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Earlier this week, I was fortunate to have an invitation to the White House to attend the President Obama’s announcement of the Future Ready Schools Initiative as part of the administration’s ConnectED program. One hundred school superintendents were also in the audience as part of the first-ever Superintendents’ Summit at the White House, which served as the kickoff to the initiative. During the ceremony the superintendents signed a pledge – on their tablets – that proclaimed their commitment to ensuring their districts were Future Ready with broadband connections to the classroom, digital content for their students, devices to support the curriculum materials and professional development for their teachers so they are supported in using technology effectively for teaching and learning activities.

What this part of the administration’s ConnectED initiative recognizes is that leadership counts when change is happening. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s my hope that all the efforts being put forth by the education leaders in the room and across the country, whether a pledge is signed or not, are successful in bringing innovation supported with appropriate technology to every school and every classroom. The elephant in the room is that these sorts of photo op ceremonies and initiatives around bringing technology into public schooling have been taking place for more than twenty years ...

By National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and National PTA President Otha Thornton

American Education Week (AEW) is celebrated each year during the last full week before Thanksgiving. This year, AEW is being celebrated November 16-22. Founded by the National Education Association (NEA) and The American Legion in 1921, with the U.S. Department of Education joining in 1922, AEW was created in response to 25 percent of World War I draftees being illiterate and nine percent deemed physically unfit to serve their country.

In its resolution, NEA called for “an educational week... observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs."

Today, American Education Week is co-sponsored by National PTA and 11 other national education organizations. The theme for this year’s celebration is Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility ...

By Matthew L. Evans, Advocacy Coordinator, and Jessica Seitz, Policy Analyst, National PTA

With the 2014 Midterm Elections now behind us, the impact of the results and how they will affect PTA-related policy issues must be examined. With most of the election results now in (some still pending), Republicans will now control both Houses of Congress.

By adding up to 40 new Members to the House of Representatives (gaining at least 13), Republicans will have at least 246 seats, its largest majority since World War II. In the Senate, Republicans added 10 new members (picking up 7) and will take over the majority with at least 52 members. With new leadership set to take over in January, changes are on the horizon. Specifically, in the Senate, many Republicans who served as Committee ranking members are poised to become Chairs of their respective committees. In the House, while Republicans have retained leadership, key committee assignments are likely to change. New members arrived in Washington last week for their orientation ...

The PTA at Eden Central (in Eden, New York) has taken an active role in reaching out to parents with information and resources regarding the Common Core State Standards. Their work has included a parent information night, parent academies and an instruction evening, all aimed at dispelling myths and providing useful contextual information around the formation of the standards and their classroom application. For these efforts, the Eden Central PTA received the National PTA's 2014 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award – the highest honor presented by the association. They have also been honored with the 2014-2016 National PTA School of Excellence designation for achievements in family engagement. ...

By Patte Barth, Director of the Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association (NSBA)

The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education is all about the importance of using data and research to craft effective school policy and practice. We also encourage everyone who has an interest in public schools to look at data when gauging their quality. Unfortunately, getting that data isn’t always as straightforward as it could be. Even when found, it’s often presented in long tables, complicated graphs and confusing formats that obscure rather than shed light on school performance. ...

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.” ...

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