News from National Convention—Plan Your PTA Year with National PTA Programs

PTA Convention 2016 LogoOne of the major benefits of having a PTA is being able to take advantage of National PTA’s numerous free turn-key programs. A workshop at the 2016 National PTA Convention spelled out how PTA leaders can plan their entire PTA year using these programs. By taking advantage of these programs, PTAs can easily and effectively:

  • Address important issues in their school
  • Support the school’s education goals
  • Engage families in the school and PTA
  • Grow their membership

School of Excellence

Based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the School of Excellence program helps PTAs partner with their school to welcome families and empower them to support student success. PTAs choose to focus their family engagement efforts on one of three topics: Education, Health and Safety, or the Arts. The program uses a Family-School Partnership Scan to develop a family engagement improvement plan tailored specifically to your PTA and school. The survey is repeated at the end of the year to document the improvements that your PTA has accomplished.

The timeline for the School of Excellence program is:

  • Enroll your PTA in the program between April 1, 2016 and October 1, 2016.
  • Complete your Family-School Partnership Scan by December 1, 2016 to receive your customized Roadmap to Excellence.
  • Complete the National PTA School of Excellence application before June 1, 2017.
  • Celebrate your excellence! All National PTA School of Excellence recipients receive a toolkit to support celebration activities.

The School of Excellence program has documented its success in making all families feel welcome, helping schools communicate effectively, and more. Sign up today to start your PTA on the path to excellence!

Reflections

Reflections is PTA’s longest-running and most widely recognized program, providing over 300,000 students the opportunity to engage with the arts each year. Students enter artwork based on a specific theme at the local level in one of six categories:

  • Visual Arts
  • Photography
  • Music Composition
  • Film/Video Production
  • Dance Choreography
  • Literature

A Special Artist category began a few years ago to include those students who need accommodations to participate in the program.

After judging at the local PTA level, student artwork advances through the council, district or region, state, and national level. National winners are displayed at the US Department of Education and highlighted in an online gallery by National PTA.

The 2016-2017 Reflections theme is “What Is Your Story?” You can find entry forms, tools to run a Reflections program at your school, and much more on the Illinois PTA website. Contact Illinois PTA Cultural Arts Director Joan Scovic at jscovic@illinoispta.org to be added to the Illinois PTA e-mail list for Reflections chairpersons or if you have any questions about the program.

Family Reading Experience

March is National Reading Month, and PTA has the Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle ready to help PTAs engage families in a fun event to help them understand the simple ways they can support their child’s core literacy skills for kindergartners through fifth-graders. In addition, PTAs that register their March 2017 Family Reading Experience event by December 1, 2016 are entered into a drawing for free Kindles for their school.

The Family Reading Experience provides PTAs with all the tools they need to promote their event as well as all of the materials needed at the activity stations. There are four different themes available, with materials split between grades K-2 and grades 3-5:

  • On a Safari
  • Under the Sea
  • Out of this World
  • Around the World

The variety of themes lets PTAs rotate the materials from year to year or to have another event sometime other than March. Materials are also available in Spanish to support your school’s English Language Learners.

Take Your Family to School Week

Take Your Family to School Week occurs each February around the founding date of PTA, February 17. This year’s Take Your Family to School Week will be held from February 13-17, 2017. The Take Your Family to School Week Toolkit provides your PTA with ready-to-use event guides to bring families into your school, including a Creative Career Fair, a Multicultural Expo, and other PTA programs highlighted in this article. The toolkit also provides promotional materials in both English and Spanish as well as sample letters to request donations, contact the media, thank volunteers and sponsors, and highlight your event on social media.

Connect for Respect

Connect for Respect (C4R) is National PTA’s initiative to help students, parents and educators to create school climates full of safe and supportive peer relationships. Research shows that one of the most effective ways to prevent bullying behavior is to create a positive school climate. School climate encompasses everything that contributes to a student’s experience with a school—from the physical building to policies, staff and peer culture. Positive school climates exist in schools where students, families and educators all work collaboratively to build a culture of respect.

The Connect for Respect Toolkit guides PTA leaders on ways to engage students in improving the school climate and reducing bullying. The toolkit also includes materials to help build a team, to assess the current school climate, to engage your school community in a dialogue, and to develop an action plan to address the issue. The toolkit also provides links to resources from other organizations on bullying prevention.

Healthy Lifestyles

November is Healthy Lifestyles Month, and PTA has a wide variety of programs available to help PTAs approach this issue. These programs include the Improving Energy Balance Toolkit to help families balance healthy eating and exercise and the Fire Up Your Feet program that helps PTAs raise funds while engaging students and families in physical activity. PTA also provides information to help local PTAs advocate for:

Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship

National PTA collaborated with LifeLock to create The Smart Talk interactive website to help families have conversations about responsible technology use and put their agreed-upon rules into writing. PTA also created a promotional toolkit to encourage families to begin the conversation. The program has been well received, and PTA is now creating a Smart Talk Event Kit that will be available soon to help PTAs host a digital safety event.

Every Child in Focus

National PTA’s Every Child in Focus is a campaign to strengthen family engagement in schools by celebrating the achievements and reporting the disparities within diverse populations and by sharing resources and advocacy tools to help understand the needs of every child. Each month, National PTA spotlights the educational issues surrounding a particular group, highlights their accomplishments, and focuses on ways to help engage families. The campaign is a school-year-long series that provides educators, families, and PTAs with the information they need to deepen family engagement in schools through the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

The campaign reinforces National PTA’s mission to advocate for every child—with one voice—so all families feel invited and welcomed within PTA and are equipped with the tools to support their child and improve the school, which makes a difference for every child. National PTA provides a variety of ways that your local PTA can engage with the campaign. A guide for hosting a leadership event focused on Hispanic students is already available, with event guides for students living in poverty and LBGTQ students coming soon.

Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week will be May 1-5, 2017, and National PTA has now created an event toolkit to help PTAs celebrate the teachers that are making a difference in the lives of children every day. The toolkit features thank you cards, appreciation certificates, flyers, ready-to-use graphics for newsletters and social media, and messages ready to share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

STEM + Families

National PTA’s newest program is the STEM + Families Initiative that was announced at the 2016 National PTA Convention. Created in partnership with Bayer and Mathnasium, National PTA plans to provide 100,000 STEM experiences for families by June 2018. Program details will be coming out over the next few months, but everyone who cares about STEM education can take the STEM + Families Pledge to connect to the initiative and receive more information as it becomes available.

National PTA Back-to-School Kit

The National PTA Back-to-School Kit is now available and provides PTA leaders with ready-to-use information and resources on running a PTA. This year’s Back-to-School Kit is a restricted member benefit, so PTA members will need to register for free access to the kit. Registration is quick and easy, and National PTA has created a short video to describe the registration process. In addition, PTA leaders at the local, council, district, region, and state level that register for the Back-to-School Kit will receive a special membership recruitment packet in the mail approximately three to four weeks after registering.

News from National Convention—Resolutions

PTA Convention 2016 LogoAt the 2016 National PTA Convention in Orlando, four resolutions were adopted by the convention delegates. PTA resolutions and position statements are official documents outlining the opinion, will, or intent of the association to address national problems, situations, or concerns that affect children and youth and that require national action to seek solutions to the issue. They serve an important purpose in formalizing and focusing the positions of the association on various important and relevant issues. The four resolutions adopted were:

Electronic Cigarettes and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Youth

The resolution on electronic cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems focused on the growing use of electronic cigarettes among children and youth as well as the increased poisoning of young children who come into contact with the concentrated nicotine liquids used in the e-cigarettes. The resolution calls for PTA to advocate for legislation restricting the advertising, marketing, and sale of e-cigarettes to youth under 18 as well as restrictions or prohibitions on using e-cigarettes in public places. The resolution also calls on PTA units at all levels to educate youth, parents, school boards, and local officials on the dangers of e-cigarettes.

The first part of the resolution, dealing with restrictions of sales and marketing, has largely been accomplished with the recent issuing of regulations by the Food & Drug Administration. In addition, Illinois PTA has been covering this topic and providing information on it for over 18 months, and we will continue to do so.

Homework: Quality Over Quantity

The resolution on homework recognizes the value of homework as an important part of a child’s education. However, there is a growing perception among parents that the homework load on children has increased in recent years, and research indicates that for the early grades that is true. The resolution notes that homework that requires parental input and supervision or additional resources such as a readily-available internet connection can further increase the achievement gap and create inequities based on family resources.

The resolution calls for PTA support teachers, schools, and districts in promoting meaningful homework and using evidence-based guidelines in assigning homework. The resolution also encourages PTAs to advocate for school districts, school boards, and administrators to review or implement homework policies that address quality, quantity, and equity concerns in their district.

Recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Individuals as a Protected Class

The resolution on recognizing LGBTQ individuals as a protected class notes that every child should feel safe at school. Thirty percent of LGBTQ students have missed a day of school because they didn’t feel safe going to school, and LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied in school, more likely to be homeless, and more likely to become involved in the Juvenile Justice System. The resolution also notes that harassment and bullying policies that specifically mention sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are associated with students feeling safer, lover levels of bullying, decreased incidents of sexual harassment related to sexual orientation, increased teacher and staff intervention, and a greater reporting of incidents.

The resolution calls for PTA to support recognizing LGBTQ as a protected group in current civil rights legislation, Department of Education guidance, and Department of Justice guidance. The resolution also encourages PTAs to review school bullying policies and to support amendments that specifically address sexual orientation and gender identification/expression as they relate to harassment and bullying. Finally, the resolution call for PTAs to advocate for additional professional development for teachers and staff on supporting all students and incorporating age-appropriate, medically accurate, and culturally sensitive information on LGBTQ issues into health and other appropriate curricula.

As noted in a convention workshop on supporting LGBTQ students and families, addressing this issue is about changing behaviors, not beliefs. It is about ensuring that every child feels safe and supported at school and that every family feels welcomed. The revised National PTA Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit has a section specifically devoted to supporting LGBTQ children and families to help PTAs address this issue.

Water Safety and Instruction

The resolution on water safety and instruction states that drowning is the third highest cause of death of youth 19 and younger and that over half of the drowning incidents for children 9 and younger occur in residential settings.

The resolution calls for PTAs to educate families, students, school personnel, and communities on water safety and swimming instruction. PTAs are also called to advocate for consistent, quality standards for water safety and swimming instruction and for policies and legislation to make such programs accessible for all students. Illinois PTA has addressed water safety in the past and noted in a recent One Voice Illinois post that a free pool safety sheet is available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission in both English and Spanish.

Free Resources for a Safe and Healthy Summer

pexels-photo-largeSummertime bring lots of outdoor activities like cookouts and swimming. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have bundled a collection of free resources for summer that will help plan safe cookouts, prevent mosquito bites, and protect children and guests in the home and at the pool. Additional information on managing medicines and other health issues are included as well. These resources can be ordered online and mailed to you or downloaded directly. They are available both in English and in Spanish. Included in the free packet are:

  • Eating Outdoors
  • Mosquito Bite Prevention
  • Pool Safety: Simple Steps Save Lives
  • Anchor It!
  • Use Medicines Wisely
  • My Medicines
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Health Scams
  • Women in Clinical Trials
  • Tattoos and Permanent Make-Up

New Website Helps Families Turn Teens into Safe Drivers

490x150-teensMost high school students would much rather sleep late, play video games, and perhaps work at a summer job than go to summer school, but the one class that changes that decision for many teens is driver education. Handing the car keys to your child is a big turning point for both parents and teens, and a new website from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called Safe at the Wheel helps families prepare for that big moment.

The site is accessible in both English and Spanish. Among the information provided is:

While accident rates and traffic fatalities for teen drivers have decreased, they are still more likely to be involved in accidents than the average driver. These accidents are not due to teen drivers not knowing the basic rules of the road or safe driving practices but because of inexperience, risk-taking, and peer pressure. Teen drivers are 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky driving behavior with a teenage passenger with them compared to driving alone, and when more than one teenage passenger is with them, they are 3 times more likely to take risks on the road.

Driver education courses may teach your teen how to drive, but families play an important role in helping teen drivers gain experience and avoiding risky behavior. Talking to your teen about driving responsibly is important, but even more significant is setting a good example. By modeling safe driving habits, you help to teach your child how a vehicle should be operated, even long before they are big enough to see over the dashboard or have their feet reach the pedals.