ESSA, Family Engagement, and Your PTA

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues to make progress, with the US Department of Education approving Illinois’s ESSA plan. In Congress, the House of Representatives has included funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) in its appropriations bill. With the approval of the Illinois ESSA plan, attention now turns to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), or school districts in non-legalese, who must create their own ESSA implementation plans using the guidance of the state plan.

PTA’s Role in Planning

During the development of the state ESSA plan, Illinois PTA represented families in many of the committees and working groups that were developing various parts of the plan. Now that school districts are developing their plans, PTA councils and local PTA units have a role to play as well. ESSA requires that all stakeholders, including families, be included in the planning process, and PTAs are uniquely able to fill that role.

PTA councils and units should start the process by letting their school superintendent and school board know that they are interested in being involved in developing the district’s ESSA plan. Your school district should be supportive, as family and community engagement is one of the core elements of the Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure (IBAM) that will measure how schools are doing overall. IBAM replaces the test-score-only approach of measuring a school’s success under No Child Left Behind.

For those who serve on school district committees for PTA, it is important to remember that they are representing PTA and families, not their personal opinion. The National PTA Federal Public Policy Agenda, ESSA advocacy tools, and ESSA Local Roadmap can help support your efforts. From Illinois PTA, our legislative platform provides information on our positions, and Education Issues Director Kelli Denard can help with questions you might have. Finally, Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers jointly developed a handbook to help school districts and school leaders cooperate to effectively implement ESSA at the local level.

PTA’s Role in Family Engagement

Illinois has its Family Engagement Framework to help local districts implement effective family engagement practices. The four principles of the framework parallel the six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships developed by National PTA. National PTA has additional resources in its Family Engagement Toolbox.

Even if your PTA is not interested in getting involved with your school district’s ESSA plan development, you can be involved in improving family engagement in your school. The National PTA School of Excellence program has a proven track record of improving family engagement. Illinois PTA has highlighted the success that Kreitner Elementary PTA had in becoming a School of Excellence in 2016.

If you’re interested in making your school a School of Excellence this year, the signup deadline is October 1, 2017. Don’t delay, sign up today.

 

September 20 is National School Backpack Awareness Day

Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints which can lead to more severe back, neck and shoulder pain as well as posture problems. However, when used correctly they are a good way to carry the necessities of the school day. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles.

When selecting a backpack, a few items to look for:

  • The correct size for your child. It shouldn’t be wider or longer than your child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below your child’s waist.
  • Wide padded shoulder straps to prevent from digging into shoulders.
  • Two shoulder straps and multiple compartments help distribute the weight equivalently.
  • A lightweight backpack is best so there isn’t additional weight from the backpack itself. Recommended guideline is the backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the child’s weight.

To help prevent injury encourage your child to use both straps, tighten the straps so it is close to their body, use both knees when bending, and only carry necessary items at one time. Remember, the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it.

Keeping Kids Safe in the Car

Next week, September 17-23, is Child Passenger Safety Week, with September 23 being National Seat Check Saturday. Here’s some information on how to keep your child safe in the car and what PTAs can do to support child car safety.

Did You Know?

  • Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. Many times, deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts.
  • Illinois requires all children under the age of 8 be property secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system. This includes the use of booster seats, which must only be used with a lap/shoulder safety belt. A child weighing more than 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat without a booster seat, secured with a lap belt only.
  • The Illinois Secretary of State’s office provides child safety seat inspections by certified child safety seat technicians at many Driver Services Facilities throughout the state through its Keep Me in a Safe Seat Program. To schedule a child safety seat inspection, please call 866-247-0213 or complete a Child Safety Seat Inspection Form.

Child Safety Seat Guidelines

  • Read and follow the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions for installation and height/weight guidelines.
  • Newborn to 12 months and weighing less than 20 pounds should always ride in a rear0facing infant seat.
  • Ages 1 to 4 years: Children should remain in rear-facing safety seat until age 2, or until they are at the upper height or weight limit of the seat. Once they out-grow a rear-facing safety seat, they may transition to a forward-facing seat with harness system.
  • Ages 4 to 8 years: Children should be secured in a forward-facing safety seat with internal harness system until they reach the upper height or weight limit allowed by car seat manufacturer. Once they out-grow the forward-facing seat, they may transition to a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • Ages 8 to 12: Children should stay in belt-positioning booster seat until they are tall enough to properly fit in an adult lap/shoulder belt.

Parents and Caregivers

  • Set an example by wearing seat belt on every trip no matter how short.
  • Make sure children are properly buckled up in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.
  • Have all children age 12 and under sit properly buckled in the back seat. If possible, properly buckle children in the middle back seat because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.
  • Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in front of an air bag.

What PTAs Can Do

  • Partner with local emergency personnel, hospitals, or other organizations to schedule a “Safety Seat Check”
  • Contact the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to do a Child Passenger Safety Presentation for your parents and community. To schedule a presentation call 866-247-0213 or complete a Traffic Safety Program Request form and select “Child Passenger Safety Presentation.”

Additional Resources

Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: Juvenile Justice

The 2017-18 Federal Public Policy Agenda Checklist of the National PTA calls for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), reducing the number of youth unnecessarily involved in the justice system. Reauthorization must include that the juvenile justice system:

  • Incentivize family and community based alternatives to incarceration
  • Eliminate certain exceptions to the Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders core requirement
  • Extend the Jail Removal and Sight and Sound Separation core requirements to all children under the age of 18 during all forms of detainment
  • Require states to establish solutions to reduce racial and ethnic disparities

Item 11 of the Illinois PTA Legislation Platform addresses Juvenile Justice issues, calling for adequate programs on both state and local level for:

  • The prevention of juvenile delinquency
  • Services for early intervention for juvenile offenders
  • Treatment and separation of dependent and delinquent children in institutions and in Juvenile Court, as well as original exclusive jurisdiction over children and youth under age 18 to be in the Juvenile Court
  • Support of laws and regulations in our justice system that address the differing needs of youth as they continue to mature from age 18 to age 25

In addition to these items found in the platform, the Illinois PTA holds continuing positions on the support and supervision of youthful offenders in residential facilities; support for the federal Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention Act, including adequate appropriations to facilitate the Act; a strong Juvenile Court System in Illinois recognizing that youthful offenders should not be treated in the same manner as adult offenders; and a Juvenile Justice system that is focused on rehabilitation.

These positions highlight a number of legislative successes. Illinois has raised the age of majority from 17 to 18 for the juvenile justice system. Juvenile offenders are now separated from adults when incarcerated. Redeploy Illinois, a program supported by Illinois PTA, is successfully reducing the rate of recidivism of youth also reducing costs by avoiding incarceration. During the state budget crisis, Illinois PTA pointed out that closure of Redeploy Illinois programs in 23 counties meant that 275 youth served by the program at a cost of $1.6 million would need to be incarcerated at a cost of $30.5 million. Illinois PTA’s report on consideration of how to handle “emerging adults,” (19 to 25) differently has received attention across the United States.

Just this year, with Illinois PTA support, Illinois now requires:

  • Restorative Justice training for all Dept. of Justice personnel (PA100-157)
  • Expansion of the ability to expunge juvenile arrest records (PA100-285)
  • Forbidding expulsion of children from pre-school programs (PA100-105)
  • Forbidding of booking stations in schools (PA100-204)

For further explanation, please refer to the 2017 National PTA Federal Public Policy Agenda, the Illinois PTA Report on Young Adults Involved in the Justice System, Ten Years of Progress (2009), and the complete Illinois PTA Legislation Platform.