast program on achievement: results from the Abell Foundation’s Baltimore Breakfast Challenge Program. Boston, MA: Massachusetts General Hospital; 2001.
  5. Murphy JM, Drake JE, Weineke KM. Academics and Breakfast Connection Pilot: Final Report on New York’s Classroom Breakfast Project. Albany, NY: Nutrition Consortium of New York; 2005.
  6. Myers A, Sampson A, Weitzman M, Rogers B, Kayne H. School Breakfast Program and school performance. Am J Dis Child. 1989;143:1234–9.

Congratulations, 2020-2021 National PTA Reflections Outstanding Interpretation Winners!

On May 1, National PTA announced the 2020-2021 Reflections winners for the student-selected theme I Matter Because…. Over 200 students from 38 State PTA Congresses earned national recognition for their creative accomplishments in Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts. The program also offers a Special Artist Division to recognize students with disabilities who participate. Seven remarkable students earned the National PTA Reflections program’s highest achievement: the Outstanding Interpretation Award. We are proud to recognize this year’s Outstanding Interpretation Award winners!

Mark Wagner – Special Artist – Dance Choreography
Dana Hills High School PTSA, California

Mark showed us the strength of his voice through his choreography piece titled “I Speak With My Dancing.” In his artist statement, Mark wrote, “I matter because I am different. I speak with my dancing.”

Mark has been dancing since he was five years old, and he practiced every week for two months to develop his Reflections submission. He is a fearless performer who loves to entertain big crowds with his creative movements. His mother, Mercedes, shared, “For him to achieve this award, in his Special Artist category, is truly an honor for him and our family.”

Sydney Ware – Dance Choreography
Dekalb School of the Arts PTSA, Georgia

Sydney’s creativity stood out with “In This Shirt,” her dance choreography piece. In her artist statement, Sydney explained, “The whole song is about being lost as an individual, so I used that as a way to represent that we all are lost sometimes. The video begins with the dancers describing why they matter.

The dance begins with them wearing shirts that say ‘Why Do I Matter?’. Throughout the dance they find themselves as individuals and have their own solo moments. They also change into their own individual
outfits, to express finding their individuality. ‘On the journey to finding yourself, there will always be reasons why you matter’.”

Sydney finds value in choreographing to express herself. She shared, “I really enjoyed working on this piece. At the time we had been in quarantine for six months, so I was really ready to put positive energy into something that I enjoyed doing.”

Zoe Caraballo – Film Production
Green Township PTA, New Jersey

Zoe’s film production “I Matter” exemplifies the student-selected Reflections theme. In her artist statement, she explained, “To matter, you have to choose to matter. Through my video, I explain how I can make a difference in the world through small acts and how you could matter too if you choose to.”

For Zoe, art is “an opportunity to spread my message about serious topics in the world in an eye-catching way.” In this film, which includes an immersive Minecraft-inspired scene, she combined her passions for poetry and film production.

Joshua Johnson – Literature
Bennion Junior High PTSA, Utah

Joshua wrote a powerful poem titled “The Voice In My Head.” In his artist statement, he explained the piece’s context: “2020 has been unbelievably challenging for many people, including me. With the physical, emotional, mental, financial, academic, political, and social challenges we’ve all faced this year, I wanted to write a poem that expressed the feelings and experiences I have had and I have heard. I believe I matter because I can do hard things. I am becoming a better person, a better student, a better
family member, and a better member of our society because of the things I am learning by being resilient.

Because I know I matter, I believe I help other people know they matter.”
Though Joshua typically sources inspiration for his poems based on what is in his head and heart, this poem comes straight from his heart. He shared that the poem “was really personal to me. It was my attempt to articulate everything I had been feeling about [last] year.”

Johan Novak – Music Composition
Odle Middle School PTSA, Washington

Johan’s moving musical composition piece, titled “Legacy,” expresses the power of individual influence. In his artist statement, he shared, “Last summer, our dear family friend with cancer spent her final days in
hospice care in our home. She was a phenomenal musician, my music teacher, and most of all my friend.

She left me her legacy of music and love, and inspired me to write this song. In her death, I saw how precious life is. We take so many things for granted and forget that tomorrow is not guaranteed. I matter because I create a legacy with each day I have. I can make the world a better place and honor those who gave me so much.”

Like so many, Johan has found joy through art. He shared, “Writing my Reflections song helped me express my feelings, and I hope that my music has personal meaning to you. I write music to express my feelings and because it makes me happy.”

Maeryn Elizabeth Jacob – Photography
Lawton Chiles Middle School PTSA, Florida
Maeryn’s photograph demonstrates her power to change the world. In her artist statement, Maeryn explained, “I matter because I fight for my beliefs. Though I am young I believe I can still have a big impact on the world. This world is suffering, and we need to do everything we can to help undo the things we have done. As a part of the upcoming generation, who will need to fix our world so that the next generations after us, still have a place to live.”

Photography allows Maeryn to share her perspective on the world with others. With her Young Artist Scholarship, Maeryn plans to save most of the winning money – but she also wants to get a hamster with some of it!

Claire Moon – Visual Arts
Rachel Carson Middle School PTA, Virginia

Claire’s intricate visual arts piece is titled “My Pieces of Quilt.” She explained her inspiration in her artist statement, writing, “I thought of pieces someone needs during their journey to potential success, so I thought of paper, which represents the pieces in a story. In this artwork, I incorporated states of paper, including signs of where we face failure, so we give up, crumple, and tear up what we initially had in mind,
but also the remarkable achievements that we pin and clip to stay flexible and fold it into an impacting lesson. Therefore, I matter because by taping the achievements and failures, I can string together the hardships I face to grow my identity into a developing masterpiece.”

Now in middle school, Claire has participated in the Reflections program since she was a third grader. She shared, “I enjoy [Reflections] because it helps me reflect on what’s happening around me and to
figure out what I’ve learned.”

Congratulations to our Outstanding Interpretation winners: Mark Wagner, Sydney Ware, Zoe Caraballo, Joshua Johnson, Johan Novak, Maeryn Elizabeth Jacob, and Claire Moon! We look forward to celebrating your achievements at the virtual PTA Convention & Expo and throughout the year.

We are also so inspired by all the “I Matter Because…” awardees. Please visit PTA.org/ReflectionsAwards to find the official Reflections awards announcement , the complete list of student winners, and our
Virtual Exhibit 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.


Sarah Scalet, National PTA’s Arts in Education Fellow

The Value of Versatility: PTA Programs at Home

If we learned one thing from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we all needed to take a step back and reconsider how to engage PTA members, students and families in school communities—and that you don’t need a school building to stay connected to your PTA members and your school community.

In response, National PTA has revamped and reimagined our programs to launch PTA Programs at Home—completely customizable program options that you can adapt to meet the unique needs of your school community. You can host an online virtual event, or you can offer program activities for families to complete at their own pace, with or without technology! Choose from STEM + Families Science Festivals at Home, STEM + Families Propelling Our World at HomePTA Connected Smart Talk Program at Home, and Healthy Hydration Program at Home.

Close to 30,000 children, family members, school staff and community members participated in PTA Programs at Home during the 2020-2021 school year. 98% of families that completed the PTA Programs at Home satisfaction survey said that they would like to do more of these activities with their family. That’s amazing and a testament to how engaging the programs are!

The benefits don’t stop there, though. Many PTA leaders reported that their choice to offer PTA Programs at Home led to more parent and caregiver engagement, which led to increased PTA membership. Some PTAs even reported they were able to reach families that had never attended a PTA or school event!

We learned so much from PTA leaders through these new program offerings and want to ensure that everyone throughout our PTA network is aware of just how easy it is to offer PTA Programs at Home. 76% of PTA leaders responded that PTA Programs at Home toolkit and materials were very useful! 74% of PTA leaders found our National PTA technical assistance to be very helpful as well!

That’s right—at National PTA we are always working to provide your PTA with support. When you decide to host PTA Programs at Home, you gain access to technical assistance, networking opportunities with other PTA leaders, grab and drop program materials, an upcoming Programs calendar to help you plan your program year, and storytelling resources to help your PTA tell your story! But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what our PTA Programs at Home participants have to say.

PTA Programs at Home Highlights

Keeth Elementary PTA located in Winter Springs, Fla., ran the PTA Programs at Home STEM + Families Propelling Our World Program this school year, reaching over 700 students and family members. The PTA made the program available for families to participate at their own pace, providing an opportunity for families to do the activities together, building science, technology, engineering and math skills through challenging engineering design challenges. Check out this cool video!

  • Twin Echo School PTA, located in Collinsville, Ill., ran the PTA Programs at Home Healthy Hydration Program. One PTA leader said, “We reached over 450 individuals! Many of our students were unaware of the sugars in their favorite drinks. By educating them and showing them other healthy options through this program, we influenced them to choose healthier options and to choose water!”
  • Hembree Springs Elementary School PTA, located in Rosewell, Ga., was able to engage over 120 students and families through the PTA Programs at Home Science Festival Program. They hosted a live, virtual event and provided activities for families to do while watching at home. Students and families were so excited! One family member was so inspired by the event that they decided to volunteer to be on the PTA Board for the upcoming school year, to ensure that the PTA can continue offering these fun and engaging programs!
  • Lynn Wood Elementary School PTA, located in Broken Arrow, Okla., ran the PTA Programs at Home Smart Talk Program, serving 75 students and family members. With students and families more online than ever before, they knew an event like this was critical. One PTA leader shared, “We believe this program allowed our PTA to facilitate a focused engaging task for families that truly fostered transformative engagement amongst our school community.”

How We PTA: Every Child. One Voice.

As you begin planning for the 2021-2022 school year, remember: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just realign your efforts with the available resources from National PTA to fit the needs of your school community. Check in with your State PTA as well to see if they have additional tools.

Please reach out to National PTA if you need support in determining how PTA Programs at Home can work for your school community!  Follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletters. National PTA has a wealth of information, right at your fingertips. We are here to support you!