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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 ...

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 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 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? ...

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

Who should govern America's public schools? Should public education be led by the president and Congress? State authorities? Or should local school boards -- with access to the local context and community -- be responsible for the quality of public education?

According to the 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, 56 percent of the adults surveyed say that local school boards should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in the public schools. Only 15 percent -- less than 1/7 of adult respondents -- support federal government assumption of this role.

This year's PDK/Gallup poll elicited Americans' opinions on a wide array of education topics, including Common Core State Standards, student standardized testing, international comparisons, school choice, and school governance issues.

Despite active debate among lawmakers, policymakers, and education leaders, the public's attitudes on federal involvement are clear: ...

A week ago, U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, issued a Back to School message in his Department of Education blog, Homeroom, that made news because it announced that states will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation in their compliance efforts with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Certainly, this was a welcome announcement, and the Learning First Alliance (LFA) issued a statement later that same day in support of the Secretary’s announced flexibility.

However, the aspect of the announcement that was most heartening to me wasn’t the new flexibility offered, but the tone of the message and the respect communicated for the educators on the ground doing the work. Too often in the past, messages from the Department of Education have led with doom and gloom and the assertion that America’s K-12 public education system is “failing” and that the professionals working in the system are not among the academically skilled in the workforce and “come from the bottom third of their class”. This year’s Back to School blog was “a message of celebration and thanks” for the educators who have worked tirelessly over the past years with the results that America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements ...

By Nora Carr, APR, President of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and Chief of Staff for Guilford County Schools (NC)

Like sports teams, school districts have seasons. If high school graduation represents our Super Bowl, then August is our pre-season, and the first day of school is our season opener. Make it count.

For public schools, this is an annual gift. Unlike other businesses, we get to hit the reset button once a year. Every new school year represents a fresh start. Kids are excited. Parents are even more excited. Retail businesses are primed with special sales. And the news media wants to shine a big spotlight on schools.

Take the PR Advantage to the Max

In terms of PR heaven, it doesn’t get any better than this. So, let’s take full advantage of the PR opportunities in front of us. Here’s how: ...

By Amber Chandler, American Federation of Teachers member and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY

Religion. Politics. Sexual Orientation. Breastfeeding. Abortion. Homeschooling. Salary. Buy or lease. Immigration. Organic.  In no particular order, these are some of the topics of conversation that I generally avoid talking about with complete strangers or getting in to verbal duels on Facebook about.  Sure, if you are in my inner circle, you might know how I truly feel about these issues.  That is not to say that I don’t have an opinion, but that is to say, I’m not generally the type to try to indoctrinate anyone, and I’ve been known to play devil’s advocate to make the conversation more interesting. It isn’t that I don’t have conviction, I do. I just try to intellectually consider the other side.  To some people, this makes me interesting. To others, infuriating.  If you would fall in to the later category, you have my permission to stop reading, no hard feelings.

In the last year, I’ve added the words “Common Core” to my inner radar of “let’s not go there unless you have an hour” topics.  I have heard and read so many ideas about this topic that I am certain we are not all talking about the same thing.  The conversations have stopped being healthy debate, but rather devolved in to lines in the sand with picketers on both side, and politicians handing out tracts and gathering email addresses.  The machine is at work, and despite most people’s best efforts, we’ve been sucked in ...

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