Thank You, Congressman Platts!

United States Representative Todd Russell Platts (PA-19) announced last week that he will not seek re-election after six terms in office. Congressman Platts is best known as one of the last Members of Congress who refuses political action committee dollars, instead relying only on personal contributions to fund each of his congressional campaigns. He’s also well-known around the Capitol for his long daily commute to and from York, Pennsylvania – choosing to forgo the convenience of a DC apartment for evenings at home with his wife and two sons. What an incredible example of family engagement!

It comes as no surprise, then, that a steadfast commitment to children is a hallmark of Platts’ Congressional service; particularly, issues of educational equity and children’s health, both PTA priorities. As a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Congressman has been a loyal champion of public education. Platts was the lead Republican sponsor of Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation in 2010 that significantly improved the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, a champion of special education funding, and has consistently bucked his own party in opposition of federal funds for private school scholarships.

During the 111th Congress, Platts teamed up with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY/04), to secure bipartisan introduction of the Family Engagement in Education Act, serving as the lead Republican cosponsor of PTA’s signature piece of legislation. This Congress, despite a new majority and shifting political dynamic, Representative Platts assumed the lead, reintroducing the bill with Representative McCarthy by his side, in May of 2011. During committee efforts to reauthorize and improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB) Congressman Platts has been a vocal advocate for family engagement, offering  and successfully securing adoption of an amendment to save Parent Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs). Most recently, he worked to ensure inclusion of key family engagement provisions in Chairman Kline’s (R-MN/06) draft reauthorization language.

In recognition of his ongoing commitment to children and families, Representative Platts was honored with the 2011 PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award.Thank You!

At the 2011 PTA Legislative Conference, the Congressman spoke of his family as inspiration for his public service, accepting the award in honor of his mother, who he credits with being an active participant in the education of him and his four siblings.

Our PTA tagline is every child. one voice. Upon learning that Congressman Platts will be taking a bow at the close of 2012 to spend more time with his own children, we wish to sincerely thank you, Congressman Platts, for being a true voice for every child over the course of your 12 years on Capitol Hill.

National Title I Conference Keynote: Reality is Broken

In her engaging, forward-thinking session Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal makes the case that the gamer spirit — an attitude of fun, dedicated, collective problem-solving — is our greatest asset as we face the social, economic, and environmental problems of the 21st century. She argues that game designers are effectively happiness engineers, experts in making difficult tasks engaging, and that we should draw on their smarts as we frame the challenges of our time. According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal, the reason for this mass exodus to virtual worlds is that videogames are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs. In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world.

Click Here

National Endowment for the Arts Task Force

Somewhere inside each of us, especially when we are young, lies a budding artist. Fostering that creativity–nurturing that spirit to let our imaginations fly–is the very essence of educating a child.

This past Wednesday (November 30th) the National Endowment of the Arts announced that it will lead a new federal level task force that will emphasize research on the arts and well-being at all stages of life. Chief among the departments involved is the Department of Health and Human Services. In an era of tightening school budgets that see funding for arts programs and classes eliminated or cut altogether, this is a much needed step forward in recognizing the importance of arts in education. Studies continue to endorse the well-known fact that when children express themselves through the arts, they are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, more likely to participate in a math or science fair and more likely to be elected to a school office.

Something PTAs nationwide understand well! That is why each year, hundreds of thousands of student participants in National PTA’s Reflections arts program can attest to how the arts impact their lives and their ability to express themselves.

No child should be denied the chance to develop their talent or be denied an outlet for their artistic expression because of budget cuts. Thousands of PTAs across the country and in our military based schools overseas make it possible each year for our children to be involved in the arts through Reflections. Sadly for many, they may not have had the opportunity otherwise.

As parents, PTA leaders, and members Urgent Blog Request, we commend the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Health and Human Services, along with the other federal departments that are working on this important research on the arts. We stand ready to assist them in any way possible!

Every child in this nation deserves the chance to have a well-rounded education and to have the tools to reach their full potential as they grow into adulthood. The arts are a vital ingredient!

Visit PTA.org/Reflections for more information about National PTA’s Reflections program and to find out how your PTA can participate in next school year’s program.

Proposed Family Engagement Bill Will Strengthen Education

Earlier this week, the Family Engagement in Education Act was introduced in the Unites States Congress by Representative Todd Platts (R-PA), Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). Known as S.941/H.R.1821, this legislation will help increase parent and family engagement throughout our country and lead to student success. See news release here: http://tiny.cc/2niwy.

Simply put: parent engagement equals student achievement. Parents, grand-parents, other family members and all adult role models can bring the needed dedication and experience to the table to help make student success a reality.

For years, school districts and local schools have lacked the resources to implement research-based practices that meaningfully engage parents. This legislation can help provide the resources that take increased engagement to the level we all agree is needed.

The bill would provide incentives to districts and schools to implement best practices, such as parent leadership academies, placing family engagement coordinators in schools, and professional development for educators on how to partner with families.

The Family Engagement in Education Act would also strengthen the sole federal program dedicated to parent engagement, the Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs), to scale-up research-based strategies for engaging families. PIRCs currently serve more than 16 million parents in all 50 states.

As policymakers in Washington work to fix No Child Left Behind, this bill puts forth a framework for true partnership with parents and families in education reform efforts – and it does all of this without authorizing any new federal spending.

We know that partnership is pivotal in ensuring reforms passed on Capitol Hill are sustainable in our districts and schools. There is a lot going on in our nation’s capital and we know Congress has a full plate, but PTA leaders, members and all families should share their support for this legislation and contact their Representatives and Senators to urge them to do the same. For information on how to do this, visit http://capwiz.com/npta2/home/.

For 115 years PTA has worked to better the health and educational experience for every child. Now is the time to add your voice to this very important conversation. Get involved and support S.941 and H.R.1821, helping make every child’s potential a reality!

National PTA rolls out Parents’ Guide to Student Success

Advocacy can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Many say they don’t have the time, some just do not understand why. Then there is the PTA; an Association of parents, teachers, administrators and communities working to improve the educational experience of our students. Common Core State Standards has been an initiative of the PTA for more than a year now and it has taken our advocacy efforts to a new level.

For example, this week National PTA rolled out the Parents’ Guide to Student Success. Individual guides have been created for parents, in both English and Spanish, for grades K-8 and two for grades 9-12; one for English language arts/literacy and one for mathematics. Eleven Guides in all.

These Guides help parents better understand what their children should be learning in English language arts and math in each grade after their state implements the standards. At this writing more than 40 states have already adopted the standards. Although the standards will take some time to be fully implemented in most places (1-3 years), the time to act is now for PTA leaders.

The Guides are a powerful advocacy tool that State and Local PTA Presidents can use to partner with their state departments of education and their school districts to ensure that parents are knowledgeable about the standards and can support their implementation. With this tool, PTAs can stand ready to work with their education administrators to develop a plan to share the Parent Guides with parents in their communities once the standards are in place.

As a parent, I know these guides will be helpful to me once the standards are implemented in my home state. Not only will they help me know what to expect my child to learn, but will help me know what the most important topics my boys will learn about in each grade.

You can find the guides and more information about the Common Core State Standards at PTA.org/parentsguides.

Charles J. “Chuck” Saylors is the President of National PTA.

In my life, I loved you more…

Rosita and Papa

Throughout my childhood my father always told my siblings and I, “When I die, I won’t be leaving you money, because we’re not rich. The only thing I can give you that you will have forever is an education.” My dad was right – when he passed, no lawyer came up to let us know he left millions in inheritance. However, he did keep true to his word and provided us all with the opportunity to pursue higher education.

My parents are extremely intelligent, both with a Masters in Chemistry, and my mother even has a second Masters in Education Administration. The importance of education was always stressed in my home. Even with working full-time jobs and taking classes at night (ESL when they first arrived in this country and later graduate courses), my parents always stayed up to help with homework or projects. And my parents didn’t only strive to educate us, but others as well. After they retired, they both taught ESL classes to bilingual parents in the community. We always knew that education was a big deal to our folks, but my dad was wrong in saying that education is the only thing he would leave us.

This past week was the hardest week of our lives. What got us through it was remembering all the things my dad, or as we called him, “Papá”, left us. We talked as a family about what each of us siblings had inherited from Papá. We decided my brother Carlos, the oldest, inherited Papá’s sense of humor. My dad was always cracking corny jokes and being a goofball. My sister Liz got his love of dancing. At any party they attended, my parents were always the first people on the dance floor, and they were always the last ones to leave. I got his taste in music. On the weekends, Papá and I would sit together in the living room and listen to the Beatles and other oldies music, which I still prefer to listen to over any music that’s playing on a Top-40 station. Gloria, the youngest, inherited his temper and strength. My dad had a pretty scary temper, but to this day he is the strongest person I know and it’s a strength I see in my little sister.

Papá left us so much – memories, funny stories, and words of wisdom. I’ll never forget what he said when I told him I was taking a job with the National PTA and would be moving from our hometown of Joliet, Ill., to Chicago. He said, “Mija, I gave you all wings so that you could fly.”

Papá, we will miss you so much. Thank you so much for giving your children and so many others the gift of education – a gift that is much more valuable than money. You also left a bit of you in each of your children. You will always be in our hearts.

Please join me in supporting PTA’s Million Hours of Power campaign to encourage more men to get involved and support the education of their children. Vote at Pepsi Refresh Project.

– Rosa Vivanco is Programs & Partnerships Coordinator for PTA.  Her mother, Liduvina, resides in Minooka, IL  along with her two sisters and niece, Lily. Minooka is near Rosa’s hometown of Joliet, IL  where her brother and his family live.

The Man Behind the Cloak and Lens

My dad was a magician…. Well so I thought when I was younger.  I would enter my class with a shiny, silver penny almost everyday.  The kids would be in awe,wondering how I got a silver penny.  Everyone knew pennies were copper of course.  However, my answer was simple. “ It’s magic, my daddy made it.”  My dad was not a magician, but a Middle School Science Teacher  (He actually had to leave a PTA meeting because my mom went into labor with me).

Anyway back to the magic….We  (My brother, sister and I) went to school early with him everyday and I am sure he had to find some ways to entertain us before the school bell rang.  So he would mix some “magic potions” and make  smoke, fire and my beloved silver pennies.  Looking back I truly appreciated my father being apart of my home and school life.  Knowing he could pop up at any moment definitely altered my behavior at school.  I saw him at lunch, recess and after school.  To be honest, I didn’t always want him around but was secretly comforted that he was a door or two away.

I also have a vivid memory of my childhood because of my father.  Because of his passion for photography he made sure to capture every moment on film.  Each of my siblings have at least 3 gigantic photo albums  each, starting from day one that chronicles every play, sport, dance recital, cotillion and graduation we were apart of.  Many people may not know what my father looked like because he was in a lab coat (magic cloak) or behind a lens.

Flash forward to about 20 years later.  My dad now retired but has played the same active role in my nephew’s life.  His life is being captured on film and he sets up little science projects for him to discover.  He even wants to be a magician.

But it’s really not about the magic.  The memories are about the time that was shared.  My dad is the same as any other male figure who wants to be apart of a child’s life.  Children want you to be present and active in their lives.  That is why we are so excited about the Million Hours of Power Movement and what it can mean for so many children.  It means the nurturing of the next great scientist, photographer and yes maybe even magician.

You don’t have to be a male to help us in our plight for male involvement.   Simply start with voting.

Vote for PTA’s Million Hours of Power in the Pepsi Refresh project, then encourage everyone you know to vote for PTA.

– LaWanda Amaker is the Marketing/Communications Manager  for National PTA based in Alexandria VA. Her parents  Lin and Carolyn Amaker live in Orangeburg, SC where they raised her and her two siblings – Maurice and Sherrie

Dad, Does Superman Exist?

Dad, Does Superman Exist?

Last night (September 15th) I had the opportunity to join several hundred government, education and community leaders in the DC area at the Red Carpet Premiere of “Waiting for Superman”, a documentary on the state of education in the United States. I didn’t sleep well afterwards. The message of this film kept running through my mind.

The film talks about several of the challenges that face public education, what should take place to correct these challenges and highlights some successful practices in communities related to educational environments, like charter schools. More importantly, this film shows viewers the challenging stories of five students (and their families) who want to attend a high quality school. It is a blunt, to the point film that calls it like it is; which I like!

Now you are probably asking, “What kept me awake last night?” Easy, the stories of these students and more specifically why their families are placed in such a position that they are pinning their educational hopes on a lottery, not for money but for one seat in a school that will provide a quality education.

I also fought in my mind the question of, “What does a quality teacher look like?” That’s not easy to address because it is a tough question. First, anyone who is willing to serve as a teacher should be respected for their desire to help children succeed; but teaching is a profession and not a job. There is no time clock, the production line is a mind; a child’s future. Second, not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. That’s just a fact of life, so what do we do to address that issue? Pay for performance? Eliminate tenure where it exists? Do teachers unions help or hurt? And more importantly, “When will parents get off the couch and get engaged in the conversation?”

PTA has long been the leader in helping see that teachers and schools have the resources they need to be successful, but even with millions of members there are still millions more who don’t care or don’t believe they have the time to get engaged in this conversation. Why? More specifically, “What are we going to do to get these parents involved in the conversation?”

The rules must change! Our elected officials need to step up and provide the regulatory support, not just the funds, for school districts to attract the best teachers; and deal with those who should explore a job elsewhere. We should pay quality teachers a salary commensurate with quality performance. We should also have a school building that is safe, secure, healthy and technologically equipped to meet the needs of students today. No parent should be placed in a position of passing three public schools (that they see as failing) to enroll their children in a private school. That itself sends a sad message. So what is it going to take? When are our parents, and others, going to get off the couch?

My first suggestion is to see this film when it arrives in your community. If you leave the theater without a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, you have bigger issues to address. And more importantly, begin frank discussion with all stakeholders about how we provide every child with a quality education.

This film should touch your heart and more especially, make you think. The time has arrived for parents and the broader public to ask these critical questions. The time is now to get off the couch and stop waiting for Superman?

Check to see when “Waiting for Superman” opens in a theater near you.

Yours in PTA!
Chuck Saylors
National PTA President

PTA and Arts in Education Week

Well, I am guessing by now we have all returned to school and the summer break has come to an end. I know that here in the Saylors household my two sons are excited to get back with their friends.

As we start this new school year we will be honoring a number of mile stones in education.

The first is “Arts in Education Week” which will be held on the week of September 12-18, 2010. This is a new recognition program within our schools and was sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier of CA, along with over 100 co-sponsors in Congress. The rally came from PTA friend and Broadway legend Carol Channing who has been working to see that the Arts are still honored throughout our country, and our schools. Carol, along with her husband Harry, were with state and national PTA leaders at our recent National Governance Retreat where they both spoke on the importance of arts in education.
(Dr. Carol Channing and husband Harry addressing National Governance Retreat Aug. 2010)
Our friends at the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have also joined the cause making this a global event. Alice Hixson, Hope Matthews and Jim Hashman are all leading the charge around the globe to help see that the children of our service personnel are involved as well.

We all know that studying the arts; visual, music or written; is a great way to help increase critical thinking in our students. Skills like problem solving and creativity are all connected to the arts, so why not support this cause? This is why PTA is so appreciative of the efforts of Representative Speier and Dr. Channing for keeping the subject of arts in education alive.

Take a look at this exciting video, Dr. Channing and her friends put together to support arts in education

Carol Channing & Friends for the Arts – ChanningArts.org

As we start “Arts in Education Week” please help us make sure that every student has the Arts as part of their educational experience. Start now planning your Reflections program. Start planning today and above all, have fun!

Courage and Credit

Former President Ronald Reagan had a sign on his desk that stated: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit”. That says a great deal about PTA Volunteers and more especially our Teachers. This year I was given the opportunity to participate in the selection of our National Teacher of the Year, and man we hit a home run!

Sarah Brown Wessling of Iowa was selected as the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and was recognized at a White House event on April 29th.  She represents one of the strongest and most talented classes of states Teachers of the Year in some time, all of which embody the words from President Reagan. Every day teachers work towards one goal, student success. They work to provide all of their students the best and at the end of the day they see their goal reached without a parade or White House ceremony.

Joe Lowenthal (NSPRA); Sara Brown Wessling (National Teacher Of the Year); Chuck Saylors (National PTA)

PTA would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our National Teacher of the Year as well as all of our states’ Teachers of the Year for a well deserved recognition. Each and every day our teachers deserve positive support for their efforts so we would like to encourage our parents to get engaged in the school and classroom, remembering that when parents are involved, students are more successful.

Mrs. Wessling will be speaking at our 114th National Convention in Memphis, June 10-13.