Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Family Involvement

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We recently celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), an important time to recognize the contributions made and significant presence of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.

National PTA also used the month to raise awareness of the unique challenges Hispanic and Latino children and families face and elevate support for them in schools and communities.

Twenty-five percent of students today are Hispanic, and Hispanic children and youth are the fastest-growing population in America—the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the Hispanic school-age population will increase by 166% by 2050. Hispanic and Latino students are an important part of our nation’s future, and it is essential to support their learning and development and ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

A key component to helping Hispanic and Latino children succeed is families who are engaged in their child's education and armed with tools and resources to support them at home.

We know Hispanic and Latino parents want the best for their children and want to be engaged, but there are cultural and language barriers that make it challenging. ...

In today’s competitive and political atmosphere, school leaders often ask us about strategies and tactics to build trust and confidence in our schools — let alone how to enhance the reputation of public education.

We always offer solutions on a number of fronts, but we also ask leaders to think about all the touch points that are automatically built into the school year  —  those times when parents, teachers, and principals all interact with one another. Those face-to-face episodes often begin making or breaking the confidence that your critical audience of parents has in your schools.

Parent Conferences Give You a Time to Shine

Traditional open houses and parent conferences are now in full swing in many communities. Those of you who are parents or who have a bit of experience meeting with parents know how these events can serve as a great starting point to build confidence in your school and your teachers. ...

The National PTA named Laura Bay as its president in July, and she has pledged to focus on whole child initiatives and expanding the PTA’s platform to deliver more relevant programs to local schools.  Ms. Bay is the mother of three adopted children and lives in Poulsbo, Wash.

In addition to her personal involvement in education and PTA, Ms. Bay works for the Bremerton School District as a coordinator for assessment and instruction, and prior to this position, was a teacher in the district.

Ms. Bay recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance about her experience and plans for the national organization.

LFA: I see that you have three children and also work as an assessment coordinator in the Bremerton, Wash., school district. Could you please tell us a little about your background and why you decided to get involved in the PTA? ...

Studies show that students perform better in school when parents or caregivers are actively involved in the education of their children.

Men and women think differently and bring different perspectives and skills to school and PTA activities, but oftentimes, the women dominate in this area—until now.

The National PTA tackled this issue from the grassroots perspective in an interview with Anthony King, who is responsible for creating a unique PTA of its own kind, the Detroit Area Dads PTA.

PTA:  What motivated you to start a male-centered PTA?

King:  I felt that there was a need for an organization to reach out to the men. I wanted to encourage dads.  You always hear about the women, but you don’t hear or see many dads around school.  I became a part of PTA because of my daughter when she was at Vernor Elementary School here in Detroit. I just started volunteering and wanted to make sure the kids got to school in the morning. It just evolved. I got more involved in the school and the PTA.  I started as the sergeant at arms and when the PTA president’s child graduated, I somehow ended up as PTA president. ...

“One more time.”

These are the most dreaded words when you’re trying to get a rambunctious two year old to go to sleep—and it’s already 10:30 p.m. The big stack of board books had toppled. The Dreamland CD was finishing its last lullaby. Mom needed to do some work before bed.

But my son wouldn’t give it up—he just wanted to read the same books over and over: “Good Night Little Pookie” and the whole series of Sandra Boynton’s board books, “Trains” by Byron Barton, the classic “Big Joe’s Trailer Truck,” and anything about trucks, trains, or transportation.

Eventually, he began memorizing the rhymes and recognizing sight words. We moved on to longer books but I came back to several of his favorites to help him spell and sound out familiar words and phrases. Those late nights eventually paid off. By age 4 he was reading… his preK teacher didn’t believe me until she spelled out a word to another teacher and he announced it to the class. When he entered kindergarten his initial reading assessment score was already higher than the minimum to complete the grade.

As the National PTA kicks off its Family Reading Challenge this summer, consider these statistics: ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Recently, Education Week published an article on the rise of family engagement as a priority for schools and districts across the country. The article spotlights states and districts in which family engagement initiatives are part of long-term, integrated and high-impact strategies to bolster student achievement. It is an important piece to help underscore the critical role family engagement and family-school partnerships play in children’s learning and growth. The article also is timely considering the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB) and National PTA’s work to include stronger family engagement provisions in the bill ...

Parent engagement and community engagement have been trending in education lingo for some time, but what do these really mean for school districts? 

Parent engagement strategies are designed to go beyond the required parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, and seminars and events that public schools have used for decades to draw in families and community members. Now, we are happy to see that a few school districts and states are trying to encourage longer-term strategies that are directly tied to student learning, Education Week reports.

These school leaders see that parents who are aware of what’s going on in their child’s school and get involved in working toward academic goals will help their child succeed academically. But it also helps draw needed support for public education from parents and the community. ...

Over the past six months, Learning First Alliance (LFA) has hosted a series of Twitter Town Halls on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. These conversations have addressed the time it takes to get Common Core right (#CCSSTime), teaching under Common Core State Standards (#CCSSTeach), the use of technology with Common Core (#CCSSTech) and the role of the business community in Common Core (#CCSSBiz).

Most recently, LFA is partnered with the National PTA to explore the role and experience of parents in the implementation process (#CCSSParents).  The event, “Parents and the Common Core,” aimed to highlight how educators and parents can best collaborate to help students meet the higher standards of the Common Core and provide a forum for parents to share their thoughts on the standards.

A few key themes emerged from the conversation: ...

It's a key component to student success. Yet many school leaders struggle to help their parents understand the importance of their involvement in their child’s schooling, particularly those in low-income and immigrant communities.

Veteran education writer and advocate Alan Richard is convinced that most parents care deeply about their children’s educational experiences. But how much time and effort they can put towards helping their children and helping improve their schools varies widely. Richard recently wrote about one project in the Mississippi Delta, one of this country's most rural and impoverished areas, that is producing exceptional results, thanks to the efforts of Parents for Public Schools.

Parents for Public Schools’ newly revamped Parent Engagement Program, or PEP, is bringing together parents and residents of typically underserved communities to not just volunteer at schools but to take an active role in setting the course to improve schools and the greater community. ...

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 ...

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