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By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

It started as a whisper. But the injustice taking place in 1954 to African-American school children in Topeka, KS, didn’t stay quiet for long. It took Oliver L. Brown, a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad, to stand up and call out an education system that wasn’t integrated and wasn’t fair. His request was simple: He wanted his 7-year-old daughter Linda to attend a nearby school designated as white-only instead of being bused across town to an all-black Monroe Elementary School. He instead created a movement that reverberated all the way to the Supreme Court and culminated with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared “separate but equal” education unconstitutional.

PTA was there, immediately taking a stand supporting school integration, a move that cost the association some three-million members. Unfazed, these courageous mothers put pressure on all states to integrate. They called it unification. They were ridiculed for their position, but knew that history would be on their side. A few years later, PTA merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association (who had also taken a lead role in supporting Brown and others fighting across the country for school equality) to ...

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

Last month the FCC closed its comment period for its most recent Public Notice, soliciting responses for the FCC’s proposed changes to the E-Rate program. As a former school superintendent and in my current role with AASA, an organization that has advocated for the E-Rate program since its inception, and as a member of the USAC board, the entity that administers the E-Rate program, I have strongly supported the E-Rate program for the critical role it has played in the rapid and dramatic expansion of school and library connectivity, forever changing the face of students’ classroom experiences.

The current E-Rate policy environment is an unprecedented confluence of events: An FCC Chairman committed to modernizing the E-Rate program, an FCC Commissioner deeply passionate about E-Rate, the momentum of the President’s ConnectEd proposal, the announcement of $2 billion in found funding for the E-Rate program, and the ever-increasing demand for connectivity in the nation’s schools and libraries. Program policy isn’t made in a silo, though, and there are external pressures that stand to shape the final E-Rate changes as much as the voice of program ...

Students who fail to graduate – dropouts who perhaps more appropriately should be described as over-age and under-credited – exemplify the significant hurdles that come with the commitment to educate all students. These young individuals have fallen through the cracks, and once they’ve left the school setting, it’s difficult to re-engage them. Yet some efforts to find, support and ultimately prepare these students for future success in the postsecondary environment are showing impressive results. This work is an important reminder that it takes a village – and committed collaboration among key groups of stakeholders – to create a truly comprehensive system. ...

By Rich Bagin, APR, Executive Director, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

The Education Writers Association (EWA) recently released the results of a survey of 190 journalist members of EWA entitled Mediated Access. The coverage of that study made communication professionals – they call them PIOs (a term less frequently used by NSPRA members these days) – look like obstacles rather than facilitators. One headline read, Education Reporters Slam Public Information Officers in Survey.

But if you step back and analyze the report itself, I think it represents a realistic snapshot of the mixed-bag of media relationships today. Possibly, another case of headline writers not reading the full report.

Indeed, this “slamming” survey notes that the relationships between journalists and communication professionals were fairly positive nearly 75% of the time. The exception was for a small number of instances in which reporters were not given interviews on their time schedule or were refused interviews at all. In these cases, the districts were described as practicing censorship.

Another critical finding was that the public is not getting all the information it needs because of barriers imposed by schools. About 76% of reporters agreed with that ...

Principal Whitney Meissner has worked in public education for a total of 22 years as a math/English teacher, an assistant principal and middle/high school principal for the past 11 years. Her observations and insights reflect the experience gleaned from her decades of experience. In an e-interview, Principal Meissner outlines her own experience in a teacher preparation program, shares her thoughts for supporting new teachers as well as components of good evaluation systems. As an instructional leader, she offers thoughts on the Common Core State Standards and the challenges and benefits associated with them. Finally, she reflects on her own continued learning and growth as a professional.

Principal Meissner has completed the University of Washington Center for Educational Leaderhship training as well as the Association of Washington School Principals Evaluation Training (2013-2014). In 2008, she was a Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International Emerging Leader and in 2009 she received the 2009 PDK Dissertation Award of Merit. In 2012-2013, she served as the President of the Association of Washington Middle Level Principals (AWMLP). She is an active community volunteer where her newest role is serving as a Zumbathon (c) Coordinator to benefit those affected by the Oso/Darrington Landslide. She received her Ed.D. from Seattle Pacific University in 2008.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking time to share your insights and wisdom gleaned from your many years in different positions in the education field. We are delighted that we can share your expertise with our readers and the wider community.

First, starting at the beginning, you've spent the past 22 years in education. What inspired you to go into teaching? Were you always interested in school administration as a part of your career?

Meissner: I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I used to play school in the summer with the neighborhood kids. My mom, aunt, and grandfather were/are teachers. I don’t know if I can point to one specific thing that inspired me; it was more like a ...

Today’s post comes from European PTA President Kris Garst. She has lived overseas on for a total of five and a half years and is currently living in Grafenwoehr, Germany, with her husband and three sons. She has been involved with the PTA in Europe since her oldest child started kindergarten. Kris’s post seeks to bring an understanding of the challenges and successes of military students and families, as well as why it is important to support PTA efforts towards military families both overseas and in the states.

“Wait, there’s a PTA in EUROPE???” 

During trips to National PTA events over the last few years, I’ve run into lots of people who are shocked to find out that PTA reaches as far as Europe!  In fact, the European Congress of the National Parent Teacher Association has been advocating for the children in DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) schools on U.S. military installations throughout Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bahrain and Turkey since 1958.  We proudly serve the families of military members, government civilians, government contractors, and others who fall under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Defense throughout the European theater.

One Voice for the Military Child

As many of you already know, April is the Month of the Military Child, an opportunity to celebrate the amazing kids whose resilience and ability to adapt to the many changes of military life serve as an inspiration to us all.  Through deployments, frequent moves, and separation from friends and family, they support their families and each other as they, along with their military parents, serve our nation.  Over the past 56 years, the European PTA has been a strong voice for military children and families.  We’ve advocated for important change in DoDEA schools, such as the presence of school nurses in every school, regardless of size, and the opportunity for our students to receive healthy, hot meals via the ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood before Congress and the nation and declared an “unconditional” war on poverty in America. His Economic Opportunity Act promised a better life to those living “on the outskirts of hope,” and at the heart of that promise was education.

Sadly, the decades since have produced an even greater gulf between rich and poor, between the haves and the have-nots, between the well-educated and the poorly educated. And the hardest-hit victims of this failure to eradicate poverty are our nation’s children.

A 2013 Educational Testing Service (ETS) report, Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward, clarifies just how widespread and damaging the condition of poverty is for children. It reminds us that in addition to communities where generational poverty is baked into the culture, there is a fresh class of situational poor, casualties of the new century’s housing and employment downturns.

The report reveals that 22 percent, or one-fifth, of American children are living in poverty, and 2.8 million of those live in “extreme poverty” on less than $2 a day. The report also reiterates that poverty engenders numerous related disadvantages, including growing up in single-parent homes, being exposed to toxins that lead to health issues, food insecurity, and ...

Technology can be a powerful tool for change, but in the excitement of doing something new, important planning aspects may fall by the wayside. In order to support long-term success and systemic change, technological integration benefits from piloting, community buy-in, visionary and consistent leadership, and a diligence to build on successes over time.  Vail School District in Vail, Arizona exemplifies these attributes, and the district staff is proud of the collaborative culture they’ve created. As they put it, they do the hard work of getting along, and they’ve established a strong foundation for their relentless pursuit of innovative practices that support student achievement and learning in the 21st century.  ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

The story out of Uintah Elementary School in the Salt Lake City School District grabbed more than few hearts recently. Children going through the lunch line whose accounts were low had their lunches taken away.  Some thirty to forty students were impacted. They were given fruit and milk, and the confiscated lunches were thrown away. The district said it had started notifying parents about the accounts earlier in the week, but some parents said they had not been contacted.

It’s difficult and painful to see this happen in a public school in America. We believe, and most of the time we’re right, that public school teachers and officials who teach and care for our children every day are kind and that they use good judgment and common sense when they dispense that kindness. It’s hard to square that with what happened in Utah. The district has since apologized and corrected the problem. Surrounding districts were quick to point out how they deal with this issue – by working with parents individually and by giving parents the ability to pay on their mobile devices. Various stories and actions have followed this story. One was a heartwarming story of a man in Houston who ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

"Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities."

— President Lyndon Baines Johnson, State of the Union, Jan. 8, 1964

I was still in grade school when President Johnson launched his War on Poverty. In my home, Johnson was a hero, maybe because my parents had both grown up poor and never forgot what deprivation felt like. They saw Johnson as someone who understood what they understood about poverty: Nobody chooses to be poor.

The other hero in my house was my Dad, a larger-than-life figure who had scrabbled his way up to a good middle-class life. He had “developed his own capacities” in large part because he had access to the G.I. Bill, which inspired him to return to high school after dropping out and then go on to college and earn an engineering degree.

One of my favorite childhood memories was watching my dad ring the bell for Salvation Army at Christmas. Dad ran the largest construction company in the area, which meant that he knew most of the movers and shakers in ...

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