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.

Looking for Superman at a School Near You

As part of NBC’s Education Nation, I had the honor of taking part in two town hall sessions. One was a Teacher Town Hall, and the second session regarding the newly released film “Waiting for Superman”.

Recently following a special premiere screening, I provided commentary and addressed what I believe the film emphasizes as a need for parents to do; get involved in the conversation.

Now, as far as I am concerned the two town hall sessions talked about parents, talked to parents, but did not talk with parents. Parents are critical in making education reform a reality in our country. At hand, how important is reform in our communities?

We can all agree that every community in our country have schools with varying degrees of challenges. Many out right fail the students. So again, what is it going to take to get parents, grandparents and all adult care givers involved?

A quality education is a civil rights issue that should lift every child’s opportunities. A child should not have to cross their fingers nor should parents have to lay awake at night worried when it comes to getting into a quality school.

I am blessed that my two sons are attending a good school, but so many parents in our country see their children attending “drop out factories.” A practice that can end if we all agree that reform is a must-have conversation.

Parents need to get their heads out of the sand. So respectfully I must ask again, “What in the hell is it going to take for parents, adults or any role model to get involved in the school reform conversation?”

Let’s take the steps to get there….First see “Waiting for Superman,” and next get your friends, neighbors and family involved in the conversation to make critical changes.

Chuck Saylors,
National PTA, President

A Personal Plea to Get Involved

The value of being an involved parent often comes in the form of smiles and hugs from your children. They show their appreciation for your involvement readily. Your involvement, even at the most basic level, demonstrates how much you care and that caring can produce a tremendous impact that extends beyond your kids.

I wish I could claim my presence as a chaperone on a field trip made the difference between David getting an A in some class rather than a B. I can’t. But I can say that my involvement in his and his brother’s school contributes to their positive attitudes about school. A positive attitude makes homework more tolerable and promotes a relaxed learning environment.

What I’ve also discovered is that I provide this support and uplift not just for my sons but the other children as well. Some of my children’s classmates lack a significant father figure. I fill that role even if it is just for a short time. The involvement of my wife and I inside and outside the classroom helps ensure students receive the attention and guidance they need and deserve.

Parent involvement helps the teachers, too. We all know they have a demanding job. Volunteers free teachers to do more. And teachers become motivated when they know parents care. That benefits the entire class.

I don’t speak only from experience. The importance of parent involvement is backed by research. A 2010 University of Chicago study identifies parent involvement as one of the five “key ingredients” for school improvement in low-income, urban schools. Other research clearly shows that when families are involved in their children’s learning, both at home and at school, their children do better academically.

Perhaps the biggest impact family involvement can have is that it often expands. I chaperoned one field trip and the next thing I knew I was coaching a girls basketball team. I made these commitments without hesitating. Sure, I’m as busy as any other working parent. But I find the time in my family’s schedule. It’s almost miraculous how the timing always seems to work out.

Unfortunately, men are underrepresented when it comes to getting involved in their children’s schools. That is changing. But it needs to change more. National PTA’s Million Hours of Power campaign aims to build on this momentum. We want at least 350,000 men to volunteer at least three hours service to children—in school, at community events, wherever men feel comfortable volunteering to help children. To help us reach that goal, we are pursuing a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh campaign. The top two vote-getters this month earn the grants.

We’ve moved up about 60 spots in the rankings for the Pepsi Rrefresh $250,000 grants and have already logged thousands of hours toward the Million Hours of Power. We need your help to reach these two goals.

We tend to see only our children. We miss the world of their peers and how the connections between our kids, their friends, their teachers, and the school weave together to form the complex tapestry that is your child’s educational experience.
So if you care about your kids…
If you care about their friends and classmates…
If you care about their teachers…
If you care about the state of education in America…
Then vote in the Pepsi Refresh campaign so PTA can put tools in place to help men get more involved. One man contributing three volunteer hours this year will produce positive results that resonate throughout the classroom, the school, the community.

How Dad Is Involved

Welcome to back to school time. I love the fall of the year. The weather is great (even better when you can drive a convertible), you can sleep with the windows open at night and then there’s FOOTBALL! Not pro, I’m talking High School and College. This past week Tyler (14), William (11), my wife Teresa and I attended one of our neighborhood’s longest standing rivalry games; Eastside High (blue) and Wade Hampton High (red/white). As a way of background, our two oldest (Matthew and Jennifer) attended Eastside and our two youngest will attend Wade Hampton, talk about a house divided…

Now how does this tie into Dads, Grandfathers, Uncles or any male role model supporting a student’s “back to school” adventure? Simple, you’re together!

Study after study show that when one parent is engaged in a child’s education that child is successful but when both parents are engaged that same student is even more successful.

For years we have heard from the male role models in a child’s life that “I’m not so sure I have the time to volunteer . . .” Well, has PTA got a plan for you!

This year the National PTA launched “The Million Hours of Power” campaign where we are asking 350,000 men to offer a minimum of three hours of volunteer time for their child’s school, or a local school in your neighborhood. Even if you do not have a child in school you can still take part. Now I can hear it from here, “I’m not sure I can give three hours?” OK, so let me ask you two simple questions. 1) Can you leave home go to a movie and return in less than 180 minutes? and 2) Can you at least give it a try? We’re only talking about 3 hours for the entire school year. Not 3 hours a week or a month, the entire year.

Through the “Million Hours of Power” PTA is planning to highlight new and exciting opportunities, and ideas, for getting more men engaged. It’s that simple! Can we count on you? PTA has incredible opportunities for all families; in this case we need every interested man to get engaged.

Take a minute and visit pta.org and see what the “Million Hours of Power” campaign provides. While on the computer please take an additional moment and go to the Pepsi Refresh Project and vote for the “Million Hours of Power”

As we move into this school year take a few minutes for your child and their education. I can assure you that it is time well spent!

What Do You Consider As Justice?

What Do You Consider As Justice?

Recently a local prosecutor in Detroit Michigan made news by proposing a law that would have legal repercussions for parents who do not take part in such activities as parent teacher conferences. Now, I’ll admit that her proposal would probably be for those parents who are the worst offenders, but really? In California, a state Senate bill has recently passed a committee vote that lays out a series of punishments for the same lack of action by parents, in simple terms, not attending parent teacher conference and/or allowing their students to go un-supervised.

These two suggested pieces of legislation has our media outlets buzzing and educational leaders wondering where did this all came from? And the question is valid, where is this coming from?

PTA has long been an advocate for parent engagement. Parents, grand-parents, adult care givers should all be active participants in a child’s educational experience. These political recommendations should give us a great opportunity to both discuss options for getting adults engaged and why some elected officials find it necessary to impose legislation for parent involvement with a hammer versus identify more positive solutions.

One example of a positive plan for parent engagement is the Parent Engagement in Education Act, HR5211. This legislation helps schools and school districts develop best practices for parent engagement, it’s that simple!

When I was in school, Dad worked and Mom volunteered at my school. Today, both parents work and in many cases more than one job each. Many parents don’t have the time today that they had in years past, so PTA must work harder and longer to help encourage any caring adult to spend time in their local school.

Although I do not agree with negatitive legislation that seems to force a parent’s involvement, the concern is real. PTA must work to see that our parents, elected officials and the public in general understand that there are more positive solutions to addressing these concerns.

For more parental involvement tips and helpful guides, please visit http://www.pta.org/topic_parent_involvement.asp

National PTA President’s Update: The State of the Association

You can tell when school is ready to start . . . There is excitement in the air. Parent leaders and school staff are working hard to make sure our students return to an exciting environment.

Preparation comes with quality training, and to that end I want to share my personal excitement over this weekend’s National PTA State Presidents Training and All Committees Weekend. Our staff and volunteers planned a tremendous event, and great things are happening throughout the association as a result! Membership is strong and interest is growing in ways PTA can help a more diverse group of parents and other caregivers, families and communities support those who need it the most: Our children!

In addition to a great training event, the National PTA Board of Directors moved forward in supporting a solid financial business decision. As you may know, 113 years ago PTA was founded and chartered in Washington DC; in the 1930’s the association relocated to Chicago; a central hub for the railroad industry. Several years ago PTA outgrew its building in downtown and has since been working from leased property. From the day PTA sold its building, PTA has been working to find our association a new home.

Last week our Board voted unanimously to purchase a property in the Washington DC area . . . So we’re moving back home! In making this move, PTA will be able to have an appreciable asset for our association, we’ll be in the city that houses the most non-profits in the nation, and we’ll be better positioned to continue being the premier parent association in the country on Capitol Hill.

These opportunities will allow PTA to grow our leadership and service capabilities, thus making us more attractive to a wider array of prospective donors. I hope you share in our excitement!

Thanks for your time and support.

Until next time.