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By Jim Cummings, APR, President, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and Director of Communications & Parental/Community Engagement, Glendale (AZ) Elementary School District

The dropout rate in the United States has reached a record low. Good news, right?

It would have been really great if this story was revealed with a banner headline on the front page of the morning newspaper, or trumpeted on one of the morning shows. But, it wasn’t. The information was delivered by email, nestled among items like your news IQ, how to map the marriage market for young adults, five facts about Indian Americans, and the Turks aren’t thrilled with their national media, but still rely on it heavily (I think we know how they feel).

Within the last year there’s been a lot of great news about education and our public schools. While the dropout rate is down, an earlier study announced our nation’s literacy and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high. Those of us lucky enough to work in education know none of these things were a happy accident. We know they’re the result of millions of teachers, administrators and families working together to build a better life, not just for their kids, but all kids…and for their towns, their states and for their nation. These stories should be celebrated, but they remain buried for one simple reason: they don’t fit the current narrative constructed around education.

Well…it’s time we change the narrative ...

By Nita Rudy, Director of Programs, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

In 1997 the Mississippi Legislature created a funding formula to ensure that children received a fair and equitable education no matter their zip code. The Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is a law that provides the formula designed to ensure an adequate education for every Mississippi child. It was passed over a governor’s veto and seemed to indicate the legislators’ commitment to public education. Since its inception MAEP has been fully funded twice.

These MAEP funds are used to pay teachers and district employees’ salaries, health and retirement benefits; buy textbooks and instructional materials; and pay basic operational expenses. MAEP was to provide an adequate education – not an excellent education, yet legislators have expected schools to do more with less. New College and Career Ready State Standards have been implemented requiring additional professional development. Schools are being graded with a new accountability system. Teachers are undergoing a new evaluation system. There is a new Third Grade Reading Gate, which means that under law students not reading on grade level by the end of third grade will be retained. Building maintenance has been postponed ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Technology and the Internet have created countless new opportunities for learning. Students can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and can connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing the power of the technology to bring curriculum alive and modify instruction to meet the unique needs of every child. Technology is essential for the development of 21st century skills that will help students thrive in their chosen careers.

Technology is everywhere. We text, tweet, shop, learn, play games, plan family vacations and even worship online. Some of us even use technology to track our 10,000 steps each day, like I did during this past summer’s National PTA convention.

Personally, I love technology. I use it extensively at my job. And on my many travels for National PTA, I often use my phone to arrange for transportation, confirm speaking engagements and stay in touch with our state and local units.

But with new gadgets, social media platforms and apps coming out every day, I, like most families, don’t have the time or tech savvy to stay on top of the latest fad.

That’s where good decision-making skills that apply to any digital environment are helpful. ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

A poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association last month concluded that a majority of parents agree with strong federal nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

These parents are in favor of sound nutrition for their children. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) agrees with them. All school board members -- and nearly 40 percent are parents of school-age children -- understand the critical importance of student health.

That is why NSBA supports flexibility that would allow communities to feed their students healthy food that also reflects school districts' unique needs, resources, and circumstances. Using sound nutrition as a base and their communities as partners, districts can serve healthy food that students will eat ...

This post highlights the work of Chiquita Jones, who was instrumental in the formation of Parents for Public Schools’ latest chapter in Philadelphia, Mississippi  

By Richelle Putnam, Editor/Publisher, Southern Roots magazine

The way Becky Glover, the Parents for Public Schools (PPS) East Mississippi Director, tells it, Chiquita Jones is the modern day Fannie Lou Hamer of education in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

“In the 2011 Parent Leadership Institute, which was the first class in East Mississippi, two people attended from the Philadelphia school district,” said Becky. That started something. The next year, Chiquita went through the PPS training and was the only person from that school district. “She went back and has been able to accomplish and start a variety of things all related to quality public education in Philadelphia.” ...

By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Board Member, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Powerful Learning Practice

Millions of educators and others around the world have participated in hundreds of professional development opportunities as part of Connected Educator Month (CEM) the last two years. Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, Connected Educator Month offers highly distributed, diverse and engaging activities to educators at all levels, with the ultimate goal of getting more educators more connected, spurring collaboration and innovation in the space.

The official kick-off is October 1, but there are many ways that you can get involved today. This year, the U.S. Department of Education is distributing the event's management out to the connected community. Event management groups (American Institutes of Research, Digital Promise, Grunwald Associates and Powerful Learning Practice) are working collectively with the community, and the U.S. Department of Education, to construct a robust program that will get more educators connected ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

In August, National PTA announced that 170 schools and PTAs from across the country have been recognized as 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence for building strong, effective family-school partnerships. Research shows that when families and schools work together, student achievement increases, schools improve and communities grow stronger. The efforts of these schools and PTAs to engage and involve families are making a substantial, positive impact on student success and well-being.

National PTA also released a report that summarizes outcomes for the 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence from their participation in the program. The outcomes, which were determined from family surveys administered at the beginning of the school year and then again at the end of the year, demonstrate improved family-school partnerships. ...

America’s PrepareAthon! prepares your school and students for disasters

By Gwen Camp, Director, FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division

School bells are ringing across the country as students, faculty and staff begin a new year of learning and educational achievements. Leading up to the first day of school, teachers have prepared their classrooms to receive their students, while parents have devoted time to filling backpacks with school supplies. But preparing students with the tools they need to succeed extends far beyond just notebooks, pens, and paper. Help ensure your students, their families, and your staff are truly prepared for this school year by talking with them about disasters and emergencies that could affect your area and what they can do to be ready. ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Regardless of where you come down on the issue of USDA’s new school meal regulations, it is highly likely that hunger and poverty are felt in your schools. Healthy school breakfasts and lunches are important safeguards against both hunger and childhood obesity.

A new report entitled Health and Academic Achievement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that hunger and nutrition deficiency are associated with lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism. Many educators stress the importance of eating breakfast before a big test. Why not encourage that year-round so that students are better equipped to take on the day every day? ...

By Wendy Drexler, Chief Innovation Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

The recent release of the 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools reveals a high level of public engagement in the issues surrounding public education. Americans are demonstrating greater levels of immersion and increased awareness of efforts to transform learning and teaching, such as Common Core, charter schools and assessment. However, a glaring omission from the national conversation in the poll is any reference to how teachers are leveraging the power of technology to motivate and engage students.

If we were to tour schools across the country, we would see technology in many schools and classrooms. We’d see some students using mobile devices, laptops, interactive whiteboards and tablets to learn in new ways. We’d see many more students using devices to do what they’ve always done, such as take notes and search for information. The push to digital learning started decades ago, so why, when we talk about education, do we want to separate learning and technology? ...

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