Understanding ESSA

Understanding-ESSA-logoPresident Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law last December. ESSA reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and made substantial changes to the previous version of the law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Many of these changes focused on moving responsibility for improving education from the federal government back to the states.

These changes were discussed in a workshop at the National PTA Convention focused on the law’s effects on family engagement, accountability, and assessment. The law calls for parent input on many of the requirements, and Illinois PTA is helping to provide that voice. A new website called Understanding ESSA helps to explain the details of ESSA and to track its implementation.

The website allows you to:

ESSA will significantly change how schools interact with families, how schools educate children, and how schools are held accountable. Check out Understanding ESSA to help follow these changes and use the Education News tag on the right-hand side of One Voice Illinois to find Illinois PTA’s information on ESSA and other education issues.

President’s Corner

With Constitution and Citizenship Day approaching on September 16th itMFMpicThe Black Star Project’s Million Father March will be happing in cities across the Country on September 15th.

The Million Father March is an opportunity for Black men to show their commitment to the educational lives of their children on the first day of school and throughout the school year.

The importance of male engagement has been one of my focuses around the State.  Taking your child to the first day of school doesn’t cost anything, but the reward in return is so valuable that no dollar figure can be put on it.


September 16th is Citizenship Day. As you may know, the new Graduation requirements now include one semester of Civics coursework. unknown

Former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, David J. Shestokas has published a book to help parents and educators present crucial citizenship information in a way that speaks to students of the 21st century.

The book has been published in English and Spanish.  More on the English language version can be found here, and the Spanish at this link.

More on the author can be found here, and more about Spanish language collaborator Dr Berta Arias can be found here.


Engaging and Supporting Military Families

Next I said we would continue to give you pieces of the NPTA Convention so I want to highlight another fantastic workshop that was presented.  Engaging and Supporting Military Families.

This workshop was so informative. It gives us insight on things I have never considered before. Some are heartbreaking.  The workshop discusses subjects like:

  • How hard the transition can be for not only the kids but the moms and/or dads moving from place to place. All have to make new friends and need support through the transition.
  • Why we shouldn’t take offense to the wives or husbands not being able to talk about their spouses whereabouts or what they do because it’s classified information that they can’t talk about.
  • The impact on kids and families of not knowing if their mom or dad is going to come home from their tour; and
  • Informed us that most are not able to join social media sites or share their personal information due to security reason.

We have a lot of schools starting and we can increase our membership and make our communities stronger by keeping an open mind and remembering that we don’t know each other’s challenges but everyone needs someone by their side.

We are an inclusive association. Everyone has different needs and wants but as long as we are respectful and have an open heart we can get through anything TOGETHER! Every Child One Voice. Sí se puede!

Here to serve,

Matthew John Rodriguez

Illinois PTA President

September is Attendance Awareness Month

AAM_2016_Badge-04It’s been said that the first secret to success is showing up. That is certainly true for children attending school. Research indicates that missing 10% of the school year—just two or three days each month—can translate into third-graders unable to read, sixth-graders failing classes, and ninth-graders dropping out of high school. Yet many families, students, and schools do not realize how critical attendance is to academic success, as nearly 1 in 10 students miss that much school each year.

Attendance Works has created a Count Us In! Toolkit to help school administrators, teachers, PTAs, community groups, and local leaders who care about children’s success communicate the importance of school attendance during Attendance Awareness Month in September. There are several ways that PTAs can get involved in spreading the word.

This year’s Attendance Awareness Campaign has nine key messages that your PTA can share:

  1. Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually in the workplace.
  2. Excused and unexcused absences quickly add up to too much time lost in the classroom.
  3. Students are at risk academically if they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days.
  4. Chronic absence, missing 10 percent or more of the school year does not just affect the students who miss school.
  5. Educators and families need to monitor how many days each student misses school for any reason—excused, unexcused, or suspensions—so we can intervene early.
  6. Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when the whole community works with families and schools.
  7. Relationship building is fundamental to any strategy for improving student attendance.
  8. Reducing chronic absence can help close the achievement gap.
  9. Map and address the attendance gap.

You can read more on each of these key messages and share them through a printable PDF as well. Improving school attendance is critical to helping further PTA’s mission to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.

President’s Corner

We are happy to inform you that AIM now has a new type of coverage. Social Media Liability Coverage is a new product available if you have any worries about social media liability. As exemplary digital media citizens we sometimes don’t realize that the words we or others use may open us up to an unexpected liability. I encourage you all to look into this new product and determine if this is something appropriate for your unit. Below is an example of the form that needs to be completed should you choose to participate.

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At the National PTA Convention we were honored to have several keynote speakers. Julie Lythcott-Haims was a previous Stanford University Dean of Freshman speaking on the subject of helicopter parenting. In her book “How to Raise An Adult” she explains how we suffocate and stifle our children’s ability to be independent adults.

Here is an example of her discussion in Glenbrook, IL:

The National PTA and Scholastic have joined forces with Learning Heroes to do a national study on what parents really need as resources. After listening to parents across the nation, 75% of parents believe that educationally the biggest worry is are their children prepared for college or a good career? Over half are worried about not being able to afford college. With this information we will be doing a series of presentations regarding the Super 5 which are ACTIONABLE tips for parents to use. We will also be on the radio Thursday,  August 18th at 2:00pm. Resources are available in English and Spanish.

Another opportunity I wanted to let you know about is a movie screening of the Screenagers Movie. If you find yourself wondering how our youth will make it with SO much screen time, stay safe, and learn check out this trailer.


Here to serve,

Matthew John Rodriguez
Illinois PTA President